BZFilm spoke to the founder, President and Executive Director of the festival Richard M. Pettigrew about the upcoming event.
How did an idea to host such festival was first proposed? How long has the festival been running?
The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival is a spinoff from The Archaeology Channel (archaeologychannel.org), our very popular streaming media Web site, which launched in 2000.
Our mission as a nonprofit is to tell the human story through media and we decided very early, in fact when I founded Archaeological Legacy Institute in 1999, that all media eventually would go digital and be delivered over the Internet. I became aware of archaeology-related film festivals in Europe and saw that none were being done on this side of the Atlantic.
We launched TAC Festival in 2003 as a way to put this kind of content (films about the human cultural heritage) in front of a live as distinct from a virtual audience. The Festival accomplishes that and at the same time connects us to the entire world of producers in this genre, which gives us unrivaled access to this kind of content for a variety of purposes. TAC Festival 2013 is our Tenth Annual competition.
Does the festival function by itself, or within the framework of the Archaeological Legacy Institute?
TAC Festival is part of the annual activity of ALI and we are busy at it throughout the year. As I already said, the Festival has given us a network of many hundreds of film producers. In ten years we have received film entries from 45 countries.
This year’s films selected for screening have very attractive titles, which ones do you think would gain the most attention?
This is a film competition, so I can’t highlight one film above another. We received 79 film entries from 22 countries and I think the overall quality improves each year. The 18 that we are screening are the cream of the crop and are all very strong. It’s going to be a tough competition.
The screeners come from 8 different countries. We’ll have film makers coming here from far-away places such as Armenia, Macedonia, Malaysia, and Pakistan as well as a variety of US states to present their films and to participate in The Archaeology Channel Conference on Cultural Heritage Film, which takes place during the day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Five of the screeners have been broadcast on US TV channels (PBS and National Geographic).
Importantly, films in TAC Festival are highly entertaining and very skillfully made. Some people are surprised about this, as if films in our genre are supposed to be boring depictions of tedious fieldwork. Actually, the stories are compelling and the films would do well in anybody’s film festival. In fact, one of our films this year, Canicula, just appeared in the Cinema Pacific Film Festival held here in Eugene last week and others over the years have done well in many international festivals.
This year’s film list includes films from Europe… How often are those submitted to the institute for festival screenings?
We always have strong participation from Europe and the European festivals always get American participation. But we actually have worldwide participation every year from every continent (not counting Antarctica!). And we cooperate with the European festivals, sending them our recommendations as they send us theirs.
I’ve been on Festival juries in Germany, France and Italy and we have had their Festival directors on our jury as well. In October I’ll be on the jury for the second time at the Rassegna festival in Rovereto, Italy.
Do you have any plans for expanding the festival? Afterall, the subjects that are being covered at the festival are informative and interesting to say the least…
Yes, we always look for opportunities to expand TAC Festival, but of course we have financial constraints that limit what we can do. For 2014 we have a plan to add a worldwide children’s film competition in coordination with a nonprofit in New York City. That will be officially announced on May 1. We are looking at an online student competition (for university students) as a future direction as well. And we’d love to hold a music festival concurrently.
Our Conference on Cultural Heritage Film is growing each year and gaining prestige and adherents. We also have a traveling version of the Festival that has venues in other Oregon cities and we have organized a turnkey Festival version that organizations anywhere in the world can subscribe to, like the Margaret Mead Film Festival put on by the American Museum of Natural History. There is a huge reservoir of latent interest out there that we are working to tap into.
What expectations do you have at this year’s festival, which starts next month?
This year we expect to add to our track record of outstanding events and spread our fame more widely. Financially we are in the black, but are very conservative about spending resources. We would love to attract thousands of people from around the world, but we’re not at that level.
However, we’ve managed to keep this event alive and growing for ten years, so we are doing some good things, apparently. And it has helped us immeasurably in other areas that depend on quality content. We are working aggressively on our film distribution program and developing venues for the content It’s even helped us develop our own film production program, which now is growing pretty fast.
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