Rest assured that if you make a film there is a festival that is an excellent fit. As co-producer of “Roaming Wild,” I had the privilege of being part of the team that hosted the world premiere at the Santa Babrara International Festival (SBIFF). Just one week after Sundance, a whole new crowd migrates to the ocean breezes of southern California with reinvigorated excitement for all things film. And though many of the films and honorees at SBIFF are in fiction (the likes of Cate Blanchett and Martin Scorsese), the SBIFF opening night film was “Mission Blue,” a documentary that follows oceanography legend Sylvia Earle around the planet and into the deep sea.
SBIFF has a long tradition of screening and celebrating social justice documentaries like “Mission Blue” thanks to The Fund for Santa Barbara, a vibrant local foundation who has been presenting The Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award for 15 years. “Roaming Wild” is lucky enough to be nominated for the competition this year, alongside “Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” and “Bottled Up: The Battle Over Dublin Dr. Pepper” among others.
The Fund for Santa Barbara was one of several advantages to selecting SBIFF for the “Roaming Wild” premiere. Director Sylvia Johnson recognized the significance of premiering a film about the controversey over wild horses in the west to actually premiere in the west; California is one of 10 western states that has wild horses roaming on public lands. Also significant, one of the individuals interviewed for the film, Neda Demayo, director of the Return to Freedom Wild Horse Preservation and Sanctuary, is a local in the Santa Barbara area. Not only was she able to attend the premiere screenings, but she brought two mustangs to downtown State St that created a significant buzz for the film’s premiere; KEYT NewsChannel 3 covered the story.
For the first time all of the “Roaming Wild” team was in one place in addition to the director, Sylvia Johnson and myself, co-producer: editor Anne Goetz, composer Joachim Horsley, and graphic artist Ben Cheek. We were also able to host two of the major characters in the film, Jill Starr of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue and Karen Herman of Sky Mountain Wild Horse Sanctuary.
Our big group made for a substantial presence at the festival, lively Q&A’s, excellent news coverage and hopefully gave us a boost for the audience award. All signs that a good festival strategy really pays off.