Many of you may be familiar with the bimonthly magazine RES. Thepublication is a byproduct of the formation of the RES Media Group.The group’s mission is to bring public attention and well-deservedpraise to once-unknown directors while bringing them out of thequagmire of the commercial and music video industries.
The festival lasted three days, Oct. 21-Oct. 23, and with thehelp of the Northwest Film Center all of the films and videosshowed to larger-than-expected crowds every evening. The event wasproduced by TAOW Productions, a local event-planning company whosename stands for “the art of winning.” The festivities also includedan opening evening party at the Wieden + Kennedy building, as wellas a Sunday brunch.
There are staple programs that have been with the festival sinceit started. The program “Shorts” showed every day during the eventand showcases some of the most promising work in the world as faras rising independent media and cinema goes. I found it nearlyimpossible to pick when asked to vote for the “best of RESFEST2004” at the end of the screenings.
Cinema Electronica is another recurring program dating back tothe inception of RESFEST. Here we saw the likes of people who havefound new and interesting ways to create music videos for bandssuch as Air, Sia, Basement Jaxx, Rex the Dog and Pleix. If most ofthese bands sound foreign to you, well, most of them are, and mostof them have been neither heard nor seen in the states yet.
The festival rounded off with a retrospective of the work ofJonathan Glazer and a colorful surf documentary called “Sprout,” bydirector Thomas Campbell.
This was the first time in its history that RESFEST gracedPortland, and I got a chance to sit down with its director,Jonathan Wells, to ask him a few questions.
Eric Macey: Was there an initial drive that started theRESFEST?
Jonathan Wells: Yeah. I had been working at a multimediacompany, and late at night we would play around with digital videocameras and video tools and that certainly had part of how thewhole thing came together. I had also started a music video showwhen I was sixteen, and music videos have always played a part inthe festival. But I also had a couple of partners who had sort ofstrict film backgrounds and another who was one of the cofoundersof Filmmaker magazine. When he left there he had this idea, like,”Well you have this cool festival, what if you had magazine to goalong with it,” and that’s sort of how that got up and running.It’s been eight years now.
E.M: How many cities did the first tour go through?
J.W: San Francisco, L.A., New York, London, Chicago and Orlando.It’s always been a touring event and every year we just add on afew more cities. I think we are up to 33 cities now.
E.M: So why did you decide to add Portland this year?
J.W: This year we really wanted to experiment. We added Austinand Boston for the first time this year as well as Portland. Foryears, people have been asking and we thought that the people whoapproached us were interesting, and there was an interestingopportunity here. A lot of people say, you know, “Come to my town,”but there isn’t anything more solid than that. If there is someoneinterested, who can get a theater and sort of help launch it inthat city, that always helps.
E.M: You review 1,500 submissions for this festival. Is therea broad range in the submissions, or do you haveguidelines?
J.W: I can’t think of anything that was particularly bizarrethis year, but in the past, yeah. In the past we had a guy submithis daughter’s birthday party, and also people who submit justtotally straight, strict film that isn’t very rich, and it justdoesn’t fit us. We get work of all level of quality and it’s notabout the budget. We have things that cost almost nothing andothers that cost a million dollars. It’s about the aesthetic, orvibe, or the sense they bring to the film. And regardless ofbudget, these films can play together and fit perfectly fine.
E.M: Some of your programs, such as “Bushwhacked,” that havesprung up over the years, did they start because all of suddenthere was a enormous amount of submissions in a similarvein?
J.W: There are trends we’ve seen that we’ve avoided, like theTarantino trend and the Blair Witch trend. People just copying whatwas happening in popular media, and I think that are moreinteresting people doing something original, and coming up withsomething new. Most of the time we laugh at little trends we see,like, this is the third film that has a white horse in it, butother times we see that there is something there that would make anice theme.
E.M: And Portland?
J.W: For the first time out I was really happy. An interestingfactoid, our feature showing “Sprout” pre-sold more tickets thanany other city the festival is going to. Most of the films that arebeing shown in the festival come out of urban living. The placeswhere the festival tours is also where we can get a large audiencelike Seoul, Tokyo, San Francisco, L.A., Sao Paulo, and I think thatPortland is a creative hub, even though it’s not a gigantic townthere are some creative forces here who are renowned.
RES Media sells “best of RESFEST” DVDs and other retrospectivecollections from directors and artists. The 2004 collection is dueout sometime this spring.