We're wrapping up Ebertfest with another set of photos and words that exhibit what makes Ebertfest great. Scroll to the end of the article to read my full analysis of the festival.
Here is some of the Virginia Theater crew. "At this point, we are slap-happyy" says Mitch Marlow, head of public relations and ticket sales. Getting about 6-7 hours of sleep a night during Eberfest, the crew is here at 7 a.m. and leaves about midnight every night. "This year has been my favorite" remarked Steve Bentz, theater director. "We had so much diversity. Both in film and in customer. It was really great" Bentz went on.
Someone had placed a V.I.P. lanyard on Ebert's statue.
The last movie of the festival was De-Lovely.
Irwin Winkler, director and producer of De-Lovely and his son accepted the golden thumb saying that "it is wonderful to be on stage with my son accepting this award."
After the movie the audience was encouraged to stick around and here a closing song which was quite moving: "everytime we say goodbye, I die a little inside."
This is Kevin Mcguire. He is the stage manager and has been around since Ebertfest started. "I remember when Ebert was in town and he came with Nate Kohn to the Virginia. They were sitting alone in the house [seats where you watch the films from] and Ebert said, 'this would be a great place for a film festival.'"
Nate Kohn, festival director, shows me his bag from 2002. "Every year our bags get bigger. This one is just right. I use it as a briefcase. I always carry my things in it."
One could consider Kohn's comment on the bags getting bigger as an analogy for the film festival continuing to grow.
Backstage Chaz and Nate sit down to talk about their experience this year. Chaz remarked, "This has been the best year yet" and Kohn agreed.
My personal analysis of Ebertfest. This was the first year that I really dove into Ebertfest. In years past I may have attended a few movies here and there but this year I tried to attend nearly all events involved with Ebertfest. There are some aspects of the festival that I really enjoyed and, like all things, there are some areas that I would like to see change or improve.
What makes Ebertfest great is that we even have a festival. That alone is a feat in and of itself. And I am very thankful to even have something of this scale in our community. It brings people together, challenges us, and gives us something to do other than go out to eat or go grab a drink at a bar. I heard from numerous people that the line-up of movies was fantastic. People really enjoyed the eclectic collection of films being shown at the festival. I also really appreciated all of the local involvement that the festival facilitates from the t-shirts being printed at Wieskamp, to the local volunteers, to local photographers covering the event to local food trucks supplying the food. Those are all very positive aspects of Ebertfest.
What I would like to see change at Ebertfest boils down to later show times on the weekdays, beers, more food, and involving the Art Theater.
-Show times. Although many festival workers were impressed by the diversity of the crowd I was less impressed. Most of the crowd appeared to be retirees. One reason that is so, is because younger people who work day jobs, could not make it out to the films during the day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I think that is a strong case for moving the films to the evening time. Plus, when I think of going to the movies, I think of evening time, with the bright lights and cool air of the night. It feels less romantic during the day time.
-Beer. Wine. Spirits. Someday marijuana? Whatever your choice of relaxation tonic is, most people would really like to have a drink before, during or after a festival's main event. I understand there are liquor licenses and red tape but the Virginia has had a bar in the past, why not for Ebertfest too?
-Food. There are multiple food trucks here in town. Where were they for the festival? Were they not invited? Not interested? People love to eat. If you cook it, they will come. If you serve beer with it, they will be even happier. I would suggest renting out a piece of the parking lot at Busey and having food trucks park there for the afternoon and into the evening.
-The Art Theater. It is such a natural relationship that isn't being groomed that I've got to think there is bad blood there. If there isn't, great, let's collaborate. People who love movies support the Art Theater. And people who come to Ebertfest, love movies. I would suggest having short films being shown at the art or maybe even host the panel discussions at the Art Theater while the films show at the Virginia.