Q&A du C-U: S. Davis on Route 66

“Five for Filmmaking,” Part 2
A short interview with SamB Davis of the Route 66 International Film Festival

by Jason Pankoke

Due to production delays on our end, C-U Confidential #7 will street a little too late to give our dearest readers the advance scoop on a grouping of fall season film festivals taking place within close proximity on the calendar and geographically to Champaign-Urbana. Therefore, we counter with companion coverage to achieve the same goal, presenting exclusively on C-U Blogfidential the full conversations we had with festival representatives for the article. This is the second in five entries.

Next up is the 12th annual Route 66 International Film Festival, a long-running effort by Springfield community members to introduce non-mainstream cinema to the public. Tom Szpyrka will take his sophomore turn as festival president, handed the reins in 2012 by Linda McElroy after her decade-long run directing the show. Joining Szpyrka on staff are Siobhan Johnson (Director for Film Acquisition), Thea Chesley (Director of Marketing and Communications), SamB Davis (Sponsorship Director), and Hugh Moore and Lana Wildman (Directors-at-Large). Route 66 is organized similarly to other multi-day festivals, presenting blocks of shorts and features somehow grouped by theme, genre, common individual, or historical background.

Szpyrka will deliver opening remarks tonight, Friday, November 1, at 6 p.m., with selections running through the late evening to be followed by an after party until 1 a.m. Film programs will continue on Saturday, November 2, from 10 a.m. until approximately 11 p.m. with the festivities lasting through the midnight hour. Capital City Bar & Grill, 3145 S. Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, serves as the new home of Route 66, taking advantage of an adjacent rental space that once housed a movie theater in the Eighties. Day passes are $25 for Friday and $35 for Saturday, while a festival pass for the entire haul costs $50.

We now share our brief visit with Davis about the philosophies behind the Route 66 International Film Festival, an endeavor that has taken many shapes and forms in its history as a Capital City alternative.

Read on, Capital City MacDuff…

C-U Blogfidential: Thank you, SamB, for sparing a few moments to discuss the next Route 66 International Film Festival with us! To begin, what qualities do you feel make your event attractive and unique to both returning and first-time audience members?

SamB Davis: Although the motion picture and its first cousin, television, has become the world’s primary source of information, entertainment, and cultural change, most people have been restricted from expressing themselves in this art due to the cost of making and distributing films.

However, technology has advanced to the point where average people can, with very little monetary investment, make high-quality films on their own. Computer [based] editing, sound programs, and [media] burning capability allow these artists to complete a movie at home rather than renting time at a studio facility. In addition, social media and the Internet allows independent filmmakers an easy way to find places in which to show their finished products. Film Festivals such as Route 66 provide just such an outlet, giving these filmmakers a chance to mingle and share their vision with other film enthusiasts.

This year, we have decided to show the films according to the [Motion Picture Association of America] rating system – “G,” “PG,” and “R” – rather than by genre. The “G” rated films will air first on Saturday, and we will work towards the more adult material throughout the day. This is to allow attendees a chance to leave the event for a while [during material that may not interest them]. However, the final film YOU DON’T SAY is amusing and at best “PG” rated, so anyone can attend. The most controversial film, HIDE ‘N SEEK (SUM-BA-KKOK-JIL) from South Korea, airs Friday evening after the military war films. It should be noted that even our “R” films are so rated due to strong language, mild violence, and adult themes; none contain pornographic scenes or extreme violence.

One of the greatest advantages of independent films is their length. Although a few of these films run a couple hours, most of them are short. They are as long as they need to be, as long as they should be. This is something Hollywood fails to comprehend and, as such, many feature films seem to never end. You rarely face that issue at the Route 66 International Film Festival.

CUBlog: From where do you draw the films programmed for Route 66?

SBD: Route 66 receives and shows independent films from around the world. This year, we will have films from Canada, South Korea, Australia, England, Spain, France, Germany, and the United States.

CUBlog: Are there certain films scheduled for this year that you feel are exceptional or best embody the spirit of Route 66?

SBD: As technology for independent film improves, so does the quality of the finished products. I am constantly impressed at how good even debut films have become. And, for the most part, they do these films on their own without a production company or studio backing them.

This year [at Route 66] is no exception. After having more than a hundred entries this year [to review] the festival board and judges made the tough decisions necessary to show about 14 hours of the best films submitted. Each film is judged in five categories, rated “one” through “five,” and those with the lowest totaled numbers from several judges are eliminated.

In my years of judging films for this event, I can say a couple movies this year are the best I have thus far seen. For instance, the Australian film THE INTERVIEWER is one of the first in which the judges were unanimously impressed.

CUBlog: Will there be special guests speaking or presenting at this year’s Route 66?

SBD: We expect several filmmakers to attend the event. We do plan on having people speak after their film. Springfield’s own Thomas R. Jones is scheduled to speak Friday night about the film version of his stage play based on his Vietnam novel. [Chicago area director] Robert Alaniz, whose film YOU DON’T SAY will close the screenings on Saturday, is expected to have several actors at the event for discussion just before the awards are given. We have after parties to allow audiences, movie hopefuls, and filmmakers a chance to mingle.

CUBlog: Finally, given the track record that the Route 66 International Film Festival has built during the past decade, in which directions would you like to see the fest explore or grow in the coming years?

SBD: We have seen independent filmmakers rise to great success through these kinds of festivals. In previous years, a couple films in our festival have even been nominated for Oscars. We hope to emphasize this success in future years.

With enough financial backing, our festival also hopes to bring in celebrities. Many known stars, writers, or crew members on studio films support small independent movies or make their own in their “down time” between major projects; these people would inspire audiences from central Illinois to try their hand at making movies of their own.

We have considered leaning towards a “Look, you could do this, too!” angle, creating film panels by crew members, writers, acting professionals, et cetera, to talk to attendees about their art. When it comes down to it, inspiring someone to make their own movies should be the goal of every film festival. We like to think that is what our event will do.

• Schedule:

Click here for the complete 2013 R66FF schedule!

:: Part 1 | Part 3 ::


Interview conducted October 9, 2013, via e-mail.

CUBlog EXTRA! Interview No.7 © 2013 Jason Pankoke

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