Connecticut Film Festival 2008

posted by shoeshoe14 on May 21, 2008 at 7:58 am

(I’m volunteering at the CT Film Fest HQ all week in Danbury. FYI: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, HQ’d in downtown Danbury until July [starring Winona Ryder, Julianne Moore, Alan Arkin, Keanu Reeves and Robin Wright-Penn] will be shooting downtown on the opening night of the CTFF {May 20} next to the Palace Theatre at 165 Main Street.)

Sundance, Telluride, Cannes, Connecticut?

The Connecticut Film Festival 2008 (May 20-25,

By Dave Bonan

At any given time around the world, there are 2,500 film festivals taking place and each has to attract visitors with a unique hook. The Connecticut Film Festival (, now in its second year (sans the original Bethel Film Festival) distinguishes itself from the competition by being the only statewide festival in a 9-month “traveling tour”, stopping at various cities and towns to educate and entertain.

The festival was conceived in 2003 by Bethel’s Tom Carruthers, a booking and event management whiz, with friends, the late Pete Howland, Rob Wallace and then-local filmmaker, Jeff Seckendorf. They combined their talents, approached Paul Schuyler, then owner of the Bethel Cinema and in October 2005, the Bethel Film Festival was born, drawing over 3,000 filmgoers.

Subsequently, the organizers dispersed, Schuyler wanted to sell the theater and the new owners were very interested in Tom’s idea. He owned the name and changed it to an all encompassing name, the Connecticut Film Festival.

In July 2006, the Connecticut Legislature passed the nations' most lucrative and competitive film incentive. It offered a 30-percent tax credit for productions (film, television, digital media, etc.) that cost $50,000 or more, (as long as the top billed actors do not earn more than $10 million.) A year later, it was amended to include all production companies. Since Connecticut has no film infrastructure, save for one soundstage and post-production facility, further legislation passed in August 2007 creating facilities and jobs while establishing a training program for workers. We are now affectionately called “Hollywood East”, something that Fort Lee, NJ was once known for, for its movie houses and Long Island City, Queens was, for its studios.

In October 2006, for one week, The Connecticut Film Festival challenged itself and the space-time continuum by showcasing the same lineup of films in 8 cities and towns, simultaneously, attracting 4,500 people. There was no festival in fall 2007 because the prime selection process for entering films in festivals is late spring, so Carruthers tweaked the schedule to end in spring, allowing a complete statewide slate of 9 weekends and a few mid-week screenings at multiplexes and independent theatres.

The Danbury Common Council agreed in February 2008 to allocate $75,000 (mostly for marketing) to the festival and act as host city. Jim Whitney, Executive Director of the Northwest Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau ( estimates that five thousand people will attend; spending an average of $106 per person, with Danbury receiving a 7-fold return on their investment. The direct and indirect economic impacts will be between $500,000 and $1 million.

The CTFF’s economic development model is a huge opportunity for filmmakers and sponsors 365 days a year and for cities and towns to jump onboard and promote themselves. This isn’t just about Connecticut. “Representatives from The Weinstein Company (TWC) will be in attendance and industry executives from the West Coast have put us on their radar," said Carruthers. "Our future is to develop a model like (Austin, TX) South By Southwest [SXSW] with film, music and interactive media, but not with their out-of-hand glitz.”

The festival’s finale week will be held at 8 screening venues including the Heirloom Arts Theatre, Western Connecticut State University and other downtown locations. There will be 3 workshop venues, 16 panels and 12 receptions, 4 of which will serve as fundraisers for local nonprofit organizations, fostering grassroots community relations.

The highlight will be the reopened Palace Theatre, a former 2,000-seat single screen vaudeville and movie house, built in 1927, triplexed in 1992 and shuttered in 1995. A longtime subject of the community and 5 administrations, it opened to resounding acclaim as it hosted First Night Danbury 2008 with its refurbished lobby being the centerpiece of an art installation detailing its pictorial history, by Carter Boyajian, of New Fairfield’s, The Sculpture Barn. The Palace will once again show movies in its twinned right orchestra theater as owner Joe DaSilva and his crew work round-the-clock to ready it for showtime.

There were over 500 films submitted since September. Cities hosted 35 a week with Danbury showcasing 130. Fifteen were from Connecticut filmmakers including John Balis, formerly of Danbury, to show The Entrepreneur."

“The CT Film Festival is the most attractive event to filmmakers in the industry because you pay once and show in 5 venues – nobody does that," said Carruthers.

CTFF is reaching out to local ethnicities by selecting films for East Asian, Lebanese and South American populations, from the California-based Global Film Initiative.

At the CTFF press conference in the Palace Theatre’s lobby on May 15, Wayne Shepard, from Danbury’s Office of Economic Development said, “Danbury puts on lots of good events, but no great ones. This (CTFF) will be the greatest event since the Danbury State Fair.”

What does the future hold for the CTFF?

Danbury should not be thinking short term on their return investment but a long term of 3 to 5 years. “The return is the bigger picture, not just instant gratification,” said Carruthers.

Go to for ticketing information.

If you want more star fever, Robert Deniro is shooting a movie, “Everybody’s Fine” in Stamford and in Danbury and will be shooting at the back of the Danbury Fair Mall on Thursday, May 22, time TBA.

Theaters in this post

Comments (1)

shoeshoe14 on May 21, 2008 at 3:38 pm

This was published today in the Fairfield County Weekly, they tweaked a few sentences, but it’s virtually the same. View link

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment