, ,

Some of the more sophisticated political commentary regarding the rise of the Tea Party engages in discussions about the nature of this brand of reactionary politics. Is the Tea Party a movement, a collection of disaffected voices shouting to be heard or a galvanized organization with a real platform that has long-term staying power?

Of course, to truly understand the distinction requires seeing beyond specific manifestations toward the broader scenario — the forest rather than the proverbial trees, if you will — and the realization that the sentiments that inspire movements can become the ideological foundations for systemic evolution.

On the cultural landscape, FilmDayton arose as a vital reaction to jumpstart the lagging creative heartbeat of a city. As the group prepares for its second annual series of events celebrating Dayton’s network of connections throughout the film industry, festival organizers are already turning an eye towards that broader self-definition because the only way for FilmDayton to have a meaningful impact is for it to advance beyond its movement status into a major player in the region.

Festival Director Eva Buttacavoli came on board soon after last year’s inaugural festival, pitching a five-year plan intent on “creating a successful nonprofit in the community.” With a background in art history and education and years of experience curating and managing in the arts arena, she envisions building on a three-pronged approach centering on film, education and the establishment of FilmDayton as a regional film commission.

FilmDayton, through its monthly meetings — which attract as many attendees from Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky as from the metro Dayton area — already serves as an invaluable networking resource for filmmakers and crews.

And with the three-day schedule (Friday-Sunday this weekend) for the second annual FilmDayton Festival, there’s a high concentration of activity for artists and the regional audience.

The family drama Winter’s Bone (winner of the 2010 Sundance Grand Jury Prize, pictured above) will be shown exclusively at the festival before it opens to the general public in June. The producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary Burma VJ will be at the festival all the way from Denmark for a Q&A and discussion following the film.

WYSO 91.3-FM Director Neenah Ellis will host the first “Screenless Screening,” a presentation of Dayton stories and sounds akin to Story Corps or This American Life and an unconventional listening experience in a dark movie theater. Wright State University’s popular Big Lens Film Festival will feature the most recent work by students in the university’s award-winning motion pictures program. And festival-goers will have the opportunity to take a stab at selling their film ideas to industry pros during the second annual Pitch It! session.

But it’s in Buttacavoli’s outline for the future where FilmDayton hopes to deliver on the greater promise of developing into a sustained force. By next year, one major step forward involves opening up the screening selections process by allowing filmmakers to submit films for various programs and institute a process to present festival awards and special recognition.

The ambitious plans for the fourth year would include establishing a curriculum-based partnership with Dayton-based arts education organization Muse Machine that would lead to a filmed production of a musical.

The aim would be to capitalize on networks across the arts spectrum. Of course, FilmDayton would continue to stick to its core belief that the festival experience should guarantee that audiences have access to filmmakers with connections to the Dayton community.

Location plays a key role in the conception of the festival. Based around the tri-corner hub of The Neon movie theater (130 E. Fifth St.), Gilly’s nightclub (132 S. Jefferson St.) and the former Greyhound station on Fifth Street in the City of Dayton Transportation Center, FilmDayton is firmly rooted in downtown Dayton with additional events also held at Think TV (110 S. Jefferson St.).

For grassroots efforts to take effective root, strong foundations and a significant investment from all members of the community are necessary and vital. It takes careful, skillful planning and execution to insure continued success.

Another key component is the ability to focus on the present while never losing sight of the road ahead. Art is the ultimate modern endeavor — the challenge for both artists and audiences to use all of their critical and creative skills to test the current boundaries and hierarchies.

Film as an arts medium has the power to entertain, educate and empower. By empowering artists and audiences, FilmDayton aims to pave the way for their movement to reach and be embraced by the mainstream throughout the region. (tt stern-enzi)