As we’ve mentioned before, a film will always find its audience no matter how niche. Sometimes you have to go looking to find those places, but here at Festival Formula we do it for you. So we’re thrilled to talk to Sarah Nelson of San Francisco’s Food and Farm Film Fest about how they focus on food, and how they pair it up with film. If you have a food related film then do check out their website for more details – earlybird submission deadline is November 30th, final deadline is January 5th.


Tell us a bit about your job, and what you do…

I’m the Executive Director of 18 Reasons, a small nonprofit based in San Francisco. We offer free cooking classes in low-income neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area, as well as paid classes and dinners in our classroom in San Francisco’s Mission District. As ED, I do a little of everything; running classes, managing staff, writing grants, fundraising, etc. The Food and Farm Film Fest is a fundraiser for our free cooking classes, as well as another way to bring our community together around food.


As people are becoming more aware of where their food comes from, and the process, how did the festival come about?

I am always looking for non-boring ways to raise money for 18 Reasons, and one day the idea of a film festival about food popped into my head. I couldn’t believe San Francisco didn’t have a festival like it already! By chance, I met some community partners who were just as excited about the idea, including the staff of the Roxie Theater, where our festival takes place.


Can you sum up the San Francisco’s Food and Farm Film Fest in one sentence?

We show new and classic films that celebrate and explore our food system from every angle.


Due to the nature of your theme, you ask local chefs to create food to accompany each day’s films. That beats popcorn! It sounds quite experiential…

Yes, we serve food with every film, right in the theater. Sometimes this can get a little messy (a local chef cooked and served mussels in the theater last year for MUSSELS IN LOVE) but people love it.


What do you look for in a film for the festival?

We try to balance activist films with celebratory films, so we look for a variety of films. For instance, our opening night featured both a spoken-word music video about the destructive toll of Type 2 diabetes and an animated Baywatch satire in which all the characters are sausages. Our pet peeve is what I call “look-at-my-kale:” films where farmers show you their lovely vegetables growing in the field, but there is no actual story in the film. Find the drama!


What’s your advice to someone who gets a rejection from a festival?

Are you guilty of “look-at-my-kale?” Is there a story in your film, or just pretty pictures of food? Did you really edit the film as much as you could? Many boring 30 minutes films would be amazing 5 minutes films. We’ve had the pleasure of showing films from the team behind Perennial Plate for the last two years and their editing skills are unbelievable.


Tell us the best and worst part of your job.

Best: interacting with (and ideally sharing food with!) amazing people, both staff members and community partners. Worst: Quickbooks (accounting software).


Share with us one of your favourite films and tell us why you like it…

My hands-down favorite feature we’ve shown is BETTING THE FARM, a documentary about a group of organic dairy farmers trying to survive as an independent cooperative after they’re dumped by their large distributor for being too remote. It had me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole film. The hard-working farmers all have big personalities and big hearts, and you just want them to make it. We’ve show so many amazing shorts….COCONUT NOSE TO TAIL is a great example of Perennial Plate’s amazing filmmaking skills. We love supporting young local filmmakers especially: LONCHE was a big hit this year and one of my favorites.

Thank you to Sarah for taking the time to speak to us. Please check out the Food and Farm Film Fest website for further information on submission deadlines and fees. A very tasty festival!


Sarah’s Bio:

Sarah has worked on food-related projects in the Bay Area since 2008. She launched the Bay Area’s first Market Match, which gives farmers’ market customers who use food stamps extra funds to spend at the market, and a Veggie Rx program that helped diabetes patients increase their produce consumption while measuring positive health outcomes. Previously, she taught yoga and guided bicycle tours in France. In 2011, she founded the nonprofit Three Squares, which merged with 18 Reasons in 2013. She is passionate about cooking, rock climbing, riding her bike, and, yes, her job. She lives in San Francisco.

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