A cloudy morning gave way to a spectacular sunny day on the Santa Barbara coastline as the second day of the Fest Forums conference opened at the new Santa Barbara Hilton Beachfront Resort, formerly known as the Fess Parker hotel. The schedule was overflowing with fascinating lectures, intriguing films, delicious food breaks, and was capped off with some excellent music from iconic keyboardist Chuck Leavell.
One particularly insightful lecture took place in early afternoon entitled, “Solving Special Challenges of Smaller/niche Film Festivals.” Shawn Guthrie, the manager for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, suggested upcoming event organizers, “Know their festival," and can articulate their vision of what the event is supposed to encapsulate. Carl Spence, the founder of the College of Creative Studies, suggested to “be prepared as anything can go wrong. Take care of your people. Word of mouth is the most important advertisement.” He also suggested using APPS like Slack. Slack is a cloud-based set of team collaboration tools and services. Director Michael Nash shared his experiences working with celebrities. He suggested taking special care of these high-profile guests as they may have half a million followers or more on social media and can spread the word about your project much more efficiently than advertising. Nash shared a story where an intern had watched one of the films coming to a small-town film festival. The intern noticed that the Governor appeared in the film and suggested the festival contact the Governers office asking him if he would attend the festival. The statesman agreed to come and introduce the film, and the whole town turned out for the relatively small festival. CR Capers, creator of the Hip Hop Film Festival, among other things was all over the conference again on Friday. In this lecture, she suggested, “Try to think outside the box. For example, don’t spend five thousand dollars on a walkie-talkie communication system if the event is on a tight budget. Instead use whatever social media works, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat on cell phones. Don’t worry about appearances. Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses.”
There were many other great conversations throughout the second day of the festival including a distinguished panel of successful women in the arts, discussing how to make a difference in the entertainment industry. The universal theme of Fest Forums of giving back to the community in one form or another was stressed by all the prominent people on this panel.
For music fans, the highlight of day two came during the keynote lecture, by Chuck Leavell, which turned into a performance and storytelling session. The master keyboardist flew in from Europe where he has been touring with The Rolling Stones. A singer and songwriter, as well as the go-to keyboardist for some of the biggest names in classic rock, Leavell told endearing anecdotes about his career in rock. The stories were punctuated with performances of songs representing the different periods of his music from his rise to fame with The Allman Brothers Band to his work with “The world’s greatest rock and roll band," The Rolling Stones. Leavell revealed that he had learned to play piano from lessons that his mother Frances gave him as a child. At a young age, he announced to her that “When I grow up I want to be a musician. She answered back, son you can’t do both.” In addition to his stories and songs from days in The Alman Brothers and The Stones, he also shared memories and songs from his collaborations with Sea Level, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Roger Waters, among others. In keeping with the theme of Fest Forums, Leavell also shared his other passion, Tree farming, and conservation. Leavell became a tree farmer when his wife inherited land in Georgia. Together they created Charlane Plantation, now a 2500-acre award-winning Tree Farm.
The evening ended with another happy hour and open bar as well as a celebrity chef dinner outside in the hotel courtyard on a beautiful fall night.