A Talk with Roger Durling

Reviewed by Linda Lopez.  Talk held at the Lobero Theater.


Note:  These Q&A are based upon hand-written notes and should not be taken verbatim nor are they for public consumption.

On January 31, Roger Durling, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival met with SBCC FS108A Film Festival Studies students at the Rosebud Lounge at the Lobero Theater for a Q&A session.

Question:  How would an independent film producer submit their entry into the SBIFF, i.e. what is the process?

Mr. Durling:  We start looking for films around July, and are quite active in going out to find them. But, there is a website, “Without a Box,” where film producers can upload their film, and we do look at them.

Question:  Who decides on which films will be shown?

Mr. Durling:  I do (with a smile).  Actually, I get input from our category curators for each section or genre.  For instance, nature, food, sports, foreign cinema, etc. The categories change every year but some never do.  The point is to keep the film selection process fresh.  We consider the film selections are a reflection of Santa Barbara (Latino, surf, extreme sports, food cuisine, music, etc.). 

Question:  What is SBIFF’s biggest challenge?

On February 15th, work begins for next year’s SBIFF.  We have a $3M budget.  Our biggest challenges are:

1)     Secure funding.

2)     Staffing & Operations

3)     Need to hire full-time programmers.  Up to now, they have only worked part-time during the year while holding down other jobs when they’re not working for SBIFF.

Question:  What college courses are in alignment for a career in film production?

Mr. Durling:  I always recommend taking business administration and marketing courses to my students who are interested in the film industry.

Question:  Why is Puss-n-Boots 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2 showing at the festival?

Mr. Durling:  SBIFF is giving back to the community, but most of all, we are encouraging low-income families to participate in the festival. Puss-n-Boots and Kung Fu Panda, along with Hugo are being show for free (even supply free soda and popcorn).  We have had families drive all the way from Santa Maria to take advantage of our free 3D movies.  It really warms your heart to see people watch a 3D movie for free, especially since a 3D ticket usually costs $15 each.

Question:  How did you come up for the festival dates?

Mr. Durling:  Every international film festival has to create their own identify.  Also our festival dates were moved to this time of year (late Jan-early Feb) because the hotels and restaurants are eager to help us because they welcome the business during low-tourist season.  This time frame also coincides time-wise before the Sag Awards.

Question:  When is your busiest time in the year in preparing for the festival?

Mr. Durling:  From June to October most of my work is done.  By the time the festival begins, I am only the Master of Ceremony.

Question:  How long have you been with the SBIFF?

Mr. Durling:  This is my 9th festival.

Question:  What is your professional background?

Mr. Durling:  I’m from Panama but left my country on a scholarship to study in the U.S.  I left Panama because of dire circumstances and if you want to know more about it, Google “Roger Durling Nothing to Hide.”  I first studied theater at Syracruse, then NY Columbia University for grad school in a Master of Arts program.  Later I wrote a screen play in L.A. and sold it to a study.  However, I became disillusioned with L.A. and Hollywood because they did what they wanted with it and I had no input.  I then moved to Santa Barbara and opened the French Bull Dog Café.

Question:  How did you get involved with the SBIFF?

Mr. Durling:  Ten years ago, when they were $125K in the red, I volunteered to work for free to turn it around, but if I did turn it around they would have to pay me.  The first thing I did was change the dates of the festival as they are today.  The second thing was to get Jeff Bridges to premiere“Seabiscuit” here.  In one day, the SBIFF made $150K.

Question:  What is your favorite aspect of your position?

Mr. Durling:  Having people enjoy the festival is like watching them open a gift.  Also, the SBIFF provides education to kids at Title I schools.  We offer them study guides which their teachers work with them prior to the festival and film seminars.  I feel like Santa Claus in watching everyone’s reactions.

Question:  Who is your favorite director and or person?

Mr. Durling:  My favorite director is Pedro Almodovar!  Also, Tim Luddy is the greatest film fest director.

Question:  Any advice for anyone wanting to go into the film business?

Mr. Durling:  Never take “no” for an answer.  Never give up.  Always persevere.  He pursued Christopher Plummer several times and also Martin Scorcece many times with negative results.  But in the end, his perseverance worked.

Note:  These Q&A are based upon hand-written notes and should not be taken verbatim nor are they for public consumption.







About this entry