Year 5 for Longleaf Film Festival. I hope it, again, lived up to our tagline, Film, Fun, and Community. And, as you all know, when I say “I,” I mean we: myself and Jerry Taylor, my prefers-to-be-hidden-but-beyond-essential festival partner (who handles Every.Single.Film.—1,440 minutes of uninterrupted, seamless, flawless movie time—plus the between-film countdown screeners), along with a team of other dedicated folks: they are historians, educators, editors, outreach coordinators, volunteers, students, tech geniuses, artists, and more (most on a full-time basis); what they are not are festival employees. Yet each year, their talent, wit, creativity, patience, ingenuity, effort, initiative, labor, and teamwork make this weekend—and all the work and thought that comes before it—happen.
And, it did happen—for a fifth year! In 2019 we screened 59 Official Selection films (a couple dozen that were premieres of some sort), out of 130 or so submitted, in 12 film blocks and awarded our custom Longleaf tiles—made this year by Andrea Freeman, of Freeman Clayworks—in 14 categories/genres, including our first-ever film poster contest. A thank-you to the Museum of History’s graphic design team for judging those, and thanks to our six film judges—all with North Carolina connections and all either professional film critics, film historians or professors, or filmmakers or some combination of those—who worked with grace and empathy to make decisions too tough for any one person. This year’s judges included Asheville-based reviewer Jill Boniske; author, radio commentator, and professor Marsha Gordon; professor Alisa Johnson; journalist and film critic Craig Lindsey; film historian, author, and podcaster Frank Thompson; and writer/critic Lawrence Toppman. Speaking of thank-yous, our overall appreciation goes to Year 5 sponsors: the museum’s membership group, the North Carolina Museum of History Associates, and BigRentz Inc.
Longleaf 2019 consisted of an opening film block in Daniels Auditorium on Friday afternoon, then a reception for Official Selection filmmakers and friends with background music by the North Carolina Film Orchestra, and our second outdoor Movies-N-Moonlight film block, which drew a crowd of more than 200. Saturday featured an afternoon full of film blocks in three venues, as well as
- two hour-long panels that provided audiences with insights into the state of film and filmmaking in North Carolina—
- one conversation (Legal Insights for Filmmakers: panelists were Ashley Felton, Shelia Huggins, and Mike Tadych; Beth Yerxa served as moderator) focused on such current legal issues as copyright and fair use, distribution worries, contracts, privacy and trespass concerns, employees, and the use of drones,
- and another conversation (Wide Angle Lens: panelists were Chris Everett, Aby Rao, Charlene Regester, and Monique Velasquez; Lana Garland served as moderator) focused on diversity and opportunity in filmmaking;
- our annual Awards Ceremony, emceed this year by film curator and radio contributor Laura Boyes—who is also the Carolina Theatre of Durham’s Moviediva and a longtime associate of Full Frame Documentary Film Festival; and, of course,
- Longleaf’s annual Wrap Party, which ventured to a new venue at downtown Raleigh’s Big Easy restaurant.
But you know us—we experimented a little, too. In addition to the new Best Movie Poster category mentioned earlier, we also
- used a volunteer photographer to help cover activities and events and challenged our hundreds of filmgoers to upload their own images (#LFF19);
- added an intern, our first, to focus full-time on Longleaf’s social media presence—which skyrocketed in numbers of followers, impressions, and mentions; and
- introduced a general-admission ticketing system as an option to counting attendees.
During the free festival, 785 general admission tickets provided admission to more than 1,200 audience members (an increase over last year’s 1,020), most enjoying a continuous supply of free popcorn and $1 treats and drinks. Website traffic for festival month increased to 5,727 visitors in 2019 (up from 5,290 in 2018), with most people landing on our home page. Longleaf’s second-place referrer this year was Facebook (last year, Instagram played a larger referrer role, and the year before, Twitter played a larger role), followed by VisitRaleigh.com. Thanks to a full-time intern who could devote time to our social media efforts (instead of someone with a multitude of other responsibilities posting when possible), we reached
- an average weekly impression rate of 5,000 on Twitter with 1,173 followers (599 last year) at festival time;
- 25,000 people (14,800 last year) in festival month alone on Facebook with 1,053 followers (800 last year); and
- a total of 151 posts on Instagram (88 last year), for 589 followers (415 last year).
As always, we remained true to the mission of our home base, the North Carolina Museum of History, by focusing, for the second year, on films that have some sort of connection to the Tar Heel State—through the people involved in making them, through its setting, or through its subject.
And, that was Longleaf 2019, Year 5. If you’re submitting, we’ll be in touch; otherwise, we’ll see you next year, May 8 and 9, at the movies!
—Sally Bloom, Festival Codirector