By Pamela Cole
Atlanta, GA, Dec. 5, 2006
For 19 years, way before it was chic to make & screen films
with gay & lesbian content, IMAGE has sponsored Out on Film,
Atlanta's LGBT film festival. This year marked a few changes for
one of the oldest LGBT festival's in America, including a new venue
at the historic Plaza Theatre in midtown and a new festival director,
Dan Krovich, who was hired just weeks before the festival opened.
"In some ways, it was an advantage," said
Krovich from his IMAGE office where he is busily planning the 31st
Atlanta Film Festival, set for April 2007. "There wasn't any
other choice except to dive in headfirst. Obviously, I would have
liked to have had more time."
said at least half of the program was already set when he was hired
in late September, corralled by former long-time Out on Film Festival
director, Mark Smith, who now lives in Chicago. But Krovich coordinated
with Smith by e-mail about the festival line-up
before arriving in Atlanta. He moved here from Maryland in October,
after being hired for the position of festival director.
The new venue for Out on Film was the historic
Plaza Theatre in midtown Atlanta. On opening night, a big spotlight
was parked out front, announcing the festival across the sky. Festival
goers buzzed in the parking lot waiting for friends on the warm
November evening. It was great to see the newly re-opened Plaza
in the middle of all this activity, but when in the world are they
going to replace those seats! I swear, those are the same seats
that I sat in and watched The Jungle Book 40 years
"We had two big screens at the Plaza and
it has a decent parking situation, which isn't always the case in
Atlanta, I've learned," said Krovich approvingly when asked
about the new venue. "It definitely would be considered again
for next year."
The seven-day festival screened over 40 short and
feature films from all around the world. It opened with Puccini
for Beginners, a 2006 Sundance favorite directed by Maria
Maggenti (who also directed lesbian cine-cult, The Incredibly
True Adventure of Two Girls in Love in 1995 -- that film
also screened at this year's Out on Film). Puccini
is a comedy about a lesbian who finds it hard to commit. The film
definitely appeals to lesbians (which might also explain the light
crowd attending this opener -- lesbians are notorious non-spenders).
It was quite a contrast to last year's triumphant overflow opening-night
audience that welcomed a pre-Oscar-nominated Transamerica
and it's director Duncan Tucker to the Landmark Midtown Arts theater
The opening night gift bag this year seemed a bit
heftier than last year (although the bag itself wasn't as nice --
I still use the Sundance tote we got for last year's gift bag).
This year's gift bag included a slew of CDs, the usual flyers, complimentary
condoms, and a tank top announcing a new A&E movie, Wedding
Wars. I guess the gift bag goodies and admission to the
after-party at WetBar were the reason for the $25 ticket price.
There was no director Q&A included after the screening of Puccini,
like last year when Duncan Tucker took a ton of audience questions.
I had the same feeling watching Puccini
as I did watching Quinceañera at this year's
opening of the Atlanta Film Festival (ironically, also a film with
a gay plot). Quinceañera won acclaim at the
2006 Sundance festival as well, but I was unimpressed with the film.
I'm curious about the quality of filmmaking actually being shown
at Sundance if these are two of its best. Speaking at a Sundance
panel, Maggenti revealed that at three screenings of Puccini
before Sundance, "the film was falling flat with audiences"
until they moved the climax of the film to the beginning. The film
still fell flat with me. Oh well
as long as Sundance judges
liked it. Also, the cinematic look purported to have been achieved
by DP Mauricio Rubenstein using the Sony XDCAM was completely lost
in the poor projection at the Plaza for some reason.
When I asked Krovich what was his favorite film at
the festival, he hedged. "It's hard to pick out a favorite,
but I guess Small town Gay Bar was one of them. It
was a very inclusive film. I mean, when you have a festival called
'LGBT,' it's hard to find films that appeal to all four quadrants
of that audience, but Small Town Gay Bar did a good
job of that." Small Town Gay Bar producer Matthew
Gissing and director Malcolm Ingram and were both on hand for a
Q&A after the film screened on Sunday.
There were three after-party events with free admission
(with your film ticket stub) at local gay watering holes WetBar,
Burkhart's, and Einstein's, where festival attendees could schmooze
and drink with directors attending the festival. But not everyone
who goes to see a film wants to party afterwards, and some folks
balked (and walked) at the $25 ticket price on closing night, which
included entrance to the after party.
Attendance at this year's Out on Film Festival was
about 3,500, which Krovich admitted "was down from last year."
"But we had a big spike in attendance last year, so this year's
figures are right in line with previous years," he added.
"Last year we had Transamerica.
That was significant. And it had a major independent distributor
[Miramax] behind it
We didn't have anything quite like that
Krovich said that this "seems to be a national
trend at gay and lesbian film festivals this year." "I've
heard, just anecdotally from people, that even at some more prominent
LGBT festivals, the numbers seem to be softer this year."
"Maybe gay & lesbian films are more in the
mainstream film world now, and there's less of a shock at seeing
this theme," he reasoned as we discussed this trend, noting
that Quinceañera was a film that just a few
years ago would have only been seen at a LGBT festival. Krovich
also speculated that additional "entertainment options for
gay & lesbian audiences with television networks like Logo and
Here!" (both Out on Film sponsors) may also have contributed
to lower attendance.
"Or maybe it was just a one-year dip," he
He then added: "The next challenge of gay &
lesbian film festivals in general is, now that it's becoming more
mainstream, films that would have only played gay & lesbian
film festivals maybe even 5 or 6 years ago are now playing general
film festivals and actually getting theatrical releases. I think
it's a good challenge to have
I'd rather have the challenge
of putting on a great gay & lesbian film festival in a world
where gay & lesbian films are more accepted than the other way
"The truth is, the same thing is happening in
all film festivals as indie films have become more accepted and
are even getting more theatrical releases, so film festivals in
general are adjusting. There are still plenty of great films that
can be helped by festivals and can only be seen at a festival."
SUMMARY: So how was this year's Out on Film?
- Nice to have all the screenings in one place, especially the
retro, centralized Plaza Theatre. Maybe they'll have new seats
by next year.
- A good slate of screenings, although more director Q&A sessions
would have been good. I liked the Ang Lee retrospective with the
Wedding Banquet (1993) and Brokeback Mountain
(2005), both gay films. Also, the dual set of Maria Maggenti films
- Projection quality seemed to be a problem.
- Closing night ticket prices were a bit hefty...how about a cheaper
option for non-partiers?
- Out on Film is still a great place to gather with gay friends
and maybe meet new ones. A nice alternative to the bar -- 19 years
ago, Out on Film was one of the only places outside of a gay bar
where LGBT types could safely congregate.
Not bad, Dan Krovich... And welcome
to the ATL!
Out On Film Audience Award:
Best Feature Film
Director: Katherine Brooks
Best Short Film
Director: Kimberly West
For more information, go to www.outonfilm.com.