SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Film festival crews and organizers were busy Tuesday installing two state-of-the-art LED screens, shining spotlights and, preparing the virtual red carpet ahead of Tuesday's kickoff to the 36th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF).
The wildly popular event is normally held in January but was pushed back this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There was never any doubt in my mind that we needed the film festival and that we had to do it," said Roger Durling, SBIFF's Executive Director. "We hope the festival is able to bring optimism and a sense of hope. And distraction. We all need a little bit of distraction."
Durling said one pandemic change that will stick for years to come involves the popular, student education series built about Mike's Field Trip to the Movies. The late underwater cinematographer and Montecito resident, Mike deGruy, was the creative force behind the festival's student Q & A with filmmakers. More than 4,000 elementary school students from 30 schools throughout Santa Barbara County participate each year.
This year, no busing students to the Arlington Theatre. Instead, Durling and his team came up with a brilliant, COVID-safe Zoom alternative.
"What we're doing this year and I've been filming them in the afternoon, we're doing these lesson plans," said Durling. "We're recording them and we're meeting with a cinematographer from (animated film) "Soul," the director from "Soul," the screenwriter. And, we're doing half hour segments. The students ask questions about, 'What is it like to be a cinematographer for movies?' 'What is it like to write a script?'"
Durling said these lesson plans quickly became highly popular. They'll be incorporated next year with SBIFF's traditional "greet and meet" with a filmmaker.
"So, it's more in depth. And then once we get all those lessons edited, we're going to send them to the schools and that aspect is phenomenal because the teachers are going to have about ten different half hour lessons about filmmaking. Next year, that's something we're definitely going to continue."
Durling said he believes the public will eventually be ready and wanting to sit shoulder to shoulder in local theaters, looking up at the big screen.
"Physically showing up, going back to the movie theater, that's never going to go away. People always want to be together to share an experience."
Click the highlighted link for information about this year's SBIFF line-up.