Goodbye, STIFF. by Clint Berquist
Today is my last “official” day with STIFF, the festival that I helped create almost 7 years ago in the apartment I was sharing with my then girlfriend and now wife, Jessica Foss. During a planning meeting for a feature film that we were just finishing up, Kevin Gilbert asked what we were going to do if we didn’t get into SIFF. “Start our own fucking film festival” was my reply. Kevin became our first ever program director and we had a lot of fun for a couple years until he decided he wanted to spend his free time trying to become a MMA fighter. If I would have dedicated myself to medicine at that time, people would be calling me doctor by now.
The idea of a concurrent, alternative film festival was not mine. It was one that I happily stole from Dan Mirvish and friends. The idea of doing it in Seattle and Calling it STIFF was my idea though. Originally, Jarrett Moore and I wanted to call it SPLIFF, but no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t come up with a good name that the acronym stood for (it seemed like a really bad idea for a bunch of straight guys to start the “Purely Lesbian” film festival).
Many folks already know that this has been in the works for months now, but Brian Shelley and I have been slowly training Tim Vernor and Spencer Fornaciari to take over as Festival Director and Program Director respectively, since earlier this summer.
It is a bittersweet day. On one hand it can be scary to leave something that has been so good to you. On the other hand, it can get a little old winning the same fights in such epic fashion, over and over again. It really is time for some new fights. I’m not running to anything in particular. I’m just trying to create a little breathing room so I can be open to what the universe is going to throw my way. It feels really good to be drunk on possibilities for the first time in years.
To be honest, when we started the festival there is no way I had the proper appreciation for independent cinema. I had a really hard time watching it because I would constantly think about my own projects. I kept thinking that I could either watch independent films or make them. STIFF helped me fall in love with independent film and I will forever be in STIFF’s debt because of it.
I have had some incredible times with STIFF, but the most fun was always sitting down and having a few drinks with a filmmaker who had traveled in from some other city on their own dime for the chance to see their film in front of a fresh audience of strangers. These were some of the most humbling and rewarding times of my life.
Sure I am scared about leaving my kid in the hands of a couple guys like Tim and Spencer. However, no matter how appropriate it may be, creative projects as offspring has got to be the most overused metaphor in the arts, so I am not going to do that to you. Instead, I’d like to think about this creative project as public transit. The system is put together by a small group of people, while and the costs and benefits are shared by many. It has to have a driver, and while I am a little sad to get up from behind the wheel, my shift is over and I’m going to take immense satisfaction in the hope that the train keeps on moving when the door closes behind me. This thing belongs to the community and will only be good for as long as the community does the proper upkeep and maintenance to keep it running. My guess is that will be the case for years to come.
Goodbye, and thanks to everyone!