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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Filmmaker360: How SFIFF Supports Local Talent

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge Scene from Ian Olds' "The Fixer" starring James Franco - COURTESY OF SAN FRANCISCO FILM SOCIETY
  • Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society
  • Scene from Ian Olds' "The Fixer" starring James Franco
Noah Cowan has been with the San Francisco Film Society for two years. He thinks this year’s festival is heading in exactly the right direction. And he’s eager to give credit for that to others.

“I think that my main role as executive director of the Film Society is to find ways to empower the incredibly talented people who work here,” he said. “Rachel Rosen and Michele Turnure-Salleo are two of most respected people in film.”

Rosen, the director of programming for the San Francisco International Film Festival, has balanced getting big name talent and international films at the festival, along with giving opportunities to lesser known filmmakers and Bay Area locals, Cowan says.

click to enlarge Noah Cowan, executive director of SFFS - COURTESY OF SAN FRANCISCO FILM SOCIETY
  • Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society
  • Noah Cowan, executive director of SFFS
“She integrates all the elements, and she’s done it particularly beautifully this year,” he said. “People feel they’re a part of the conversation and they love that.”

Cowan is excited that conversation will be happening in the Mission this year as the festival expands to the Victoria Theater, the Roxie and the new Alamo Drafthouse New Mission Theater. The move felt inevitable, he says, as they followed their audience, and made it easy for people to get out of their cars and take BART to the festival.

They’ll be able to see lots of local talent, and that’s due to Turnure-Salleo’s work as the director of the Filmmaker360 program to support local filmmakers, Cowan says, calling the what she’s done “a smashing success.”

“She’s created a tightly bound group of filmmakers who present us to the world as the core of what we celebrate at the festival,” he said. “I can say with confidence we’re putting our own at the center of the event. This program has created extraordinary filmmakers, and that creates a ripple effect.”

The largest granting body for independent feature films in the U.S., Filmmaker360 gives away almost a million dollars a year. Along with cash grants, the program also offers consultation services, fiscal sponsorship and residencies in their FilmHouse program.

Seeing how filmmakers respond to this type of support and the work they produce has been thrilling, Turnure-Salleo says.
click to enlarge Michele Turnure-Salleo, director of the Filmmaker360 program - COURTESY OF SAN FRANCISCO FILM SOCIETY
  • Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society
  • Michele Turnure-Salleo, director of the Filmmaker360 program

“We’ve had films we supported at Sundance and Cannes,” she said. “We supported Beasts of the Southern Wild and Fruitvale Station.

This year’s festival has a record number of films supported by its Filmmaker360 program, including Ian Olds’ The Fixer, Guetty Felin’s Ayiti Mon Amour, Maris Curan’s Five Nights in Maine, Amanda Micheli’s haveababy, Mike Day’s The Islands and the Whales, Moby Longinotto’s The Joneses, and Mike Plunkett’s Salero.

Being an independent filmmaker is challenging, Turnure-Salleo says, and she wants those taking on that challenge to realize they aren’t alone. Building a community where filmmakers work together and mentor and help one another is one of the most important things the program does, she thinks.

“The thing I hear the most is how thankful they are to be around fellow filmmakers and not be alone,” she says. “It’s wonderful a nonprofit can have that role. It’s a very joyful aspect of my job.”

The 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 21-May 5, Various venues, $13-$15

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Emily Wilson


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