Q&A with Trevor Greenfield, director of Edmonds International Film Festival

My Edmonds News interviewed Trevor Greenfield, co-founder and director of the Edmonds International Film Festival, which is coming to town Oct. 20-24.

Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you get in to filmmaking?
I grew up in Orange County, Calif., acting in school plays and always fascinated by movies, technology and computers. My father, Fred, had been making industrial films, commercials, travelogues, etc. but on bigger projects like his “Adventures in Paradise” and “Treasure of Costa Rica,” I witnessed his hours of A and B roll Super VHS editing in studios and later in his own studio in Costa Mesa. It was painful how long it took… often times keeping us from sailing or other fun things. But later in my teens, I saw movies that changed my view on what movies could be, and when I connected that with what my father had gone through, I realized that I could tell stories as a filmmaker too.

It took a few years and a video class at my community college, but I wrote my first short comedy, “The Soup Party!”, cast local theater actors in roles, and Fred and I shot the movie with me directing and him on camera. Production values were not the best but I am still impressed today with the end result, and it won an award for Best Comedy in its premiere.  I would work on a number of independent films in many capacities from key grip to first assistant director, and I’ve even edited some higher profile projects for clients. Fred and I teamed up on two more shorts, and then recently we shot a short based on our feature comedy, called “Don’t Call Me a Doctor.”  We shot about 60 percent of it in Edmonds.

Why did you decide to start a film festival in Edmonds?
It’s interesting because although we’re moving the existing Lakedance Film Festival from Sandpoint, Idaho to Edmonds, we’re really starting it from scratch all over again: new name, logo, new goals, custom fit for Edmonds. The reason we chose Edmonds over other cities we looked at was because it had the right combination of ingredients to host a film festival like the one we will create. It takes a very special town to do that, with specific requirements for venues, demographics, access, etc. Edmonds is a charming waterfront town with a terrific artsy downtown and, best of all, so many of those whom we have been working with to make this happen, such as Stephen Clifton, Frances Chapin, Jan Vance, Jon and Michelle Mayo, and Jan and Darlene at The Best Western Edmonds Harbor Inn, get “it”. They get what we’re trying to do with our event, and see how powerful a draw of event tourism our film festival and other events like it can be. It’s so wonderful the positive attitudes and encouragement we have gotten, from merchants, city council, Frank Yamamoto of DEMA (Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association). It’s like a dream come true so far.

Many people are familiar with the Seattle Film Festival. Will the Edmonds festival be like that?
SIFF is an amazing event. I’ve heard it called the biggest film festival in the world. After five years of running film festivals, I have nothing but respect for what the SIFF folks accomplish yearly. That being said, Edmonds International Film Festival will be very different, perhaps the opposite of SIFF. They show many dark dramas, and politically controversial movies. We will focus on enlightening but more uplifting comedies, romances and lighter dramas as well as environmental documentaries. They show hundreds of films a year. Our focus will be giving the maximum amount of exposure to filmmakers and films, and spending the most amount of time with just a few dozen films a year. High quality and in-depth, not quantity. They have over a dozen venues.  We will have three to five by year three.  We’ll also be focusing on other areas that SIFF doesn’t currently focus on, so as you can see, it’s going to be quite different than SIFF.

Could you tell me more about the economic benefits that a film festival brings to a city?
Sure. When people come to the event from outside the area especially, they spend money on lodging, restaurants and shops. Moviemaker magazine in the last decade estimated film festival tourists spend about $150 per person per day not including festival related expenses. We’ve found that number to be closer to $200-$250. So multiply the 500 out-of-area tourists we are trying to attract this year to our event by $200. That’s $100,000 per day that is brought into the local economy. By year five we want to pull 5,000. There is no limit but we have to have goals. The film festival also spends the majority of its budget in the local economy.  That’s direct economic impact.  Indirect economic impact comes when the money that got spent then turns over into additional employment opportunities, additional taxes paid. Then once those people see how great Edmonds is for the film festival, they return again and again for tourism. The best part is when those people go home, unlike a year-round citizen, the city then no longer has to provide them services. You can see this is a perfect situation and it explains why you will see many cities across the nation trying to have something going on in town every week, just to try to bring in some tourism dollars.

That being said, film festivals are kind of in their own category as far as events go, very desirable to put on, but very complicated and expensive. Which explains why many film festivals are out of business by years 2 or 3. We have a different business model than they do, which explains why we’re in year five and looking up.

How can Edmonds residents become involved?
Well, first, make sure you buy some tickets and attend the event! The movies and events are going to be amazing, I promise you that. Beyond that, spread the word to as many places as you can: Tweet about it on Twitter, mention it on Facebook, volunteer with us, have your business become a sponsor, donate and become a patron. Or if you know of a business or someone who can help financially, let them know. If nothing else, just be supportive — the more support the community has and the more they give us feedback, the more we can make the event better and better for Edmonds and the film community.

Really, you can’t possibly understand how much help it is if you tell your friends about our festival and how it will be a cool thing to do October 20th-24th. We have a totally open-door policy, so if you want to help, want to get involved,  send me an email: trevorgreenfield@edmondsfilmfestival.com. This is your festival!

Anything else our community should know about the festival?
We’re here for the long run.  The Edmonds International Film Festival will be a staple of the calendar, and will just get better as time goes on. But as I said, get in contact with us and find any way you can to support it. Every little bit goes a long way.

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