An interview with JDIFF Executive Director Susan Gorrell.
What sets your festival apart from other festivals?
We are pleased to say we award over $35,000 in cash prizes. We truly understand the work and expense that independent filmmakers go through and want to help the best we can. We also pay for the travel and accommodations for the top 3 nominees in each category, as well as pay a partial reimbursement for those chosen as official selections of the Festival ($30.00 pay back for features/docs, $10.00 pay back for shorts). We also pride ourselves in great communication with filmmakers, before the festival, during the festival and after. Also, everything is located in Downtown Dubuque, within walking distance. Which is really nice. Dubuque has it's own airport and there are 2 others only 45 - 55 miles away. We offer airport pickups and dropoffs to assist attendees coming to the Festival. Once you arrive at the hotel, you can just walk to everything. JDIFF also likes to help create connections for filmmakers; whether it be through meeting other filmmakers or creating opportunities for distribution.
Can you tell us a little more about your venue The Grand Hotel Julien and its relation to the infamous Al Capone?
The Hotel Julien Dubuque became known as one of the finest hotels in the Midwest and hosted many grand banquets and famous guests. It's been said that when things got "hot" in Chicago, Capone would travel with his entourage to Dubuque and hide out at Hotel Julien. He reportedly made use of a nearby underground garage to hide his cars and further conceal his presence in Dubuque. Some say he even owned the hotel at one point.
Is there something in particular that you look for in submissions? Or are there multiple factors?
Nothing in particular. I have a large selection committee that reviews the films with me and scores. It's a pretty intense selection process. The final nominees are then watched and judged by industry professionals (Film critic, Director, Cinematographer, ect) to pick the winner. I'm partial to comedies though..LOL.
Do you have a favorite film that has showcased at your Festival?
I loved all the films that showcased in 2014. Many of the filmmakers attended and they were all wonderful to meet. I do know a few of the films received distribution, such as "Greencard Warriors", which is now available in RedBox. "Greencard Warriors" won Grand Jury AND Best Cinematography last year.
Your festival was ranked in Moviemaker Magazine's 2013 TOP 25 COOLEST film festivals. Is there something in particular your festival does better than any other festival out there?
Communication and welcoming the filmmakers. It begins with the submissions. I try to keep in contact and respond to the filmmakers, as I think it's really important that they know what is going on and feel we have a real interest in them and their project. Once filmmakers arrive in Dubuque, they are treated as our special guests for the weekend! And they should be! It's a huge expense to not only produce a film, but submit and attend thousands of Festivals. I want JDIFF to be the Festival a filmmaker remembers. I want them to know they are so appreciated and welcomed in Dubuque. I arrange for skype interviews of the officially selected, as well as connect the filmmakers with our medial partners (Telegraph Herald, Radio Dubuque, Queen B Radio and more). We do all we can to help a filmmaker promote their screening in Dubuque.
How is your festival received in the Dubuque community?
The Community LOVES the festival. We have a lot of support, not only financially, but in volunteering and local venues offering discounts and welcoming.
Where do you see or would like to see your Festival in 5 years?
I would love for JDIFF to be one of the top festival destinations for filmmakers and attendees. Not only in submissions, but in attendance. People really do have a great time when they are in town.
What is one piece of advice a filmmaker in today's film industry?
My advice would be to take off April 23 - 26, 2015 and attend the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. Your brain and body need the break and what better place to be. Other than that, I would suggest they enjoy what they do and love their work, because in the end, that's all that really matters.. I respect everything a filmmaker goes through.