By the standards of such events, St. Louis’s annual film festival is a young one. But judging from the list of films and guests that its organizers announced today, the festival is growing both in North American significance and in popularity among film makers. That is a very important development, because being a significant festival can draw the attention of filmmakers to St. Louis as a colorful and useful location - and to the St Louis film making community as a talented and affordable cadre of professionals. I met many of those great professionals during the recent mayoral election campaign, and I am fortunate enough to keep a very talented local film maker, Carson Minow, on a campaign retainer for a great project.
Kitty Ratcliffe of the Convention & Visitors Commission always reminds me that significant and popular film festivals draw visitors from around the region, the country, and the world. And that the time they are not actually in theaters is most usually spent in hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, and stores. So, the better the St. Louis International Film Festival does, the better the St. Louis hospitality industry does.
This past year has seen a sharper focus on the importance of Missouri’s film industry. The General Assembly once again debated the issue of tax credits to make the state a more competitive choice to serve as the location for feature film productions.
The state’s current incentives have certainly had some success. For seven weeks this year, St. Louis was home base for the production of a major motion picture - and for those weeks, the most popular pastime in the city was “Clooney Spotting.” “Up in the Air,” which had its first festival showing in Telluride recently, gave St. Louis the chance to show off our great infrastructure, our talented citizens, and our enthusiasm for the film making business. I think St. Louis did an Academy Award-worthy job as "Best Supporting City" - and I am glad for the money the production left behind in our hotels, restaurants, dry cleaners, car rental agencies, and dozens of other local businesses. And I think that more and smarter state incentives would bring even productions here.
I predict that the enthusiasm St. Louis felt for “Up In the Air” will spread to the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival this year, making it the most successful effort yet.
(Added a photo by Gentry W. Trotter showing the SLIFF poster.)