25 Years Old and Stronger Than Ever
New Orleans Film Festival’s unprecedented growth echoes that of Hollywood South.
Before I had the good fortune of making the move to New Orleans about three-and-a-half years ago, I spent 20 years living in Southern California. And in all that time, I can say I never saw anywhere near as many active film crews, or movie stars, as I’ve already seen here.
And I’m far from the only Southern California transplant, thanks, in large part, to the boom of “Hollywood South.” If you haven’t heard, in March Louisiana officially overtook the Golden State as the film production capital of the world (2013 FilmL.A. study).
Among the organizations working to further boost the Louisiana film scene is the New Orleans Film Society, the nonprofit organization behind, among other things, the New Orleans Film Festival.
Celebrating its 25th year, NOFF will take place Oct. 16-23, 2014, during which 237 films (96 feature and 141 shorts) will be showcased at a wide array of venues throughout the city.
Echoing the boom in local filming, NOFF has also experienced remarkable growth just in the past four years. In 2010, the festival counted approximately 8,500 attendees. Last year that number reached over 22,000.
Jolene Pinder, executive director of the New Orleans Film Society, says the word is out among filmmakers that NOFF is the place to be.
“Last year we received more than 2,100 film submissions,” she says. “That’s a 40 percent growth from the previous year. Other film festivals just aren’t growing like this.”
Pinder says the growth of the festival is due, in large part, to actions the organization has taken to connect the film industry to the festival.
“We are very filmmaker friendly,” she says. “For instance we offer all filmmakers whose work is accepted, both features and shorts, two free nights in a hotel. They don’t do that in other festivals.”
She adds that once the filmmakers arrive, the New Orleans Film Society makes sure they are engaged – in part by throwing creative parties.
“Last year we had a bounce party, with a bounce music DJ and even a bounce castle,” she says. “This year Gregor Fox has agreed to host the Filmmaker Welcome party at his home, formerly the home of Anne Rice.”
Pinder explains that as more filmmakers attend the festival, they bring with them producers, actors and directors to the city, where hopefully all will be inspired to choose Louisiana as the location for their next film.
NOFF is also gaining “premiere status.” Last year’s festival included the southern premiere of Louisiana-filmed 12 Years A Slave, which went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
This year’s U.S. premiere will be a film already receiving Oscar buzz – Black and White, starring Kevin Costner.
Pinder shared that this year NOFF also received its largest sponsorship to date from the Starz Digital Media.
“We’re excited because Starz will be bringing many of their content buyers with them to New Orleans this year,” she says. “Including representatives from companies like Netflix, dishNET, Hulu and Google.”
While sponsorship money totaled $25,000 for NOFF in 2010, so far that number has increased five-fold.
“We are bringing in these industry leaders and they are seeing everything this area has to offer. The hope is that they’ll choose to bring their business here,” Pinder says. “We’re also making a statement – solidifying this area as a major film hub.”