Local support of the eight-year-old event improves after a name change.
The Fayetteville Film Festival is on pace to more than triple its attendance from last year, festival executive director Dan Robinson says. Through Thursday, the four-day festival had surpassed the 500 attendees who attended last year’s annual event.
Mr. Robinson credits much of the surge to a name change and rebranding. The eight-year-old festival had been known as the Offshoot Film Festival, a name which Mr. Robinson considered too ambiguous. It didn’t market the fact many of the festival’s entrants involve Fayetteville-based directors and actors. So earlier this year, the association that oversess the festival voted to consolidate its identity under a new localized name and mission.
So far the community loves the change, Mr. Robinson says. “People seem to engage more with it… it seems to give them an anchor.” One result was the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission donated an all-time high of $7,500 to the festival.
Festival leaders in turn used the grant to create promotional posters, signage, a website, a rebranded logo and more, says Morgan Hicks, a film festival board member. The extra marketing paid off: the non-profit festival presold 75 festival passes ($40 each), exceeding all of last year’s pass sales.
The festival features a record 70 films. For the first time, it also features student films. The festival will show 15 films by high schoolers and seven films by college students.
Antoinette Grejada is among the latter.
For her journalism master’s degree thesis, Ms. Grejada directed The Gordon Haller Story, a documentary about a Bella Vista resident who was the first winner of what’s now known as the Ironman Triathlon.
While Mr. Haller’s story had been documented multiple times by national outlets, Ms. Grejada wanted to look at his life with a wider lens, framing his achievements in the context of his friends, family and hobbies. Nowadays, much of that plays out in Bentonville, where Mr. Haller works as a programmer analyst at the Wal-Mart corporate office. In 2007 he moved to northwest Arkansas for that job.
She and Mr. Haller discussed how the business behind Ironman has grown. The competition that Mr. Haller won in 1978 attracted 15 competitors who ultimately paid $3 each. Only a dozen finished. During transitions in the 2.4-mile swimming/112-mile biking/26.2 running mile event, Haller took a shower, and drank a coke while getting a massage and giving an interview to a reporter. “It surprised me how casual it was,” Grejada says.
“It’s now a big business,” Haller said in a phone interview. The Ironman competition now features branded merchandise and multiple races across multiple continents. Registration fees for its U.S. races commonly run $675 and up. Even when participants don’t have to pay that (and as an honored guest in recent years Haller usually didn’t) travel is often much more expensive. He recalls in 2013 it cost about $5,000 for hotels and a flight to Hawaii to attend an Ironman event. Waller agrees these costs form what is essentially a barrier to entry for poorer Americans.
The movie has already shown at this year’s Fayetteville Film Festival, but Ms. Grejada is working to arrange three more showings in the area in coming months. Haller confirms one will occur at the Wal-Mart headquarters, while Grejada is working on two other showings elsewhere in Fayetteville and Bentonville.
Festival leaders want to see more of their movies in Bentonville. Robinson and Hicks are discussing the idea of collaborating with leaders of the Bentonville Film Festival, which occurs every spring.
The timing should work out well, Mr. Robinson says, since the festivals occur at different times of the year.