Michael Cain, the Chairman of Dallas IFF talks about 2010 festival

The 2010 Dallas International Film Festival started on April 8 and I had a chance to speak to Michael Cain, the Chairman of Dallas IFF about 2010 festival.

A graduate of the American Film Institute, Michael was previously the Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Deep Ellum Film, Music, Arts and Noise (DEFMAN), which produced the Deep Ellum Film Festival and various outdoor screening events including the Lone Star Drive-In in Addison and Dallas; Pasadena Cinema in the Park; and the Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier. Michael is also a producer with more than 50 commercials and music videos to his credit. His documentary, TV Junkie, was a 2006 Sundance Film Festival selection and received Special Jury Prize for Documentary Excellence. It screened in 2007 on HBO as one of 4 films supporting the Governor Award Winning “Addiction” series. Cain is currently in pre-production for THE STARCK PROJECT, a riveting look at the Dallas based STARCK Club.

Biajn Ttehrani: Please tell us a little about the history of Dallas International Film Festival and also your involvement in it.
Michael Cain: I started a festival in 1999 which had grown to be one of the largest film festivals in Dallas and then I had approached a man named Lineer Timberland who had come up with the AFI 100 Greatest concept and I pitched the idea of doing a larger city-wide film festival that could sort of incorporate the best of what Dallas had created; Lineer had signed on and we approached the American Film Institute and created a three year trademark consulting agreement which grew to become the most successful film festival in the southwest. So far we have had an attendance 110,000 people who have attended the festival and over 200,000 over three years, we have showcased over 650 films and 44 countries have been represented. I am the artistic director of the programming for the festival and CEO of overseeing the fund raising for the festival.

BT: Does international cinema any presence at the Dallas IFF?
MC: This year we will be showcasing 25 different countries, we have features, documentaries and short films. We have films from all different regions, whether it is Korea, Mexico, Italy, Australia, South Africa or Pakistan. We will be actually showing a Mexican spotlight that will be honoring Perdo Infante on our opening night, and we will show case one of his classic films and three other films from Mexico.

BT: Will you be hosting any international guest filmmakers at the festival?
MC: There are three directors that are coming at the moment, but the list is still growing. Jorge Colon will be here and Guillermo Arriaga the Mexican director and writer who has been nominate for Academy Awards for Babel and 21 Grams.

BT: How much will the festival be covering independent cinema?
MC: About 90% of what we show is independent, so that for the most part is the real festival showcase. Whether it is independent films from the United States or independent from around the world, the majority of the films that we show do not have distribution at this point.

BT: Are there any chances for the filmmakers of the independent or international films, to meet with distributors.
MC: We don’t really consider ourselves to be a distribution festival yet, I think that that is something that just happens, we have had a few films that have been purchased but we do bring in a lot of the companies that are looking for small independent films. They are looking for filmmaker that are speaking on panels and people like the Magnolia Pictures and Picture House, just people who come from all over to support the festival.

BT: Are there any other events besides film screening that take place at the festival such as course, or seminars?
MC: Yes we have panels that we call talk shows, which take place at the sculpture garden which is beautiful. We doe speakeasy’s everyday, those take place actually at the Palomar Hotel which is our host hotel for the festival. We also have educational programs like high school day where we work with 25 high schools and several Universities, showing their films and doing educational outreach where we take the filmmaker out to the different Universities.

BT: Are there chances for the audience members to take part in a Q & A with the filmmakers?
MC: Almost every film has a Q & A after the screening, which allows the audience to connect with the filmmaker and simply find out why the filmmaker decided to make the film. They get a better understanding of the filmmaker and also begin to understand the story behind the story.

BT: What is the process for viewers to actually get access to the festival and are there any discounts for students?
MC: As far as access to the festival everything is on our website www.dallasfilm.org, we start on April 8th and run through the 18th. People have the ability to buy tickets online or they can come to the free screenings and also buy passes to see multiples. We also give out $83,000 worth of cash prizes, two of those being $25,000 dollar prizes from Target which honors the best documentary and the best narrative in the international category. We also have the best Texas film which is a prize of $20,000 in cash. And the PXU has hosted an event in which people vote on their favorite high school public service announcement with a $2,500 for the best of them and there is even a $7,500 prize that goes to the actual school producing it.

BT: How has the public welcomed the festival?
MC: Every year we have broken the previous year’s box office record, we had over 40,000 people in attendance last year, the only problem that we had last year was that we could have used more theaters and more screens, we ended up sadly turning away about 5,000 people from the festival which is why we have added 3 more days to the festival this year.

BT: Do you have any new plans for future festivals?
MC: We are adding a fall event for the festival next year and then we will head into our fifth year next year which will be a huge year for us and we are thinking about making it into an even larger festival going into year five. We will go from about 150 features to about over 200.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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