The State Of Cinema (as per Jonathan Lethem)

One of the many cool things of the San Francisco International Film Festival is the prestigious State Of Cinema address.  Last year Jonathan Lethem gave it.  Let me know who you think should give it for 2013.

Jonathan Lethem: State of Cinema Address from San Francisco Film Society on Vimeo.

Others that have given the State Of Cinema address include Tilda Swinton:

Christine Vachon, Walter Murch, theatre director Peter Sellars, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, Wired editor Kevin Kelly, animator Brad Bird and critics B. Ruby Rich and Michel Cimen.  Pretty awesome, right?  

So who else should join the list in 2013?

12 Questions Toward The Future Of FIlm Festivals

Yesterday I gave the Keynote Address at the International Film Festival Summit in Austin, Texas.  You can read the speech on Indiewire here.  Or watch the video here. I ended the talk with a host of questions -- 12 to be exact, and they follow below. The abundance of questions I’ve raised, point that we have a tremendous opportunity to unlock all ta new power of film festivals -- and I certainly can brainstorm with you they myriad of ways that can be done --but if we seek to begin to recognize the boundaries we can push at the festival level, I want to first shower you with even more questions -- not answers -- as I suspect they will allow far more solutions to flower.

I have twelve questions I am going to be pondering this year when I look at our festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, when I come to your festivals, and when I hear the tales of the intrepid filmmaker / traveller ushering their film from one festival to another:

1. What is the full power of community and how do we transform our audiences into sustainable communities? Can we curate communities in a similar way? What if we connected like minded people in a more sustainable way and then allow audience to truly influence what is seen and discovered?

2. How doe we utilize cinema’s power to activate? What is our call to action? What is the call to action to our constituencies? How do we transition them from passive to action?

3. What do our audiences really want Film Festivals to be? What does it mean to be a communal gathering?

4. What do filmmakers really want from Festivals these days? Very few can be markets or premieres, even publicity machines. How can we deepen the utility of festivals for the creative community? Festivals deliver intelligent and engaged audiences to the films. Can we deepen the relationship between the fans and the creators?

5. If authenticity, participation, and customization are indeed what people want today, how do our programs provide that?

6. Can we work together so that films gain better momentum festival to festival and unleash the power of the combined festival community in some way?

7. Are we utilizing the strength of the festivals as an information gathering and dissemination tool as fully as we might? What information is not being gathered when we collect films and crowds and can we change that? This is the data age. Are we embracing transparency as fully as we might?

8. As trusted curators of this colossal heap of cinema culture, how do we really make a difference on a long term basis? Is a short burst of guidance enough? Growth requires consistency and do we provide that? We are the filter, the trusted source. Film festivals are discovery platform for films that might otherwise be ignored. How to carry that over to the online environment?

9. How do we transform young people into loyal cinema lovers? We are losing the youth. Can we stem the tide?

10. What is the broadest definition of film? Can we reflect that and help people embrace that? Have we forgotten what show business is and neglected the spectacle and event in favor of the practical and executable?

11. If we are moving away from the one film at a time business model towards one of artists forming long term relationships with their audiences, how do film festivals facilitate it?

12. The best thing the film industry can do to help ambitious and diverse work is to make sure that artists and their supporters are the direct beneficiaries of the rewards of the film. How do festivals do that?

We have an incredible opportunity before us. The only consistent is change. We can’t stand still. Never before have we had access to the tools that can change our world. But yet we don't know where to go. We need to ask real questions and on a consistent basis. We will find the answers and the maps. There are no boundaries but ourselves.


The San Francisco Film Society is now accepting submissions for the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival, recognized throughout the world as an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country’s most beautiful cities. Works in all genres, forms and lengths are considered. Deadlines: • Early deadline Tuesday, October 9 • Regular deadline Monday, November 5 • Final deadline for short films Monday, December 3 • Final deadline for features Monday, December 10

HOW TO ENTER Entry form and information: or