To call Jane Sullivan a pioneer might be an understatement. As director of the Santa Cruz Film Festival, she’s a wild ball of energy. And, in the seven years she’s presided over the local film festival, she has managed to pull off phenomenal feats on a very big scale. It hasn’t been without plenty of hard work, too many volunteers to mention and probably a headache or two.
While this year the fest promises to be bigger and better than ever before, the backstory of how it arrived to where it is today is noteworthy.
Back in August of 2001, Sullivan and her friend Johnny Davis attended a screening of student films at California State University Monterey Bay.
“There was good work coming out of there … [so we thought] let’s start a film festival,” Sullivan says.
It was as simple as that. Then reality sank in. “We didn’t have any idea what Johnny and I were taking on,” Sullivan adds. By the spring of 2002, the first Santa Cruz Film Festival was born.
“It’s changed each year and has a different flavor,” she adds. “It grows every year … and is [more] recognized on the festival circuit. It takes a lot more time than you think it will and a lot more work.”
This year’s theme for the festival is “The Big Picture.” According to Sullivan, “When you look at the big picture, we’re focusing on documentaries this year and [talking] about how one’s life fits into the big picture. Documentaries [can] take on a corporation or social problem, or document the way of how everyone fits in to the world at large. [We have] films from African hip hop to poetry in East San Jose. ‘The Big Picture’ is literal and figurative; to get people off their laptops and see the way films are meant to be seen— on the screen in the big picture. [To get] them enveloped in that delicious scene, that juicy, sensuous, colorful celluloid or tape.”
Getting people into the theaters has not only been advantageous for audience members, but it’s had an impact on revenue in the county. “It (the festival) has brought in $1 million in six years,” she says. “Close to 90 percent [of the filmmakers attend the festival] and their families and crew. [It affects] the hostesses, the restaurants, and where they shop. This is an economic boon to the town.”
Over the years, the fest has attracted myriad big names like Christopher Coppola and David Arquette, among many others. It continues to draw an array of headturners, covering every topic imaginable. Highlights this year include the opening night film One Fast Move or I’m Gone, by documentary filmmaker Curtis Worden, which chronicles the emotional tailspins of genius Jack Kerouac. Look for Ripple Effect to generate buzz as well. (Get the lowdown on GT’s top fest picks on page 56.)
“Civic participation [in the festival] is getting people more involved in the ‘bigger picture’ of your life,” Sullivan says. “Then, when we get back together in the world, it helps us become more realized human beings.”
The Santa Cruz Film Festival runs from May 9-17 and boasts more than 140 films. The movies will be shown at theaters and other venues in town. For more information, to view trailers, or for ticket information, visit santacruzfilmfestival.com . See trailers from the film fest at gtweekly.com .