Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise
March 12, 2002



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 success.

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.


Copyright 2002-2003 Plasticville Productions
In Association with Lemonstar & Hobo Mania Productions