FITCHBURG -- The first-ever Fitchburg Film Festival concluded
Saturday evening with an awards ceremony at Conlon Arts Center at
Fitchburg State College. The three-day event featured over two dozen
films, eight panel discussions and two parties. The Best in Show
award went to "Shower," a 25-minute film by Rochester,
N.Y. filmmaker Randall Good.
The festival was the brainchild of J.C. Bouvier, who served as
managing director, with assistance by Keith Gerrard, technical director.
Both men are FSC alumni. Congratulations, gentlemen. You can exhale
now. Start-up projects like this face many obstacles, and often
the ultimate success of any ambitious creative venture depends solely
on the energy, dedication and chutzpah of its creators.
In this case, the creators have youth, enthusiasm, and a willingness
to defer gratification (the festival has been a year in the planning)
on their side. But it is chutzpah (and a little luck) that is often
the most valuable asset an impresario has; Bouvier displayed his
by landing big fish John Landis, director of "Animal House"
and "American Werewolf in Paris," to give the new festival
a higher profile. And in an introductory letter in the festival's
program, Bouvier expressed a hope not only that the audience would
enjoy itself, but that it would "question authority."
That sentiment may not get him far in Hollywood, but it ought be
de rigueur in the arts, especially on a college campus.
Another daunting challenge is winning the support of audiences.
The national and international acts presented through the college's
Cultural Series, renamed Center Stage, play to packed houses. But
the community could show more enthusiasm for the great, homegrown
cultural opportunities the college presents.
For instance, the AmeriCulture Arts Festival, by word of mouth,
and thanks to a long-term commitment by the college, has managed
to gradually increase its attendance over its four-year run. The
college should be prepared to stand by the new film festival, as
it has AmeriCulture, for as long as it takes to make it a popular
Budget cuts are every state college's nightmare these days, and
as a result, projects that are the cheapest to produce may have
an edge on survival. Bouvier must take a lesson from the independent
filmmakers showcased in the festival, who made their films for about
as much as it costs to enjoy an evening out with the family on Broadway.
The greatest obstacle, though, to a start-up venture like this
can be the resistance offered by competing interests in academe.
Introducing a new program into the mix on campus often upsets the
delicate balance of resources -- and egos -- but nothing can come
of clinging to the status quo except ennui.
Like a stale syllabus, an insular attitude dampens the excitement
that students and professors ought to feel about the fascinating
journey they take during the four years they share together. Fortunately,
Bouvier and Gerrard have the support of the prestigious and popular
communications/media department, which will be invaluable to them
if they hope to make this event an ongoing, integral part of the
cultural life in the region.
By continuing to think big the college will continue to expand
its influence and enhance its image in the region. The current administration
seems to be willing to take the heat that change sometimes generates.
We hope this film festival is the first of many, and we wish the
young impresarios great success.