Utopia Film Festival Recap

One of the things about a film project such as Starship Farragut is the work and contributions of so many dedicated people. Our film series would never have seen the light of day without the sacrifices of our volunteers.  In the same venue of filmmaking, volunteers, and creative outlet – so is the Utopia Film Festival.

Started five years ago and spearheaded by Chris Haley, its objective is to identify, promote and engage both entertaining and enlightening cinematic works of all genres and styles.  Utopia is always seeking to provide its audience and filmmakers an enjoyable experience, as well as pursue works that tackle humanity’s never ending quest for the perfect ‘utopian’ existence.

Fellow Farraguteers, Mark Hildebrand and Eric Lund volunteered as film screeners for the festival and viewed many of the 80+ films submitted.  They went on to serve on the festival’s core committee.  One film Mark and Eric did not screen was Starship Farragut’s “For Want of a Nail” which was screened by other committee members due to conflict of interest.  For Utopia’s 2009 Film Festival, I am proud to relay that “For Want of a Nail” was selected and shown at the festival, which was held on October 19th – 25th

For this blog, I thought I would interview Chris Haley, the Festival Director for Utopia.  I first met Chris at Dignity Players’ production of BACK OF THE THROAT in March of this year.  A riveting production, which I remember well, which showcased Mark Hildebrand in an unforgettable and outstanding performance.

Just a bit of background on Chris, he is a DC native and serves as Director of the Study of Slavery at the Maryland State Archives.  He was featured in the PBS special, “Partners of the Heart”, as the central figure, Vivien Thomas. In addition, he also appeared in episodes of HBO’s, The Wire.  He co-founded and hosted the community access TV and radio series, UNDISCOVERED, which debuted in 2004.  His own short movies, “The Studio”, and, “B&B”, premiered at the Greenbelt Utopia Film and Video Festival and Annapolis Film Festival, respectively, in 2005. 

Farragut Films was honored to be accepted into the Utopia Film Festival.  With the title of “Utopia” it seemed very appropriate given the optimistic vision of Star Trek and Starship Farragut’s future.  Can you explain the idea catalyst for starting your own film festival?

Actually, I didn’t start the film festival, but I did have my first attempt at a feature, The Studio, accepted and screened in it. I believe the catalyst for the founders, and for those of us who jumped on board the second year and continue to this day, are foremost a love and respect  for film and filmmakers. From having experienced both the elation of being accepted and the deflation of being rejected, many of Utopia’s committee members wanted to give filmsters another shot at the pure joy of seeing your name on a big screen. Being thanked for that experience by some proud director has always been my biggest joy as Utopia’s Exec Director.

With this year’s festival behind you, what are your plans for next year’s?

Try to get Utopia involved in a few screenings prior to 2010’s October kickoff for one. We feel our name is at the point that we can add and receive some mutually beneficial oomph from partnering with others as a sponsor organization. Secondly; it is to promote, publicize and find financial and physical support to promote some more!

I’m pleased that we were involved with Utopia and hoping that we can increase our level of involvement for next year.  Can you relay to me and other folks how we can get involved with Utopia?

Did someone mention financial and physical support? Oh yeah, that was me! Truly, my ideal outcome for Utopia would be to have an opening Awards Night ceremony at the Kennedy Center or, at least, one of Prince George’s County’s four star hotels and a minimum of 60 people to attend each and every screening, whether it be a documentary, short or feature. How can that be done, by gaining the assistance of valuable inspired volunteers who, like Farragut folks, love film and are passionate about promoting and sharing that love with others. Folks can contact us via our website and via email – we’ll find something for you to do. We’re still young and we’ve got a lot of room for new people to join in our growth.

And thank you John for including Utopia in your blog.

For me, I’ve enjoyed meeting other filmmakers and talking about the ‘pleasures and pains’ of this incredible, ever-changing journey.  I’ve got some new contacts and feel that we exposed Starship Farragut to a new audience.  Thanks Chris for your time and congratulations on the success of Utopia.  I’d also like to thank both Mark Hildebrand and Eric Lund for their involvement and for introducing Farragut Films to Utopia.

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