The festival that needs no help?

I confess: I have been spoiled.

After enriching, inspiring experiences covering the French Film Festival, the Jewish Film Festival, and CineFestival, all held in SA, I was expecting that when the time came I’d have everything I needed to do a proper preview of the San Antonio Film Festival — my mistake. I should not have underestimated the power of no PR.

Amazing folks from the first three festivals I mentioned delivered screeners in a prompt manner without me even asking for them (Aliyah Kuchinsky for JFF; Marie-Therese Ellis-House for FFF; and Manuel Solís, Belinda Menchaca, and the whole Guadalupe organization for CF). That’s a good thing, because, you know, it helps to actually see the movies before you write about them. But, for SA Film Fest, I had nothing. Zero. Nada. Except for a poster schedule sent to me on June 14 (two days before the festival opened), I never received any official press release about SA Film Festival. In spite of that, I did my best and the paper gave the festival prominent placement.

Was it something I wrote? Something I said? Something I did? Did anybody else get anything? Only festival director Adam Rocha knows.

Don’t get me wrong — the SA Film Festival is an important festival, at least locally, and considering it’s been around since 1994, Rocha must be doing something right. A film festival is not an easy thing to do. But when I asked Rocha if he could send me four screeners at once instead of having the directors contact me directly at their convenience, he looked at me, as if he were saying, “You’re kidding, right?”

“I’m a high school teacher … ” he said. Oh, OK. Sorry I even asked. The Sunday before the festival, I asked him via email whether anyone from the festival had sent us anything festival-related, and, if so, who. That way I could look it up in my inbox. His replies: “Yes” and “Unsure.”

Ultimately, a handful of directors contacted me (and the emails are still dribbling in), but it’s too late to do anything additional in print. So kudos to Rocha for continuing the festival despite his busy schedule, but jeers for not delegating PR responsibilities to someone who could at least give us a phone call and let us know what the heck is going on. And jeers to me for being naive enough to think all festivals work the same way.

A final, humble bit of advice to local filmmakers who have films screened at festivals here or elsewhere: contact the local press directly, and well ahead of time. Have screeners handy, and don’t think for a second that the festival’s organizers are going to make sure the local press sees your movie. No one cares about it more than you do.

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