Blue Ocean Film Festival explores moving venue to Monterey County.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Last June saw the launch of the inaugural Blue Ocean Film Festival in Savannah, GA. The five-day festival also served as a symposium and conference for marine biologists, filmmakers, underwater photographers, conservationists, scientists and others, drawing 4,000 such attendees, screening upwards of 50 films including main sponsor Disneynature's EARTH, and hosting break-out sessions and events throughout Savannah.
Last Sunday, Oct. 4, the CEO and Executive Director of the non-profit Blue Ocean Film Festival, Debbie Kinder, and her husband, CEO and CFO of Make a Difference Media, Charlie Kinder, arrived in Monterey to scout the Peninsula as a possible venue for next year’s festival. A representative from NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, whom Debbie considers a partner, is flying in on Thursday, Oct. 8, to join them. They will stay until Tuesday, checking out venues and meeting people all week long in their search to find a "permanent home" for the festival.
"Bill Dourous [former Superintendent] of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary put together our itinerary," says Debbie Kinder. Though the festival organizers had scoped out the Peninsula last July, with stops at the Aquarium, Sunset Center, Cannery Row I-MAX and Osio Theater, this trip has been longer, broader, with deeper meetings. "Bill introduced us to folks like Ted Balesteri, the mayor of Carmel and Monterey, business people, Mark Shelley from Sea Studios. We visited P.G., which we hadn't seen in July. It's a charming, lovely area. Bill really opened doors for us."
On Thursday, Oct. 8, Lisa Coscino Gallery in Pacific Grove hosts a cocktail party reception 6-8pm, at which the Blue Ocean reps will give a presentation. The gallery is currently showing enormous photographs (pictured) by ocean photographer Bryant Austin, whose non-profit organization Marine Mammal Conservation Through the Arts (MMCTA) counts Lisa Coscino and former Hollywood executive Kate Miller, as executive directors.
“The Blue team have been driven around the area by Kate [Miller] and Wendy Jiles,” says Coscino. The daughter of AT&T Golf Tournament co-founder Bud Jiles, Wendy Jiles used to work in Hollywood and is lending her film expertise to the visit. “They’ve been looking at venues [for workshops and talks] and seeing if their hi-tech film requirements can be met.” The first venue the local contingent took them to was Spanish Bay, where they were joined by the General Manager of Asilomar and were serenaded by the lone bagpiper.
The consideration of the Peninsula—including Monterey, Carmel and Pacific Grove—as a possible location for the festival was bolstered by Miller, says Debbie Kinder. Miller attended the Savannah film festival to promote a documentary she’s producing on photographer Byant Austin, and afterwards followed up by corresponding with Kinder, who was already entertaining a move to the Monterey Peninsula.
“It’s a natural fit,” says Coscino. “Savannah is on a river that flows to the ocean, but we’re right on the ocean.” She cites institutions like Moss Landing Marine Labs, MBARI, Hopkins Marine Station, the Aquarium and Sea Studios that further recommend the Peninsula to such a festival. Though Sidney, B.C., had been in contention earlier, now Monterey and Savannah are the two cities currently being considered for 2010, which will feature Disneynature’s next major release, Oceans.
"We really love what we're seeing," says Kinder of the Peninsula. "We have two missions: using the power of film to promote love and care of the ocean; but we also have to look at it from a business sense. The Savannah folks have really stepped up the pressure and are engaging corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola. They want it back. But so far [Monterey] is looking pretty good. It's beautiful here. The ocean is right here. We're getting good vibes." National Geographic, AT&T, Fabien Cousteau, Google Ocean, Sony, NOAA and a score of other luminous organizations signed on as sponsors or partners for the June 2009 launch in Savannah.
Similar to President Obama's campaign for Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics, local leaders in business, government and ocean studies are making the pitch to the Blue Ocean reps to host their event—only in this case the move would be permanent. Coscino says that broad support, in the way of sponsorships, philanthropy, in-kind support and public interest can help seal the deal. In turn, the festival will award student scholarships, run student workshops and perform outreach in the community. It would also add revenue to the local economy and increase the profile of the Peninsula as a key locale of ocean studies, a reputation for which the Kinders are aware.
This week’s visit by the Blue Ocean Film Festival reps serves as a campaign to showcase the Peninsula. “This is the big push," says Coscino. "I hear the Blue Ocean folks are hoping to make a decision almost immediately.” Hopefully the local effort will not go the way of Obama’s push for Chicago.