Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Krist Jake, Festival Founder

We open our blog with an interview with Krist Jake, who along with his wife Laurie, founded the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival in 2004.

Krist, this is the 7th year of the festival, what is new and exciting this year?

First is our partnership with the Aquarium of the Bay, which is taking a large role in publicizing and producing the festival. Second is our move to Pier 39 where film goers will have better access by public transportation, a wider choice of dining options, along with reasonably priced parking.

What was your original inspiration for creating the film festival?

Well, I’m curious and prefer non-fiction books and films. The waterfront is a place I like to be because of the interesting things and people there. In the late 90’s, after being exposed to the Banff Mountain Film Festival traveling program, I attended a screening of several short silent films from 80 or so years ago on various sea creatures - octopus, jellyfish, seahorses, and the like. They were by a French filmmaker I’d never heard of, Jean PainlevĂ©, and they were wonderful. Soon thereafter a light went on – why not a festival that would screen ocean-related films? At the time there were over 20 mountain film festivals all over the world, but nothing we could find called an “ocean” film festival.

What has been your favorite memory through the years?

The many “thank you’s” proffered by attendees after they’ve enjoyed a program. Also, the enthusiastic interaction between our audience and the filmmakers or special guests who enliven our programs.

What about your proudest moment?

It hasn’t been one moment per se, but the growing feeling that SFOFF has legs - that it will continue to gain advocates as a unique channel that increases the visibility of under-distributed films and the filmmakers’ messages in an interactive setting to a growing audience, an audience which will be better informed on the ocean and its issues.

What have been your greatest lessons learned since you started the festival?

The overall lesson is that, while putting on a film festival could be easy, producing one that maps in some sense to the scale of the ocean, what it deserves, and its many stakeholders, is a large undertaking. There are many moving parts to this film festival, and I’m thankful for our team of volunteers. A second lesson, or at least a reality, is that the economics of a non-commercial film festival are challenging and need creative thinking and a lot of elbow grease. A third is that starting a non-profit, assembling a board, creating some infrastructure, and producing even an annual event can absorb a lot of time. But that’s the cost of doing business.

What film/film maker has been your favorite and why?

Every film we’ve screened has merit and audience surveys convey a range of audience favorites. In part because they screened at the first Festival, I’ll mention two personal favorites - Flip Flotsam, because of its story and storytelling, its production values, music, etc., and that it interweaves the ocean and human cultural issues. Also because it is an excellent film on what is certainly an underappreciated item of apparel, the lowly flip flop. Another favorite is Berserk in the Antarctic – this is a low budget but very well done reality film with a story line, humor, scenery, wildlife, and some tension. Of course another was Heart of the Sea. These were all in Festival #1 and we hope to bring them back before long.

Some of the shorter pieces I’m fond of are Selling Songs of Leyte, The Sinking Ship, Nobody Loves You, Abridged, Christmas at the Bait Shop, etc. Shorter pieces are often creations of filmmakers early in their career, often made for a university class. The shorts we screen are delicacies – they tell a story or convey a message without fluff.

Is there anything else you want SFOFF enthusiasts to know?

SFOFF volunteers work hard to make the Festival come to life, sourcing films, selecting them, publicizing the festival, producing it, etc. We welcome inquiries from prospective volunteers.

Thanks Krist!

Bookmark our blog for Q&A sessions with the 2010 festival film makers. And, you can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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