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The third annual festival produced by San Diego Film Consortium is growing a film scene from the inside out.
This weekend marks the third annual San Diego Film Week, and while film festivals can seem almost as prolific as beer festivals here (rest assured, nothing is as prolific as beer festivals here), what makes San Diego Film Week stand out is both its relative infancy and its dedication to grassroots, local filmmaking and the year-round legwork involved in developing a film community.
“It’s to provide a venue for local filmmakers to showcase their work, network with each other, find others to work with and go on to make more films,” said Jodi Cilley, founder of San Diego Film Consortium and San Diego Film Week. It sounds like an insular model, but Cilley ultimately wants to build a sustainable, resourceful and highly talented film community from the inside out, and to build that, the community needs to take care of itself first. “The long-term goal is to increase the quality and quantity of locally produced films, TV and web content and increase funding distribution, networking, educational and screening opportunities for San Diego filmmakers,” she said.
Cilley started San Diego Film Consortium in 2012, after a decade of teaching filmmaking to local colleges and high schools, as well as working on her own film projects. It started with screenings of local films, and eventually, after several years of the Film Consortium’s accessible community education programming and resource development, the group was able to stitch together its first festival. This year’s third annual festival includes multiple panels, over a hundred films and videos, parties and more.
A standout in the documentary shorts category is “Rounding Third,” which features the La Mesa Senior Softball League. “I used to drive by this little league field on my way to work in the morning, and I immediately recognized that there were a bunch of seniors out on the field, in their uniforms, all in position and running around,” said filmmaker Alejandro Castro. He recalled wanting to watch a film about the team, to learn a little more, but thought nothing more of it.
“Fast forward 15-plus years later and I was taking a filmmaking course and one of our assignments was to make a short documentary,” Castro said. He instantly knew he’d make the documentary about the senior softball league. “I went to the field one morning and started chatting a few guys who were in the parking lot. They pointed me to this guy and then that guy pointed me to another guy. Everyone was exceptionally warm and accommodating and that day I arranged to come down the following week and shoot the film,” Castro said. “I literally produced, filmed, edited and did the music all by myself. But without those lovely people at the senior league, I wouldn’t have anything.”
The short film is inspiring and fascinating, with rich characters who carry the story and simple, comprehensive footage of a beautiful community. Picked up as part of the KPBS Explore Project, “Rounding Third” premieres during the KPBS Explore Showcase on Tuesday, April 16, along with Jonathan Hammond’s documentary about The Big Kitchen, and more.
Castro’s experience in San Diego film circles has been largely positive and inspiring, though he wants to shine a light on the difficulties that arise when creative people work for free. “There is this expectation from way too many filmmakers here that working for free is sustainable, and it’s not,” Castro said, acknowledging his own part in this system by having voluntarily worked without receiving payment, too. “As long as people keep doing that, the quality of work suffers, the film suffers and in the end, the film community feels the repercussions. I think if San Diego really wants to attract bigger talent and productions, people around here need to start learning to get out of that habit and realize their worth.”
It seems San Diego Film Consortium’s long-term plan is on the horizon, if not here already, so growth is underway regardless: “I’m most excited to see all the new faces that are a part of Film Week this year,” said Cilley. “We are screening so many films from filmmakers that were never part of our events before and that just shows me how much our community is growing.”