For many cinephiles, the pandemic may have brought them closer to their film-watching passion, with so many film festivals opting for a virtual event. However, let’s face it, attending and watching films with an audience, especially in your community, and one that loves the arts and storytelling is an essential part of film viewing. Yet, we have had and, for some places still, have to be careful. Nobody knows this better than Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF) Founder and Executive Director Teddy Grennan and SVFF Director Candice Pate, who resides in Sun Valley year-round. Grennan and Pate had to cancel a fully laid out, in-place, ready-to-go SVFF 2020 event only five days away before its start due to the pandemic. In addition, it’s an event in South-central Idaho, which was brought close to six million dollars in economic impact for Blaine County, Idaho, before the pandemic. This is important money to a location where even at its tourist capacity, prior to March 2020, it hovered under 30,000 residents and non-residents.
“From the beginning, we were not averse to a digital film festival,” says Grennan. “Actually, we have been approached for the last six years about adding a digital platform. However, things did change and evolve due to circumstances. But why would we do it? The Sun Valley Film Festival is a live event, and that’s what we do. We thought if we offered digital, it would hurt the economic impact of Sun Valley, as the Festival is a huge economic driver for the town. It’s a big part of why we do the event in Sun Valley, which is a major part of its success. This is Candice’s hometown, and it’s the support of local media, the Sun Valley Resort, restaurant owners, local businesses, and residents of all types, all wanting a front-row seat because of their awareness of how it helps the community. SVFF began due to the efforts of a widely responsive community who backed the event from its inception and continue to do so.”
“Since 2012 SVFF has connected filmmakers with support financially and through mentorship through a variety of programs and awards.”
Since 2012 SVFF has connected filmmakers with support financially and through mentorship through a variety of programs and awards. Every spring, the Festival’s slate of cutting-edge films, TV premieres, industry panels, engaging Coffee Talks with entertainment luminaries, a Screenwriters Lab led by award-winning writers, and a series of parties culminating with the spectacular SVFF Awards Bash is a memorable one. For the past ten years, all of SVFFs events and happenings have been a must-attend by the Sun Valley community and its many visitors, who range from festival film lovers to aspiring filmmakers as well as artistic and creative individuals to leaders in the film business. But, as all things changed in 2020, so did the economics of presenting a digital film festival or a digital option with a live event, which until now, had previously been ruled out by SVFF because of the costs even with one of its founder sponsors and supporters, National Geographic, offering to assist.
“The cost of a digital platform just wasn’t feasible,” says Grennan. “Then, it changed. We adapted when we realized there was an opportunity to have a festival online that would keep us relevant. It’s not what we imagined our 10th anniversary to be, but it allowed us to share the magic of storytelling and perhaps expand our audience.”