by Max Marbut
When Jesse Rodriguez took over as the executive director of the Jacksonville Film Festival, he brought with him a background that includes the two areas of expertise most critical to the success of any film festival: finance and film selection.
Previously the program director for the Chicago Latino Film Festival and finance and operations manager for the Chicago International Film Festival, Rodriguez said with the proper guidance he believes Jacksonville’s annual celebration of independent cinema has the potential to one day become one of the industry’s most important events.
“The key to growing this festival is finding ways to reduce expenses, create more revenue-generating events and find ways to join forces with partners,” said Rodriguez.
One of the changes festival-goers will notice this year is that venues are limited to those with existing projection and sound equipment. In previous years, audio-visual equipment was rented by the festival to create temporary theaters.
Rodriguez said limiting the 2008 venues to the Florida Theatre, the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, the Hicks Auditorium at the Main Library, the Terry Theatre at the Times-Union Center and Fuel Coffee House in Five Points will save organizers thousands of dollars.
Bacardi has signed on to sponsor this year’s Festival Gala, which will be held in the courtyard at the Main Library.
“Bacardi will be paying us some cash as well as supplying us with quite a bit of rum and Grey Goose vodka. Plus, the Main Library is fully equipped to host a function like the gala with the conference center and its professional staff,” said Rodriguez.
Programming of this year’s festival will also reflect the venues. Audiences at the Main Library will see educational films and documentaries, while the films featured at Fuel Coffee House will be of the “cutting edge” genre.
“The films we’re screening at Fuel will have a very targeted audience. I think the people who go to see those films will just camp out over there,” said Rodriguez.
The 2008 Film Festival will also offer a wider variety of international films, films about African-American issues, films produced in Europe and the Viva Cinema! selection of Latino films.
“We are acknowledging all segments of the Jacksonville community, which is changing, by including a wide variety of films and giving the audiences the chance to see products that might not otherwise be seen,” said Rodriguez.
This year’s festival is longer than in previous years with seven days of screenings and parties. Rodriguez said that will help begin to establish the Jacksonville Film Festival as meeting the industry’s standards in order to eventually draw the national and perhaps international film press to the event each year.
“This year we will build the platform and gain the confidence of the business community,” he said. “Then we will increase the profile of the festival in the industry to filmmakers and distributors.
“I believe the Jacksonville Film Festival has a tremendous amount of potential. The next step is to make the trade press view it as an event that is not to be missed,” added Rodriguez.
The Jacksonville Film Festival will be held May 15-21. For screening times, event schedules and ticket information, visit www.jacksonvillefilmfestival.com.