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'Word of mouth' helps Glass City Film Festival increase its offerings

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In its annual list of “50 film festivals worth the entry fee” published last month, MovieMaker magazine included only one festival from Ohio, and it wasn’t the Cleveland International Film Festival, the state’s largest.

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Instead, the industry trade magazine favored the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival in Chagrin Falls, a southeastern suburb of Cleveland, noting the smaller cinema event, which returns for its ninth season in October, “somehow manages to turn out crowds that exceed its local population” of 4,000.

The lack of national media recognition for the Cleveland International Film Festival, which, in its 42nd year, showcased nearly 470 feature films and shorts and drew more than 100,000 attendees during its 12-day run in late March-early April, may be a surprise to some.

That the Glass City Film Festival didn’t make MovieMaker magazine’s list, either, is a surprise to no one — including the event’s festival coordinator and co-founder Kim Sanchez.

With the festival’s third annual event this weekend — for a list of all screenings, including times and locations, visit glasscityfilmfest.com — it’s far more important that local residents support it than it is to be recognized by a national publication. 

“We’d like to be in that listing as of one of the top film festivals in the country,” Sanchez said, “but we’re still in that state where we’re convincing our own town that we can have an attraction on that level.”

And that’s not going to be easy — particularly in a city that hasn’t had a full-time art-house theater in decades and doesn’t seem to miss it.

Sure enough, after a promising reception by residents for its first year, the Glass City Film Festival saw local attendance drop during its second year to about 200 total.

This led to some big changes for the 2018 edition of the three-day festival, which unofficially began Thursday night at Handmade Toledo with a screening of shorts by Toledo School for the Arts students, and continues at 6 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday evening.

There are more than 50 feature-length films and shorts being screened, nearly double last year’s number, including documentary, narrative, action, science fiction, experimental, student film, and movies from regional filmmakers. 

Sanchez attributes the increase to a growing buzz among young and independent filmmakers, the lifeblood of smaller films festivals.

“Word of mouth” about Glass City Film Festival is getting out, she said. “They’re really impressed with how the festival looks and are excited to be part of it.”

With more movies being screened, more theaters were required to show them. The festival will now include three additional theaters (Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd., Seed Coworking, 25 S. St. Clair St., Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe St.) to its main location, Ohio Theatre & Event Center, 3114 Lagrange St., the event's sole host site for its first two years.

Those “mores,” including more community involvement from area businesses, Sanchez said, will lead to a bigger overall attendance this weekend, perhaps double that of last year, in what could be the festival’s breakout year.

“I hope that’s the case,” she said. “I think it’s all thanks to stuff we’re doing and also the community support. Plus, we’re kind of going where people are.”

Tickets are $10 per screening or $60 for a “Fancy Pass” to all screenings and activities at the film festival and can be purchased online at glasscityfilmfest.com or at the door. 

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.

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