FITCHBURG -- Cannes, Sundance and Fitchburg? Don't laugh.
The city will soon join the ranks of such esteemed film festival
locations when Fitchburg State College presents its inaugural Free
Film Festival Fitchburg (F4), which kicks off on Thursday, March
F4 is central Massachusetts' first major film festival.
During the three days of the festival, FSC students will have the
chance to meet filmmakers from around the country, including John
Landis, director of "Animal House" and "The Blues
Brothers," who will deliver the event's keynote address. One
of Landis' films, possibly "Coming To America" or "The
Three Amigos," will be screened during the event, with the
director introducing the movie and hosting a question-and-answer
session following the feature.
The focus of the program, however, will be on films by filmmakers
looking to make their initial marks in the world of cinema.
"This is an independent film festival," said Dr. George
Bohrer, chair of the communications/media department at the college.
"A lot of the work we're seeing is very original, very different
from what you'd ordinarily see in the theater. A lot of it is very
The films entered in the festival will be vying for FSC's answer
to an Oscar -- the "Fitchy." Works, including documentaries,
comedic and dramatic shorts, and features from across the country,
will be screened. The "Fitchy" awards will be handed out
to prizewinners at the festival's conclusion on March 9.
The festival is the result of the energies of two former FSC students,
JC Bouvier and Keith Gerrard, who now work together at Revolutionary
Images, a Fitchburg-based advertising firm. Bouvier says that the
inspiration for the event came to him while he was performing his
internship at the famous Sundance Film Festival in Utah. The thought
occurred to him that Fitchburg would be the perfect venue for a
film festival, and Bouvier adds that he also wanted the opportunity
to spotlight FSC's communications/media program, which he feels
"Fitchburg has one of the better communications programs in
New England, if not the country. It generates a lot of high-quality
people in the field," Bouvier said.
Bouvier said his original schedule for a film festival at the college
was perhaps a little too ambitious to be realistic. He says he initially
approached the school with the idea for a festival in March of last
"I was shooting for a November date," Bouvier recalled,
laughing. College officials felt that seven months wasn't enough
time to prepare for a major event, and Bouvier eventually agreed.
Bouvier was, however, well-prepared when it came time to formally
introduce his concept of the Free Film Festival Fitchburg to the
"I went in to the communications department with a computer
presentation and went over the festival point-by-point," Bouvier
Bouvier's enthusiasm quickly won the department over, and the idea
for the film festival was soon signed off on at the highest levels
of Fitchburg State College. He says that the faculty and students
he mentioned the film festival concept to were "excited"
by the prospect.
With a date and a venue set for the festival, Bouvier reached out
to some of the friendships he'd formed while interning at the Sundance
Film Festival. He says that he originally met John Landis when he
was assigned to pick the acclaimed director up from the airport
in Utah. Bouvier said that while he spared the director by not quoting
from his film, "Animal House," he did manage to ask him
a few questions about that film's star, John Belushi.
"We just kind of chatted it up," Bouvier remembered.
"I've been in contact with him ever since."
Bouvier said he knew it would be necessary to include a kind of
"draw" to lend the first annual Free Film Festival Fitchburg
some prestige, and he realized that Landis's name on the marquee
would be the perfect way to position FSC's festival apart from others
of its kind.
"I wrote him a letter and basically explained the situation
to him," Bouvier said. "I told him I'd really be honored
if he'd be a part of the festival, if his schedule would allow."
Luckily, Bouvier said, Landis planned on being in the area for
a book tour, and the director of "An American Werewolf In London"
agreed to take part in FSC's film festival. Bouvier pointed out
that Landis will also be available during the event to sign copies
of "The Best Film Writing 2001," a book the director edited.
Copies of the book are available at the college bookstore.
Bouvier says he is excited by the quality of the entries to the
Free Film Festival Fitchburg that he's seen.
"I think we've got some quality stuff," he says. "Especially
considering that there are 600 film festivals in the country, we've
got some things that nobody's seen before ... We've got a really
excellent selection of shorts, some good features and a couple of
Bouvier says he hopes the festival will become an annual event
at Fitchburg State College.
"Hopefully, there will be a desire to do another one,"
he said, adding that the success of the first annual Free Film Festival
Fitchburg will depend on attendance and audience reaction to the
"I think it's definitely a matter of energy," Bouvier
said. "I think once you get the festival going and people see
what you're doing and get involved, then I think it will be a success."
Bouvier said it is also his hope that the publicity surrounding
the festival will focus some attention on the city of Fitchburg
and the surrounding area.