The Miami International Film Festival is breathing new life into the Floridia film scene through its Florida Focus program. Though Florida Focus is a longstanding project, new direction at the Miami International Film Festival is making it a priority.
Last year, the Florida Focus section of the Festival premiered two films, and this year the initiative's going even further to support independent filmmakers in Florida by raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign.
We recently caught up with Miami International Film Festival Director Jaie Laplante to discuss the project and how raising an money online is like a digital science experiment.
Cultist: How did Florida Focus come about and how do the three success stories mentioned on the Kickstarter page play into the project?
Jaie Laplante: Florida Focus is a program that has existed at MIFF for a number of years. Even from its earliest days, MIFF has been interested and supportive of Florida film, such as the 2nd annual Festival in 1985 when MIFF's opening night film was Florida filmmaker Victor Nunez's A Flash of Green. But I was so inspired by the response to last year's Florida Focus section, and the three success stories, that it is one of my top priorities to expand and nurture in 2012.
What do you hope to achieve through Florida Focus?
Even though it is not what makes them famous, the most prestigious international film festivals around the world make it a priority to lionize filmmakers from the region in which they are located. It's incredibly important for us in Florida to have a showcase that we can all be proud of it, local support is part of the inspiration that can keep a filmmaker going during the endless challenges and frustrations of making a film. It's my goal to expand that support and pride in our local industry.
Why are you using Kickstarter as a platform to launch this project?
Using Kickstarter is an experiment. We don't currently have a specific corporate sponsor of our Florida Focus program as of yet, so we were inspired by the success stories of crowdfunding of film projects such as we saw through Kickstarter. In essence, we are asking the Florida public to become our specific sponsors of Florida Focus, and appealing to their sense of pride in the Florida film industry to make a collective contribution.
Why focus on Florida films? What do you believe that Floridian filmmakers have to offer the independent film world that we haven't seen yet?
Florida is our home and there are unique stories to tell here. Just look at the three incredible films we had last year--Magic City Memoirs, Making Sh*t Up, and Mooney vs. Fowle. Those are films rooted in the deep authenticity of time and place, that could not be matched by a New York or Los Angeles or Flint, Michigan independent filmmaker, for instance. If MIFF does not make a big deal out of these films and give them a platform to launch into the world, I for one would be deeply embarrassed!