In case you haven’t noticed…WOW, what a year this has been…and what an interesting and successful Beloit International Film Festival we have just completed. We learned new approaches (some of which may have a permanent place in the BIFF Bag o’ Tricks), we gained new and distant viewers, and we got high praise from the filmmakers. Most critically, we broke even and secured our future.
That success was largely the result of continued support from long-time sponsors—and some new sponsors—that recognized the importance of this cultural touchstone for our community. Huge thanks to the City of Beloit, Visit Beloit, the Downtown Beloit Association, Beloit Daily News, the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, Hendricks Commercial Properties and other businesses and institutions that supported and encouraged us this year…we are indeed blessed and appreciative. What a great community in which to live, work, and create.
Special thanks to the Ironworks Campus and the staff at CCI for helping create the BIFF Drive-In Theatre. Even with a little snow and one postponement, it provided a hearty gang of Beloiters a few hours of escape during the Festival.
AND NOW, after a few weeks of cleanup, it is back to the business we are here for—presenting exciting, new, inspiring, independent films. BIFF YEAR ‘ROUND will be back in the next couple of weeks IN PERSON. We are working on the final preparations and hope to be moving to a great new downtown location: the Downtown Beloit Association venue at 557 East Grand Ave. Details soon!
And once we get BYR back up on a new screen, we will turn to planning for the summer and this year’s calendar of BIFF OUTDOORS productions. People are already calling and Greg is ready to firm up bookings for showings on lawns and in parks or for drive-in events. Email Greg at email@example.com to set a date.
And plans are afoot to get us “Half-Way To BIFF” with a weekend celebration in August that will involve indoor and outdoor venues. BIFF is currently working with Visit Beloit and the DBA to make the weekend an exciting one for the region. Watch this space!
And, with no rest for the wicked, the executive director is already seeking new films for BIFF2022. The call is out to filmmakers and, with your support, we will soon be able to confirm BIFF’s 17th season. But, meanwhile, from his almost clear desk except for a few crumbs left from his birthday cake, here’s Greg Gerard.
From The Empty Desk of the Executive Director
Greg Gerard — April 2021
My thanks to our monthly intro scribe, Ron Nief, for a great recap of recent highlights and things to come, and the nod to my 64th birthday, which was a very pleasant passage, thanks to the many of you who sent much appreciated greetings and wishes. I am humbled!
The end of the fiscal year is in sight, and a year of new possibilities is about to begin for BIFF! It’s no secret that the 2021 festival was about as unique as it has ever been in its 16 year history. And I am so proud of the way in which everyone, including staff, board members, volunteers and city officials combined their resources and energies to pull off a 10 day event that ran without any real hiccups at all. From the deep freeze of our 2021 Drive-Thru Reveal party, to the wintry evenings at the BIFF2021 Drive-In Theater, the festival team provided quality entertainment for the Stateline area, including virtual events with two former Academy Award winners; something that hasn’t happened since the early days of BIFF. We built it, they came, Snappy ruled from his Honorary Chair, we broke even, and we didn’t lose a season of one of Beloit’s favorite annual experiences. WIN, WIN & WIN!
So, what did we learn?
We learned that the in-person component simply can’t be replaced by an internet-based presentation. BUT…we also learned that the virtual tools we employed will likely be a continuing part of the BIFF agenda as we prepare for 2022; especially the Q&A and panel events that made it possible to include more filmmakers in exchanges with our fanbase than ever before. Our drive-in events were modestly, but respectably, attended, and I would bet that we will be offering at least one of those opportunities in 2022. We also learned that our sponsors are more loyal than we could possibly have imagined. Despite the struggles of the pandemic, the vast majority of our supporters came through for us with generosity that was both impressive and moving.
So, where do we go from here?
We are ready to hit the ground running, with BIFF Year ‘Round to begin in-person on Wednesday, April 21. We will have a new home at the Downtown Beloit Association’s spacious and accommodating new HQ at 557 E. Grand Ave., bringing you great indie films on Wednesday evenings that will continue through the first 2 weeks of June, and possibly beyond.
We are determined to take an aggressive posture in regard to fundraising, and hope to add a number of brand new sponsorships and grants, as well as some fresh donation appeals that will target funds for new projection equipment. And a plan is being devised to mount a summer weekend event in August, which Ron alluded to as a “Half-Way to BIFF 2022” mini-fest. We intend to add at least two new venues to the roster for 2022, one of which, we hope, will be the new Visit Beloit headquarters in the old Angel Museum location. We are also aiming for the Beloit College Powerhouse’s new theater, which would provide a whole new level of screening quality.
