"Bravo, BendFilm"

"Bravo, BendFilm"

 The Bend Bulletin published this article on October 19, 2011 at 4:00 AM PST

“This town roots for BendFilm.”

Those are the words of Artistic Director Orit Schwartz as she reflects on the festival’s recently concluded and highly successful season.

In a time of economic challenges when many arts organizations have struggled, BendFilm’s eighth season broke records. A 15 percent increase brought attendance to 6,500. Eighty filmmakers attended, up from 50 the year before.

To thrive in tough times, the festival got by without an executive director for the second year. Board members and Schwartz picked up the responsibilities. Parties were mellower and cash prizes smaller.

But venues continued to expand, with the addition this year of the Oxford Hotel. And film submissions increased to 475 from 350 last year.

Schwartz credits a focus on filmmakers and the jury — which has guided the festival since its founding by Katie Merritt in 2004 — for fueling a growing reputation among filmmakers and other festivals.

And, she says, it couldn’t happen without the volunteers, some of whom have been with the festival the whole eight years.

Schwartz said the festival benefits from the fact that going to movies is a familiar activity for most of us. At BendFilm, we get that familiarity, plus the benefit of having a filmmaker there to answer our questions about indie films. That makes for a cool atmosphere, she said, and can make festival tickets seem a bargain.

Success is always worth celebrating. But today it is especially so, as financial woes weigh so heavily on our psyches as well as our wallets.

BendFilm is thriving because its leaders have made smart decisions, and because the community is engaged and supportive.

It’s quite an accomplishment.

Bravo, BendFilm.

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