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VideoFest: How a Film Festival Comes Together


by Stephen Becker 23 Sep 2010

The 23rd annual Dallas Video Fest begins tonight at the Angelika Film Center. KERA’s Stephen Becker talked with artistic director Bart Weiss about how he programs the event.

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The 23rd annual Dallas Video Fest begins tonight at the Angelika Film Center. KERA’s Stephen Becker talked with artistic director Bart Weiss about how he programs the event.

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  • Expanded online version:

Every year, Bart Weiss watches about a thousand films to find the perfect lineup for VideoFest. Only about 100 shorts and features will make it in.

After 23 years, he’s got his DVD sorting system down.

WEISS: “Ninety percent is in this kind of maybe. And there’s like maybe plus, maybe minus and maybe. Then there’s the stuff that is like, yeah, we’re definitely doing that. And there’s the stuff that’s on the shelf called ‘previously viewed.’ Which means it’s not accepted.”

But anything on the “previously viewed” shelf has been watched to the end. Weiss is a filmmaker himself. And he respects the effort that went into making the movie.

WEISS: “I’m the one who has to face the filmmaker whose film got rejected and tell them why. And it’s a very difficult thing. I have to balance that sense of what it’s like to tell a filmmaker no against having a good experience for an audience.”

Next, it’s time to make the schedule. This is when things really get tough. The programs have to fit the time slots available. And a balance has to be struck between shorts and features and narratives and documentaries. Even films about important subjects sometimes get cut.

WEISS: “There’s a million ‘the world is horrible’ films. And you’re faced with: what’s more horrible, this or this. Cancer or whatever. … Sometimes there are films in which the issue trumps the style, and there are times when the style trumps the issue.”

Once the schedule is set, the VideoFest staff dashes to copy DVDs, make press materials and all the other tasks that go into making the event run smoothly.

And after four days, the whole thing is over. But there’s little time to rest. Weiss will soon travel to the Hot Springs Documentary Festival and the Austin Film Festival in search of programs for next year.

WEISS: “There’s really hardly ever a day that goes by where you don’t think about, ‘Oh, that might be an interesting idea for the festival.’”

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