I want to state this bluntly: I believe a film festival could succeed in Youngstown.
Yes, this probably goes against my belief in finding attractions and businesses that will succeed in a downtown for a city under the conditions of Youngstown, and not instead referring to other, much larger cities and their plans, since a downtown in a city like Cleveland is a completely different animal compared to Youngstown’s downtown. However, a film festival in the city could be an exception, and this piece is setting out to prove why it is an exception.
For starters, there are many people in the valley who patronize the artistic ventures of the city. The Youngstown Symphony, for example, often plays to near-capacity audiences at Powers, and these same people are often supportive of the Broadway shows that make their way into the city every now and again. One could also point to the Butler Institute,
being a mainstay on Wick Avenue for well over eighty years. For something more recent, you can say that the peoples’ support for the arts in the valley has contributed to the construction of the Ford Recital Hall extension of Powers, allowing for more performances to be conducted at Powers throughout the year.
A second issue to look at is the prospect of many venues for screens in the near-future. Powers Auditorium has the capability to show films, so naturally it would be the site of the highlight features. One of the Ford Center’s intended uses was for it to show films among hosting concerts, so that creates screen number two. For screen number three, the festival could be able to utilize the screening room at the Butler Museum, which is a small, intimate venue with a capacity more in line with most multiplexes. Finally, there’s the supposed-restoration of the Paramount Theater, which would create a fourth screen, and possibly a fifth screen as well. I remain somewhat pessimistic about this project, given the
restoration company’s reputation, so I will believe it when I see it. Should the Paramount project fall apart, I’d imagine YSU would offer support, lending one of their auditoriums for use. Keep in mind that thisfestival is intended to be strictly within the city, and was never thought to be held in one of the multiplexes in Boardman or Niles.
Now, I’d like to talk about the film festival itself. There is no way a festival in this city could reach the level of significance and media attention as Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, etc. have been able to garner. I also don’t believe a Youngstown festival accepting any and all
independent films, like the festivals in Cleveland, Austin, or Tribeca, would work either, primarily because this location is unattractive for movie executives on the west coast who find it difficult to get here (since they’d most likely fly to either Cleveland or Pittsburgh), which in a way defeats the great service festivals provide: shed light on independent films in the hopes of a Hollywood studio buying the rights to it (Don’t think that the service of providing art takes a backseat to this, because that is the greatest and most important reason to host a festival. However, nine out of ten filmmakers make a film so that it can become widely shown throughout the country, and the other large purpose of a
festival is so these films can be seen by the public and executives alike). This is why I believe Youngstown could succeed as a niche festival, meaning the films shown have certain central themes and would resonate with the people attending the festival (an example of a niche festival would be the countless gay and lesbian festivals throughout
the world, and I don’t have to tell you the themes of the movies they show, or who they appeal to). So, now that we’ve established the fact Youngstown will be a niche
festival, we need to figure out the theme we’re looking for in films. This is
Even though I firmly believe this valley needs to put our steel working past behind us, the fact remains that the valley is and always has been blue-collar oriented. I’m proposing a festival for our city would showcase films that were shot or are set in an industrial locale, and/or storylines that feature themes that would identify with working-class people. This works,because should a studio want to find a film in line with the films we show, they would know where to go, and because much of the population in the valley could still identify with the films shown, regardless if they worked in a mill or not, because the working class values have always been deeply rooted in the valley.
In closing, whether you’re a supporter of the arts in Youngstown, a downtown enthusiast, a film-lover who wants to get away from the overblown Hollywood films the multiplexes show, or just someone who’d appreciate a different and entertaining annual event in the city, a Youngstown Film Festival has the potential to be a highly successful event in our valley. I have full confidence when I say this, because the people here are highly appreciative of what is offered to them, and the support we would put towards a film festival would certainly enhance Youngstown and its connection to the arts.