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The Film Industry From a Bostonian Perspective

Did you know Boston has its very own film festival?

By: Sean Young

Picture of the paramount sign at night
Photo By: Sean Young

As the heavily debated writers’ strike came to a soft end in late September, the Boston Film Festival (BFF) kicked off its 39th year with a wide breadth of films that ranged from indie, documentaries, shorts, crime, environmental, and a recently created sports category.

Live showings were programmed across key city venues, such as the Boston Public Library, Paramount Theatre, and the MIT Media Lab. Attendees were also welcome to view its virtual programming and many of the virtual features were even free. With special attention dedicated to environmental, wildlife, and nature submissions, a few of the films featured included Breakwater, Common Ground, Healing Dakota, American Outlaws, and the new episodic series Found.

Breakwater was a highly anticipated film starring Dermot Mulroney,” said Kelly Lau (COM ‘24), a Film and TV major from Rhode Island who worked as a Film and Event Coordinator for BFF. After finding the job on LinkedIn shortly before the start of the semester, Lau immediately applied, excited for the opportunity to gain exposure to the film industry.

Scheduled for once students have settled into classes and the fall foliage has begun trickling throughout the city, BFF “commits to mentoring students from the extensive university system annually.”

Massachusetts is the origin of many of America’s best storytellers, actors, and is a hotbed of production. The Boston Film Festival is one of America’s longest-running and industry recognized events for films with a rich history of premiering many of Hollywood’s most celebrated and breakout films.” Some of the filmmakers and actors participating have included Sam Rockwell, Aaron Eckhart, George Clooney, Melissa Leo, Ken Burns, Tony Goldwyn, Marc Abrahams, Giancarlo Esposito, Mike O’Malley, Ed Burns, Sam Mendes, Jerry Weintraub, Burkhart Abdi, Anne Heche, Bob Yari, John Fusco, and Sir Ridley Scott among many others.

Shortly before the festival began, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and studios had been making progress during bargaining sessions, but a deal still needed to be made. By September 24th, coincidentally the last day of the live BFF, the parties reached a tentative deal, which was subsequently finalized on the 25th.

“After a nearly five-month walkout, a tentative deal has been reached by the Writers Guild of America and the major Hollywood studios that would end a strike. The deal does not include SAG-AFTRA, the performers union which is also on strike after its contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expired over the summer.”

Despite the strikes, BFF was fully functioning with decent attendance and an even wider variety of indie films, said Lau. “Although it proved to be more difficult, we were able to source more independent films and seek out indie filmmakers,” she said. Other aspects of the festival were also affected, such as access to sponsors and the issue of cast and crew attendance.

But that doesn’t mean a future in the film industry is any more secure. “The strikes have made me reflect quite a bit on the ecosystem that is the American film industry,” said Lau. “I was and definitely still am worried about my own job security, especially as someone who is interested in pursuing writing.”

For the time being, film festivals are here to stay with benefits to the city, individual communities, and aspiring filmmakers and actors. Though BFF is on the smaller side and not quite as well known as, say, Cannes or Sundance, it’s still special for the locals. “Film festivals, in general, are really great for people in and outside of film. It helps the filmmakers gain the proper exposure they deserve, and everyday people are able to watch these incredible films that you wouldn’t typically see,” said Lau.


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