The first annual Baja International Film Festival, to be held November 14-17 in Los Cabos, Mexico, to learn more about this festival we had a chance to speak to Sean Cross one of the festival organizers.
Sean Cross is co-founder and co-director of the Vail Film Festival and the Colorado Film Institute, along with his twin brother Scott. He is also Co-President and owner of IndieProducer.Sean served as artistic director and communications director of the Vail Film Festival, and was instrumental in establishing relationships and partnerships to build and strengthen the Vail Film Festival brand, including partnerships with Brillstein Entertainment, Creative Artists Agency and the Screen Actors Guild.
Sean has also overseen many of the Vail Film Festival’s advertising partnerships with leaders in the media and corporate world, including Comcast, The Denver Post, NBC, Best Life magazine, 5280 magazine, PlumTV and many more. He studied management in business and sociology at the University of Richmond in addition to post graduate studies in film at New York University.
Bijan Tehrani: What was your motivation for starting the Baja International Film Festival?
Sean Cross: My brother Scott and I have run the Vail Film Festival for about 10 yrs in Colorado. Eduardo Sanchez-Navarro, who is a pioneer in Los Cabos and has done a lot for Los Cabos in terms of building up the tourism there, was in Vail during our festival and experienced it and he talked to us about co-founding a film festival with him in Los Cabos. And that was very interesting to us. We feel that Los Cabos is a perfect location for a world-class film festival. It is one of the most beautiful places in Mexico, an amazing location. It’s also a big place for many of Hollywood celebrities. They love to vacation in Los Cabos. So all of these reasons made it very appealing and then we are also aware that Mexico is on the rise in terms of its filmmaking and many of Mexico’s filmmakers are the cutting edge filmmakers working today, even in the US. Look at Iñarritu and Guillermo del Toro, or Carlos Reygada who won best director at Cannes. So for all these reasons, we saw that it was a great bet to launch a film festival in Los Cabos.
BT: I personally think that even Mar del Plata never really succeeded because it’s every other year, it’s too far… and this could turn to be the Cannes of the American continent.
SC: Yes, that is our vision. We believe because it is such a close flight from L.A. – a two-hour flight and also a two-hour flight from Mexico City, we see this as an incredible opportunity for the U.S. and Mexican film industries to network and interact with each other and this festival can become a world-class top film festival. Not only do we want to screen films from all over the world and have a focus on Mexican film but we also want this to be a networking place and we will launch a film forum this year on November 16th, the Friday of the festival when a lot of the top-level executives and producers from both the US and the Mexican film industries will gather for round-table discussions and for networking opportunities, talking about financing, distribution and co-productions.
BT: How many guests – international and from the US – will be attending?
SC: We expect to have from the US film industry alone over 500 guests of highly influential filmmakers, producers, financiers, distributors. We also expect many from Mexico City. Then of course, we also will have attendees just to watch the films, to participate and watch the Question and Answer sessions.. So we expect a very strong turn-out from the film industry.
BT: It’s very interesting that you have cash awards and that’s good news for both Mexican filmmakers and international filmmakers attending the festival…
SC: Yes, we have awards in six categories. We have three international categories and three Mexican categories. We have International Narrative Feature Film, International Documentaries and International Short Films, and then the equivalent for Mexican Narrative Feature Film, Mexican Documentaries and Mexican Short Films. All six of these categories will be offered cash prizes as well as be publicized in press releases and those filmmakers will have a lot of networking opportunities to meet high-level executives for funding and possible distribution. Then we will also have a film fund which we will announce in detail at the festival itself, which will be a fund for Mexican filmmakers.
BT: What do you think of the future of the festival and the chances of its success?
SC: We are very confident about the future of the festival because of Eduardo Sanchez Navarro and our partners in Mexico. We also have Jorge Sanchez Sosa who is the former head of the Guadalajara Film Festival. We have Eva Sangiorgi, who is the current head of the FICUNAM Film Festival in Mexico City. And we have so much strong support from partners including the Mexico Tourism Board, which is a very strong partner and believer in the film festival. And then we’re getting a positive overwhelming response from the US film industry and the Mexican film industry. We have an incredible line-up of top-level executives that are enthusiastic and that are attending the festival. And for all of those reasons, we see the festival as being very successful and continuing for many years.
BT: Thank you!