SLO Film Fest 2018… still setting records!


The 24th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLO Film Fest) has had another successful year, beating previous records for attendance and ticket and pass sales. The annual cultural event, presented March 13-18 this year, has been steadily growing in popularity and reputation.

Just announced today, the SLO Film Fest has been included once again on the coveted “Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” list published by MovieMaker Magazine. This list guides filmmakers on their submission choices and has dramatically increased the Festival’s film submissions since it was first listed four years ago. Read all about it!

2018 Festival submissions once again broke records with 1100 films submitted. 34 features and 34 short films were selected for the George Sidney Independent Film Competition, and 26 films were selected for the Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase. The Filmmakers of Tomorrow youth competition was comprised of 22 films from all over the world.

Overall ticket and pass sales increased 11% over 2017. Festival attendance increased again by 9% this year to 12,500 admissions, and festival sponsorships increased by 35% over 2017.

Out of county attendance continues steady growth with more visitors, including festival filmmakers staying longer than they used to, spending an average of 3 nights in city and county hotels. Approximately 30% of the attendees come from outside San Luis Obispo County.

SLO Provisions and other great local restaurants, wineries and breweries were on hand in the Festival Tent on Awards Night.

The Festival had a more noticeable presence in downtown San Luis Obispo this year. The Festival Hospitality Tent was located in Mission Plaza and was the hub for networking, a number of parties with live entertainment, wine tasting, food catered by local restaurant Taste!, and weekend panels.

The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival opened with a large and enthusiastic crowd enjoying Shubhashish Bhutiani’s HOTEL SALVATION at the Fremont Theatre after continuing the Bollywood-themed evening under the SLO festival’s tent at the Mission steps with dancers from the Cal Poly Indian Student Association, party favors, Central Coast wine, beer and a mixture of savory Indian and American food.

Coast 104.5’s Adam Montiel hosted Surf Nite and a fun Q&A with Big Wave surfers & filmmakers.

However, that evening managed to pale in comparison to the raucous standing room only crowd that turned out for the festival’s signature “Surf Nite” also at the Fremont, featuring Tim Bonython’s latest film, THE BIG WAVE PROJECT and Ross Haines’s THE AGAVE GUN.

Other highlights included filmmaker panels featuring Spotlight Award honoree Robin Swicord, Nicholas Kazan (REVERSAL OF FORTUNE), Anthony Peckham (INVICTUS), Scott Budnick (THE HANGOVER), and others. Programming and events also highlighted women and female filmmakers, like the ironically-titled “Women Belong in the Kitchen,” where female chefs and restaurant owners competed in a “Chopped”-style competition, before the documentary A FINE LINE, about the rarity of women in commercial kitchens. LET IT SHINE, a film documenting the SLO Women’s March, and Jennifer Townsend’s CATCHING SIGHT OF THELMA & LOUISE, the 79-year-old first-time filmmaker’s in-depth look into the effects of that iconic film many years after its release, were screened among others.

Pam Grier entertained Ben Mankiewicz and the audience with amusing stories from her colorful career.

The SLO Film Fest was capped by the award presentations featuring two accomplished women in film, with Pam Grier receiving the King Vidor Award on Saturday night. She then participated in a lively conversation with Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz in which she regaled the SLO audience with stories including teaching Fellini how to make fried chicken, being thrown out of the Troubadour with John Lennon, and Quentin Tarantino stopping L.A. traffic to meet her.

The next evening, Robin Swicord received the Spotlight Award from Festival founder, Mary Harris and then spoke with Variety’sJenelle Riley about her career as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

The six day festival also included a series of films focused on the Beat Generation; a record number of films about wine, including the brand new documentary, ANDRE: THE VOICE OF WINE, with filmmaker Mark Tchelistcheff in attendance, as well as a movie event at Tolosa Winery to introduce their new Spanish wine.


The Festival also partnered with Cal Poly and Allan Hancock College to present a special screening of 2018 Oscar Documentary nominee, LAST MEN IN ALEPPO, with Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad in attendance for a memorable Q&A. Proceeds of more than $1400 were donated to the White Helmets, the heroic subjects of the documentary.

A record number of 143 screenings filled San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Morro Bay theatres with appreciative audiences, with all competition films screening three times this year. Winning films were played for four days after the Festival ended, at the Downtown Cinemas in SLO. To find out which films won awards, click here.

To watch the King Vidor Award presentation and conversation with Pam Grier, click here. Thanks to the YMCA Youth Institute filmmakers and Dan Hartzell for recording that entertaining evening for our archives!

Plans are already underway for the next SLO Film Fest, scheduled for March 12-17, 2019. Sponsor inquiries are welcome and the festival will be accepting new film submissions in July 2018. 2019 Festival Passes will go on sale in mid-May.

See you at the next one!

Wendy Eidson
SLO Film Fest Director

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