The Beaufort International Film Festival comes of age, and you’re invited to the party.
By Ron Tucker
Neophyte, Greenhorn, Tyro . . . Say what?
I remember our humble beginnings like it was yesterday. Those memories from
February 2007 stand out vividly, not because of the success of our first film festival, but because of how many things went wrong. Even though I thought I had thoroughly researched “how to start a film festival” there were so many things I didn’t learn from the internet or from my talks with other film festival directors. While all of our organizational and logistical plans came off near flawlessly, thanks to the staff from the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and some great volunteers, it was the curating of films and scheduling of the screenings that were new territory for me. How hard could it be, right?
Well, first no one told me that it was a bad idea to start our screenings at 7:30 in the morning and they certainly didn’t tell me to NOT have our first screening about a deranged South Carolina serial killer. Even though it was a pretty good film, it was still too much to handle before breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, we had no concessions either. You had to walk over to the nearby Huddle House for that.
To make matters worse I didn’t know that any filmmakers would be attending, so I certainly didn’t plan for them to talk about their film after the screening. I was such a “greenhorn.”
So, what happened? Well, I let ‘em talk. We got so far off schedule that there was no way to get that time back. Thankfully we had an understanding audience who loved movies and wanted to hear from the people who made them. They didn’t care that we were off schedule. These were diehard film fans. There were other misfires, but you get the point. It hurts too much to talk about them now, LOL! Thank goodness this was only a 2- day festival. With all of our first- year shortcomings we still considered the festival a success. It’s estimated that we had about 500 movie lovers attending and many of those same people have come back each year since.
Fast Forward to BIFF 2020
The mistakes from previous years are corrected and BIFF now operates like a fine oiled machine. We are now tightly choreographed. Rarely do we get off schedule, filmmakers get 10 minutes to talk about their film, and we have food and drink
aplenty. For the past few years, we’ve been listed by the film festival marketing group FilmFreeway as a Top 100 Best Reviewed Film Festival in the World. These reviews are from the filmmakers. All in all, the year 2020 was good to us since the festival curtain closed before the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down film festivals around the world. This would be the year where all of our previous records would fall. Our final numbers show nearly 17,000 people attending some part of our now 6-day festival, we averaged 411 people per screening and over 100 filmmakers were here to show off their work. In all we had attendees from 39 states and 5 countries. My how things have changed since 2007.
“If I should smile with sweet surprise, it’s just because you’ve grown up before my very eyes.” For those of you who are from my generation, you probably know that these are the lyrics from the song “Sweet Sixteen” written and recorded by the legendary Neil Sedaka. Those words certainly apply to BIFF. I was there the day you were born. I saw you take your first steps. I saw you fall and get back up again, I watched with wonder as you started to mature during those early teen years. Now look at you. Standing tall, poised and confident. Your future looks bright. You’re ready to make your mark in the world. Yep, that’s BIFF. Coming of age and Sweet Sixteen in February.
Come to the Party
Most people love a party. Film people love “to” party. BIFF starts with a party every
year and it’s easy to get invited. The Opening Ceremony kicks things off before screenings begin the next day. There is no opening night film. Just a party. This is where you’ll get that first taste of BIFF, meet some filmmakers, film lovers, maybe some film critics too. But we’ll weed the critics out if we can. No time to be critical. This is a party and time to celebrate the art of cinema in all its glorious forms. Get invited to this lavish event by becoming a sponsor, volunteering or buying a ticket. Any of those will get you through the doors of the best shindig in Beaufort in February. Some may think that attending BIFF events is an intimidating process. It’s not. It does take some planning, but the process is easy.
How to Fest
Without going into a lot of detail, it’s easy to attend BIFF. First, become familiar with the when and where for the event. Stay tuned to the BIFF website, www.beaufortfilmfestival.com, and their social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Lots of promotion and detail will be published on these sites that will give you the Schedule of Events, Screening Times and Locations for each film, workshop or special presentations. On these sites you’ll get to know a bit about the filmmakers and learn about their films through the synopsis and trailers in most cases.
Make a Plan
Once you’ve reviewed the schedule and screening times, just choose the events you would like to attend. Be advised that BIFF screenings begin at 9 am and can finish as late at 11 pm. If you’re a first time BIFF-Fester you may want to hook up with a
seasoned festival goer to get a few pointers. Don’t be intimidated by that either. Just pace yourself. We have people who watch every film, every day for all four days of screenings. You should also know when making your plan that the screenings are only shown once. There are no repeat times. There is only so much time available for the screenings and by limiting the screenings to “one show only” we can show more film and showcase more filmmakers. BIFF is also different from other festivals in that all screenings take place under one roof. The screenings and awards ceremony will be held at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, Center for the Arts. The Opening Ceremony will be held at Tabby Place in Beaufort. Check the schedule for times.
Buy Your Tickets
Now you’re ready to purchase your tickets for the films you want to see. There are several categories for tickets that include ALL-EVENTS VIP Passes, SCREENINGS ONLY PASSES, DAY PASSES, AND INDIVIDUAL BLOCK PASSES. If you don’t care about the films and just want to attend the parties, you can do that too. Tickets can be purchased separately for the Opening Ceremony and the Champagne Reception/Awards Ceremony. Purchase in advance on the BIFF website, the Beaufort/Port Royal CVB Visitor’s Center in downtown Beaufort or once the festival starts you can purchase at the door. Cash and credit cards are welcome. Tickets are scheduled to be available for purchase on January 5th.
The word “festival” implies fun. If you’ve attended any of Beaufort’s great festivals in past years, like the Water Festival, Shrimp Festival or Gullah Festival, then you
know what I’m talking about. The Beaufort International Film Festival is no different. Fun is pretty much guaranteed. It’s likely to be an experience you’ll never forget. Through the years BIFF has presented films that touch every emotion. Our vision is to enliven our community by fostering and developing a rich appreciation for the art of filmmaking. It’s our purpose to inspire, educate and entertain. You will likely experience every human emotion at some time during the festival. You’ll be sad, happy, mad, and glad at times. You’ll laugh and cry, cheer and jeer, and you may even be inspired to action to create something of your own.
Beaufort Hugs and Southern Hospitality . . . Unmatched
It was just a few years ago that a filmmaker was so enthralled by her Beaufort and BIFF experience that she said she felt as if the entire Beaufort community was giving her a big “group hug.” Other filmmakers echoed her sentiment in their reviews of their festival. We were so moved by such affection that we were inspired to create a new BIFF tagline “Beaufort Hugs and Southern Hospitality . . . unmatched.”
Beaufort Film Society Founders Welcome
By producing an internationally respected film festival located in the heart of the South Carolina Sea Islands, the Beaufort Film Society has endeavored to raise an awareness of the culture and history in our region. By attracting attendees from almost every state in the country as well as filmmakers and attendees from other countries, we’ve cast Beaufort as a place of destination in a winter month. We would love for you to join us next February to see for yourself what people are talking about. For those that come we know you will be charmed by the breathtaking beauty of our landscape and inspired by audiences’ rich appreciation for the art of cinema. Whether you are a filmmaker or simply a film lover, the ‘red carpet” is rolled out for you. Mark your calendars for February 22-27. BIFF hugs await. Sincerely, Rebecca and Ron Tucker, Founders.
Ron Tucker is the President and CEO of the Beaufort Film Society.