Beloit continues to grow, with the addition of a new ballpark, a new casino, new dwellings, many infrastructure improvements, and a renaissance that just won’t quit! BIFF expects to be part of that energy and enthusiasm, establishing itself as an arts program that will be vital on the Stateline for many years to come.
In the intro it was mentioned that we are starting to see a nice crop of new film submissions coming in, and that means it’s almost time to engage our annual squadron of pre-screeners (persons who have access to our submissions platform and receive weekly assignments to view and grade incoming films) and let the game of choosing next year’s film lineup begin!
If you’d like to be part of that savvy group of indie film fans, send me an email to that effect (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I’ll hook you up. We need at least 20 persons to create the squad.
Ron’s intro also mentioned BIFF Outdoors. The schedule is under construction, with one event already under our belt; a successful drive-in event at Messiah Lutheran Church on Easter Eve. Bookings can be made by emailing me, as well, (email@example.com) and setting up a date for an outdoor screening of your favorite commercial or indie motion picture in your back yard, a municipal park, or even a golf course or arboretum! We can bring the show to wherever you are…and we can do it with seats on the lawn, or as a drive-in. These are great outdoor events that are cost effective!
Well…that’s the view from here, with BIFF2021 in the rear-view mirror. I hope that many of you enjoyed the ride. We are proud to have brought our festival into your homes. Thanks for letting us in. The next time you see a BIFF film it will, hopefully, be back at our house, in the warm and friendly surroundings of our beautiful downtown, with our grateful venue owners, anxious film fans, and smiling filmmakers. BIFF2022…here we come!
What Mathers Most
With Nancy Clark-Mather
I was invited to attend a virtual Q&A at Cinequest featuring filmmakers Alexandra Loreth and Kevin Pontuti. The couple are BIFF Alumni, having submitted a trilogy of shorts in recent years, but this panel concerned their first feature film, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” It was accepted in the BIFF2021 lineup but when Cinequest came forward with the option to premiere there, BIFF graciously withdrew the film. Reviews are stunning and the good news is, it’s back in for 2022!
The movie has a genre classification of thriller-feminist-period-horror and is an adaptation of a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and published in 1892 in The New England Magazine. See The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf. At Loreth’s urging, Pontuti read through Gilman’s story (assigned reading at university level) and they adapted the 19th century story into a screenplay.
Alexandra Loreth in The Yellow Wallpaper
I felt immersed in a psychological horror story as I watched Jane (Lexi Loreth), a brand new mother, being taken by her husband and physician to an isolated country home for her “treatment” consisting of fresh air, nourishing food, frequent walks in the garden – none of those nearly as appealing to her as her forbidden passions of writing, a glass of wine with dinner, the occasional cigarette. Upon arrival he makes the decision, even as she expresses her concern, that they occupy the former nursery, an eerie yellow wallpapered room upstairs with only two narrow windows and furnished with nothing but a large bed. From the outset Jane feels something in this room is amiss but she really has no jurisdiction over her affairs and there is always the looming threat of institutionalism. As her husband John refuses to listen to her pleas, basically looking upon her as an hysterical woman, she spends more and more time in this room. Forbidden from writing, and with nothing to exercise her mind, save the pattern of the yellow wallpaper, she becomes unable to hold onto her sanity and begins to believe that a woman is trapped behind the wallpaper.
The setting and production design were to me, the film’s greatest strengths and very impressive for a small budget. Filmed in an Irish convent, the home and gardens are stunning. The Gothic-patterned yellow wallpaper is perfectly rendered from Gilman’s 1892 book cover (printed sheet by sheet from a color printer) and the cinematographer uses a wide range of lighting and a panoply of disturbing angles to ensure the wallpaper always appears different, as if it actually “moves.” The large Gothic filagree metalwork bed resembles a sacrificial altar. The electronic score, at first barely audible and mixed with ambient nature sounds, becomes more and more discordant and pervasive and sometimes sounds like a church organ. The transition cuts, done in blackout, become more and more frequent. And Jane’s narration in general is flat, borderline monotone, indicating someone suffering depression. No spoiler from me….
I initially wondered – why was I so compelled to write about this film? Then I saw the parallel, how our country seems to remain fragmented and ignorant as to how we all should address mental illness (case in point being the recent uptick in mass shootings). This story to me seems a cautionary tale about the danger of the common practice of hiding away the things we don’t understand.