By Bill Coady
I had the pleasure of sitting down with James Rubino, the organizer of the Wausau Film Festival after it was over last night. He was pleased with the turnout for the event and is planning further film events here in Wausau. He is hoping to have have quarterly showings of local films at an intimate venue like Kelly’s with a larger annual festival. Certainly ambitious plans, but if realized it will add very much to the already vibrant arts scene here in Wausau.
About 120 people attended the 4 showings of the festival, which James considered pretty good for the first time out. It may be that the perfect spring weather held down attendance during the afternoon showings, the 7 pm showing was completely full, and the folks at Kelly’s were kind enough to allow an extra showing of some of the films after 9 pm, which also attracted a pretty good crowd considering it was not on the original program.
Audience members were enthusiastic about the films, as I chatted with James at the end of the last showing, he would ask people as they left what they thought of the event and which films they liked best. Every one gave the event as a whole a thumbs up, and picked “Tractor for Sale”; “The Magnificent Donut” and the “big budget” “West Bank Story” as favorites. James also mentioned that among the younger set, “Ghost Tag” got rave reviews as it is somewhat of a music video featuring the music of local bands. If you missed the festival, you can check out the films by going to www.jcrubino.net, where James has links to all of the films that were shown.
But interestingly enough, James gives the internet mixed reviews when it comes to filmaking.
“It is great for communications among filmmakers,” he said, “and good for getting the word out about a film,” but he feels it “would be a shame” if that is how people experienced film.
“It should be a community experience,” he went on, citing similar thought expressed by Ken Burns in his recent appearance in Stevens Point. “There should be a shared experience with film — maybe you will start laughing after you hear the person next to you laugh, too.” Especially if that person is snorting through their nose at “Chad Vader,” I have to add.
Community was a big theme in why James put together the film festival and throughout our conversation. James feels that there is the underpinnings of a very good film making community here is Wausau. James feels that with some sponsorship and underwriting that a community film making effort could really take off here. James feels the talent and creativity is here, and judging from the films that were shown, I have to agree. James also feels that perhaps one avenue that really needs to be explored is the collaboration between local bands and local film makers.
It is true that Wausau has a tremendous arts community, including such wonderful institutions such as the Leigh Yawkey-Woodson Art Museum, The Center for the Visual Arts, the Wausau Conservatory of Music, Wausau Dance Theater and many others. It would be nice if soon there was a similar place for film makers and their art, and I think that James and his crew that put together this first film festival are off to a good start to make that happen.