It’s been a year since Cristyn Steward launched the Columbus Black International Film Festival. Does running a film festival get easier in its second year?
In a word: No.
“It’s easier in terms of navigating what needs to get done and how and when,” Steward says. “This year it was more of that. I know what needs to go into this to make this great, so what can I add to it to make it better?”
But she says things became more challenging because the festival is growing.
“We have more films, we have more people interested in what we’re doing and being part of what we’re doing. Different partnerships, sponsors, people who want to volunteer, people who just want to be part of what we’re doing,” she says. “Which is great, but there’s a need for a bigger team.”
Steward is pleased with the success of last year’s inaugural festival, and she feels she’s learned some things that will help make the second year even stronger.
“One thing that I learned was that filmmakers want to be more involved in the film festival,” she says. “They want to get to talk about their films. So we’ll have more Q&A sections. We’ll have a lot more talks and things like that from the people showing their films.”
Steward’s also added pre-festival events, including an acting workshop.
“I learned how to make the program better,” she says.
To simplify things for festival goers, she’s also streamlined the screening logistics.
The festival will open at the Wexner Center for the Arts, as it did last year, but all subsequent screenings take place at the Gateway Film Center.
“I wanted it to be more accessible, and what other place to do that than the Gateway Film Center?” she says “They’re a huge proponent of independent cinema and our mission at the Columbus Black International Film Festival is to promote black independent cinema. Our missions align in that type of way and I thought this would be a great partnership.”
The centralized location makes it easier to program a larger number of films.
“We’re probably going to be screening up to 40 films this year – that’s a lot more than our 28 films last year. We’ll have more guests, more panels, and we’ll have more opportunities to network. That’s what we mean by ‘Take It Up a Notch,’” Steward says, referring to the film festival’s theme for year 2.
The only screenings held outside of Gateway are part of the opening night program, which includes a shorts block as well as a feature and visiting filmmaker.
“We have a shorts program of black, queer and trans short films,” she says. “That block is called The Skin I’m In. And we’re going to show Brother to Brother, and afterwards, [filmmaker] Rodney Evans is going to speak and take questions about his process and about that film.”
“We’re really excited about that,” she says. “We’re also excited about the content of the film because it aligns with what the city’s doing with their Harlem Renaissance 100 piece, so Brother to Brother will be a great take on the Harlem Renaissance and learning about ourselves.”
Steward says the evening will end with a networking reception.
“Film festivals provide that platform for networking because film is a team sport,” she says. “We can’t make films by ourselves. It’s not like other mediums where it’s just you and a pen and paper. In order for a film to be great, you need a lot of moving pieces, a lot of moving people. There’s equipment to be picked up and sound to be taken, footage to be edited. There’s actors, there’s assistant directors, directors, producers. We always provide a platform for networking because we want to continue to make films, we want to continue to make art, and also for a support system. You want to be in a group of filmmakers because we support each other in the work that we do and we also collaborate.”
The Columbus Black International Film Festival runs August 23 through August 25. For passes, schedule and information, visit columbusbiff.com.