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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Out On Film: All Grown Up

ATL icon Ru Paul closes OUT 2007's Out On Film screening of STARRBOOTY!

More than a few folks have been asking about the current status of Out On Film, and how The Atlanta Film Festival (nee IMAGE) will be involved in its future. So, I figured I'd offer an update.

Over the course of the past two and half years, I've blogged about the challenges (crisis?) facing LGBT Film Festivals:

The problem is compounded by the recent theatrical success of a film like Noah's Arc.

On 5 screens, "Arc" grossed $161,302, averaging an astounding $32,260. The film opened in New York (Chelsea), Los Angeles (Sunset 5), Chicago (Century Centre Cinema), Atlanta (Landmark Midtown), and Washington, DC (E Street Cinema). Not only was its average among the best of 2008 (it's just a few $100 behind "Rachel Getting Married"'s fall season benchmark average earlier this month), it also is already 2008's highest grossing narrative gay film overall (beating Regent Releasing's "Shelter," which grossed $142,666 this Spring).

Such stories bode well for the future of LGBT cinema, but complicate the prospects for LGBT Film Festivals.

The more LGBT films find success in the marketplace, on broadcast outlets and On Demand outlets like Logo and hereTV!, the more important it is for events like Out On Film to focus on the development of the community!

A successful LGBT Film Festival MUST, first and foremost, serve the needs of the COMMUNITY. While content remains important, the event MUST be on par with a community event like Atlanta Pride! if it is going to succeed long term.

As part of an ambitious strategic plan, the Atlanta Film Festival began to transition Out On Film back into the hands of LGBT community leaders. (This plan returns Out On Film back to its original mission...IMAGE was never intended to be the sole presented of Out On Film, but rather had been invited to advise with the film festival production aspects of the event.)

As described in this article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (back when the paper had film critics on the rolls), IMAGE envisioned a partnership that involved a multi-year hand off:

"While Image will be "stewards" for this year's Out on Film —- to be held Nov. 6-9 —- and participate in the call for entries and film selections, the event will move to Theatre Decatur, which will become one of the fest's major players, Wardell says. Also involved will be Carma Productions Inc., which annually prints guides to events such as Atlanta Pride....Ideally what we'd like to see happen is for a lot more of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community leaders to take ownership of the event," Wardell says. "We can continue to give guidance, but Out on Film needs a community. We're using as a model the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, which has such a large base and sponsorship support."

Since this article first appeared in the AJC in May, there have been significant changes to this plan (as reported in Southern Voice.)

An Oct. 3 press release confirms again that IMAGE Film & Video released Out on Film, Atlanta’s gay and lesbian film festival, to a new group in control of the event since May. It also states the new board recently voted to decline IMAGE’s offer to help with resources and guidance and formed its own entity, Out on Film, Inc.

What the release doesn’t say is that the new organization will not produce a festival in 2008. Out on Film is traditionally held at the end of October or in early November. ...Once we settle on the dates in the very near future, we will start holding fundraising screenings.”

Out on Film is now run by several gay business owners, including Advantage Graphics & Signs, Brushstrokes, Carma Productions, Labrys Magazine, the Gay Community Yellow Pages, and Theatre Decatur.

Good news! On the NEW Web site, Out On Film 21's dates and venue have been announced:

Mark your calendar

The 2009 Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (2009 AGLFF) will be held May 28 - 31, 2009 at the Plaza Theatre.

Please join our mailing list to be kept informed of upcoming events, movie screenings, festival information, and community involvement.

Congratulations to the NEW Out On Film. We couldn't be happier to see our baby all grown up.

All said, it is IMPORTANT for the me to stress the following point: The Atlanta Film Festival will continue to showcase significant and important works by for and about the LGBT community. In the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival, the festival showcased a strand of Out On Film content and issued the first PINK PEACH AWARD to celebrate superior LGBT filmmaking, as covered in Southern Voice. (Such prizes are issued at International Fests like Berlin and the best of our knowledge, we are the first U.S. fest to follow suit.)

The ultimate goal of this move is to allow Out On Film to thrive--just as the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has succeeded under the guidance and stewardship of a dedicated (and vested!) community.

This past year, the Atlanta Film Festival has provided our members numerous LGBT themed opportunities this year--including in person appearances by Alan Ball (TOWELHEAD) and Kimberly Pierce (STOP LOSS).

We'll continue to pursue screenings of interest to the LGBT community: in fact, we have a select cache of passes to a sneak preview of Gus Van Sant's MILK.

The first 10 folks who renew (or sign up for a new!) Atlanta Film Festival 365 Membership (click here) and email me at gabe[at]AtlantaFilmFestival[dot]com with the header "Milk: Out On Film Renewal" will be officially RSVP'd for our MILK sneak preview.

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