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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 9:26 am | Fair 54º


Santa Barbara International Film Festival Agrees to Limited Access for Student Journalists

Executive Director Roger Durling meets with representatives from several local schools to discuss a compromise for covering this year's events

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will work with local schools to create some sort of student press pass for the festival’s many events, the result of a compromise after schools were told they would get no access this year.

Applications last year to have student journalists cover film fest events were denied, and when they were denied again this year, teachers and advisers asked to meet with Roger Durling, the festival’s executive director. Many local schools have a long history of covering the festival's events.

About 20 students and 10 advisers met up with Durling and operations director Sean Pratt on Monday afternoon. Heading into the meeting, Dos Pueblos High School DPNews and yearbook adviser John Dent said the schools were hoping to come away with a long-term compromise for press access.

Durling previously told Noozhawk that student journalists wouldn’t have access to red carpet events from now on, but on Monday said the festival would work with schools to give limited access.

The proposed student press pass would give access to a handful of red carpet events that aren’t too packed and some film and panel events, but most likely not to every student group that wants access. Durling will talk more with Dent to work out the details.

Programs represented at the meeting included Santa Barbara Middle School, Santa Barbara Junior High School, Santa Barbara High School, San Marcos High School, Dos Pueblos High School, Santa Barbara City College, UCSB and TV Santa Barbara programs including the Teen News Network.

The press and attendance demand has grown significantly in the past 12 years, and the festival can't give out unlimited free seats, said Durling, who is also a film studies professor at SBCC.

He mentioned all of the festival’s free and educational events, saying students should focus on the filmmaking and panels instead of the “glitz and glamour” of the red carpet.

SBIFF students
Dos Pueblos High School teacher John Dent, right, helped organize Monday's meeting between local student journalism programs and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The group gathered there mostly agreed with Durling, but said the festival’s public relations firm had denied all press access, not just the red carpet.

“Most of us are not teaching TMZ class, we’re teaching journalism class,” Dos Pueblos English and journalism teacher Kelly Savio said.

The students and advisers emphasized that the schools hope to get press access and interviews, not just attendance tickets for students to cover events.

Current and former students of local journalism programs talked about their inspiring past experiences interviewing people on the red carpet, interviewing independent filmmakers and getting to attend some of the festival’s panels. 

Younger journalists give a fresh perspective and ask questions that other press don’t, one student said.

Harrison Gilman, a former Santa Barbara Middle School student, said covering the red carpet was one of the most influential moments of his life. He later took Durling’s SBCC class and, with a recommendation letter, got admitted to NYU, he said.

The festival is an opportunity to be exposed to “the greatest of greats” in filmmaking in “our backyard,” he said.

Former Dos Pueblos student Bria Little said her experience covering the red carpet in 2008 inspired her to pursue film school at UCLA.

Durling said he was “deeply touched” the students and schools came to speak with him in person. He and Pratt both said they want to keep the conversation open.

As he previously told Noozhawk, the press demand for the festival has grown with its popularity. General attendance has grown from 20,000 mostly local people to 85,000 people last year, with 45 percent out-of-towners, he said. Each event has 100 press seats and the festival gets about 500 requests.  

For the benefit of the festival, he also has to prioritize international and national media when it comes to interviews of high-demand people, he said.

Although Durling said he tries to make the festival more inclusive every year, including free events, he said Monday, “I’m not running a community film festival, I’m running an international film festival.”  

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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