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Chatting with launching Ruby Mountain Festival Director

We sat down with Kurt James Stefka - Founder, CEO and President of the Ruby Mountain Film Festival and discussed the vision and the challenges the festival is facing for its opening year this August (11-14) in Elko, Nevada...

Bruno Chatelin: When and how did you decide to launch a festival?


Kurt James Stefka  About 3 years ago I began to visualize a film festival in our community. It was then that I began to conceptualize the mission, name, objectives and overall strategy to bring a uniquely cultural event to Elko Nevada.

Who helped you the most with that?
I must say, for the 1st year or two I was pretty much flying solo on this gradual build out. Then, about a year ago I found myself working at this event full time and my wife Stacie, who is also on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit organization, began to help me every chance she has had despite the fact that she works full time as a 2nd grade teacher.
Also, toward the end of last year Don Newman, Executive Director of the Elko Convention Center (which is a beautiful facility and primary venue for the event from start to finish) immediately shared in the potential of my vision once I presented it to him and has become my wing man as we negotiate and navigate through the various issues such a major international event brings with it. Ami Rogers our Festival Coordinator who worked with Sundance for 4 years has also been a huge asset to our team.

What problems did you have to deal with mostly?
I would say getting people to convert enthusiasm and excitement about the film festival into volunteering and financial contribution as sponsors has been more challenging than I anticipated. I wouldn't necessarily refer to it as problems but more like challenges as this is our 1st year for the event and we are almost 6 months out from go time.

What is your biggest challenge this year?
Insuring that we produce an entertaining and exciting event for the community which brings in filmmakers and culture from around the world while never losing sight of the fact that at the end of the day...it's all about making sure there is a year 2 for RMFF because being able to market the 2nd Annual Ruby Mountain Film Festival will insure longevity for the event and increasing success year after year which ultimately benefits the community and emerging filmmakers throughout the world.
Do you see a different profile in indie filmmakers east and west coast?
That is an interesting question. Since it is our 1st year for RMFF, I cannot speak to the varying profiles of filmmakers as a Festival Director, but as a filmmaker myself who has worked in Hollywood as an actor, writer and director over the past 25 years I would have to say "no"; I do not see a different profile from one coast to the other...the "filmy" crowd are a certain breed of individuals and many of them live and/or work often from both coasts. Life styles, hobbies, fashion and diets for example tend to vary but nothing down at the heart and soul of filmmakers, in my opinion.

Where do you think are bottlenecks in film distribution?
Well, traditionally "bottlenecks" have existed in getting distribution and dealing with the major studios. The old "catch 22" if you will. You can't get a distribution agreement for a project unless you have a letter of intent from some well know names or it has been green lit by a studio to fund the project; yet, you can't get a project funded or a studio to back the financing without a someone on board willing to distribute the film.
This system designed to keep the power and control in the hands of a few has dissipated over the years thanks to the Indie Film Market and mavericks like Robert Redford, John Cassavetes, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriquez, Ellen Seidler (to only name a few) and the progression of internet driven digital distribution.

What do you think of VOD, streaming over the internet?
I must say, I am bit old school when it comes to the explosion of the internet and technology in general. As a film director and certified Avid editor, I do read up on the latest web driven successes and challenges but I am not going to try to speak intelligently about VOD only to say that clearly it is the future. There seem to be challenges currently with the growth of popular websites serving multimedia contents and the increase of video streaming applications.
Over time I expect that once the computer geniuses master the issues regarding bandwidth, delay, packet loss rates, algorithms and congestion/flow control mechanisms and the overall quality of picture that VOD streaming over the internet is inevitably where our future lies...however, as someone who doesn't facebook, myspace or tweet it doesn't mean I have to like it.

What is your best film success story (from your festival experience?)
Again, because this is our 1st year for the Ruby Mountain Film Festival, I can't refer to a specific example of a success story from our film festival but I can say that I look forward to and am becoming increasingly excited about being asked this question next year as it has not even been 2 full weeks since our global call for entries through withoutabox and to date we already have 45 films submitted from not only many cities in the USA but also from countries like Mexico, Canada, Spain, UK, Japan, Australia, France, Iraq, Iran, and India. I anticipate several emerging filmmakers who will be candidates for my response to this very question next year.

How can you describe the Festival's mission?
The Ruby Mountain Film Festival is dedicated to the exhibition and nurturing of film and video as an art, spotlighting film talent from around the world. We will present a full range of storytelling through visual arts from independent and student filmmakers to Hollywood movies and the Western genre, with a particular emphasis on student filmmaking.

MORE ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
The RMFF is fortunate to have the opportunity to present this cultural event in such a spectacular setting, an internationally recognized destination, known for its beautiful Ruby Mountains and Western history. The Western community of Northeastern Nevada is rich in culture and its love for the creative arts and takes great pride in being known as "Cowboy Country". Elko Nevada will distinguish the RMFF as a truly unique festival, serving a combination of audiences, including the local arts community, visiting tourists and emerging talent from around the world.

What is your view on the state of Independent film today, and American film?
While there is always a place for the big budget movies in cinema, I share in the view that independent films tend to be less commercial than Hollywood blockbusters; also, they make a far more personal statement on behalf of the director or screenwriter, and are made on a significantly lower budget. There is just a certain look and feel to an indie film which signals to the viewer that they are somehow in for a more intimate movie going experience.
Since independent film budgets really begin to pale in comparison to mainstream Hollywood fare in the arena of advertising and marketing costs, most of these movies must achieve breakthrough status by performing well at film festivals. This is ultimately in my view a good thing for the film lovers of the world and for filmmakers.
I think that with the increase of technology, low cost video cameras, and simple to use editing apps the American Independent filmmakers have their hands full keeping up with the rest of the world and its emerging filmmakers utilizing the low budget independent filmmaking structure.

Addressing filmmakers?
It may seem cliché, but follow your passion! Filmmaking is an exhilarating rush and an addictive art for those who know it is innately part of their DNA. You know who you are. It's all about telling the story and getting the shot. If you live for that and wake up throughout the night to write something down because you know that in visual storytelling writing is rewriting, then you my friend are filmmaker. If it is your goal to ultimately make your living as a filmmaker then keep at it until it is your only form of income, if it is not already! Or perhaps you are less aggressive in your goals but equally as passionate about the art and the process...we love your films too!

Please say a few words on the importance of festivals in the USA?
I think film festivals in the USA are extremely important because they offer US citizens some unique cultural foreign exchange with filmmakers from all over the planet. Depending on the film festival's mission and goals there is the potential for a huge benefit to our communities throughout the US, not just for filmmakers but for the average citizen who simply loves the cinematic experience.
Conversely, filmmakers visiting a festival in our country also receive the benefit of experiencing 1st hand American ingenuity and creativity which over time tends to break down all cultural differences and boundaries such that what we are left with is a brotherhood...a family of filmmakers.

Thank you Kurt this brilliant, good luck with the festival
Submissions are open on the website http://www.fest21.com/en/user/ruby_mountain_film_festival

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Chatelin Bruno
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