I left my heart in a darkened theater #WiFilmFest

WiFilmFest LogoSince moving to the Bay Area I’ve been doing a decent job of managing the emotions that come with uprooting and adjusting to a new place. I’ve definitely had down days where I miss my friends and community in Madison, but thankfully the Bay Area has so many distractions and possibly the best weather in the country. Today, however, started off with a tiny, grey cloud hovering over my head.

I may be across the bay from San Francisco, but my heart is in a darkened theater in Madison.

There are few things I love about Madison more than the Wisconsin Film Festival. Since 2006, Dane101, the community website I helped found, has provided the most comprehensive coverage of the festival in the city. By time 2010 rolled around we’d mastered the most efficient way to cover the festival through previews, interviews, and reviews. Due to Dane101 having very little in terms of funding all of this coverage came from a love for the festival and the opportunity to highlight one of the many things that make Madison a wonderful place to live. It was a point of pride for us in 2012 when the festival made us honorary sponsors in recognition of our work.

This year the festival is experimenting by stretching to eight days and concentrating the festival on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and at Sundance-Madison. Traditionally, the festival has spread itself from the campus, which is at the bottom of Madison’s pedestrian friendly State Street, and following State Street all the way up to the Capitol Square. There’s been some consternation among long time festival attendees about how the changes might impact ticket sales and the spirit of the festival. Primarily, the festival is now less walkable and State Street and Capitol Square businesses lose their annual end-of-winter festival-goer cash injection. For Dane101, we have the additional problem of how to maintain energy over the significantly lengthened festival.

As an advocate of the festival I share some of the concerns, but was looking forward to the challenge of assuring Dane101 continued to provide the same excellent coverage.

Alas, Oakland called, and here I sit.

The tiny, grey cloud over my head is because today is the first day of the film festival. Reading the excited tweets as people prepare to tackle this new film festival format is making me tremendously homesick.

I have taken some steps to lessen this longing. I’ve offered to help Dane101 with the flow of content traffic and also maintaining some of the regular features we produce during the festival. Coverage requires a coordinated effort to make sure reviews go up in a timely fashion with a priority given to films that have second screenings at the festival. If everyone is out watching movies and trying to turn around reviews in between screenings it can get a tad chaotic. Seeing as I’m unable to attend the festival it puts me in a unique position where I can handle most of the scheduling, editing,  and prioritizing of reviews.

In addition to producing our own content, I’ve always felt it’s important to highlight articles and reviews being produced by other sources. Each year I spend part of those rare free festival moments scouring the Internet for other publications or bloggers posting reviews. When possible I’d build a post filled with links to the other sources, so there would be one centralized resource including as much information about the fest as possible. Due to the exhaustion that can come from watching three to five films in a day the ability to turn those posts around wasn’t always as consistent as I would have liked. This year I’ll have more than enough time to keep it up.

The biggest step I’ve taken to overcome the longing from my long distance relationship with the Wisconsin Film Festival is to start dating other girls. The Bay Area seems to have at the least one film festival per month, including the longest continuously running festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival. Not one to wallow in grief or sit idle for long I took the initiative and shall be working SFIFF as a part-time house manager. It’s immensely satisfying to know I can contribute this passion born from the Wisconsin Film Festival to one of the grandes dames of festivals.

Five hours until showtime in Madison. It’s time to let the California sunshine burn away this cloud.



  • April 11, 2013