Sandy Henderson and her 400 submission.You don't have to look past the name of BendFilm to ascertain where the festival originated. While the non-profit independent cinema festival is, of course, rooted in our mountain town, this month will see BendFilm cross the Cascades for its first ever out-of-town event.
The screening of the documentary Breast Cancer Diaries in Portland at the end of the month marks a step forward for a festival that organizers say is doing well both fiscally and artistically - which they say wasn't exactly the case only a year ago.
"With the economy the way it is now it's important to reach out to other areas. I would always want it to be a Bend-based festival because I think Bend as a town provides part of the festival's charm," says Sandy Henderson, who is in her first year as executive director of BendFilm.
The screening is set for July 28 at the Portland Center Stage, and like the Indie Reels edition of the film in Bend this past winter, features an expert panel on the subject.
"We kept trying to think of a way to reach out to Portland and make the city more aware of BendFilm and breast cancer and Bend as a destination - so it's really a three-fold mission," Henderson says.
Although the Portland screening signifies a step forward for BendFilm, Henderson nonetheless has found herself assuring locals that the festival is surviving in the wake of the recent news that the Cascade Festival of Music has folded after nearly 30 years as a fixture in Bend's cultural landscape. While BendFilm has no relation to CFM, the news created some rumblings of curiosity as to whether the film festival, which like CFM is a non-profit cultural event, was also in trouble
"Every non-profit's situation is unique. However, whenever something like that happens you do have to look at it like it's a canary in a coal mine," says Jim Bailey, the president of BendFilm's board of directors.
Bailey goes on to say that while rumors are swirling that CFM was relying on ticket sales to bail out the festival, BendFilm currently has the necessary funds to put on its event - even though tickets haven't gone on sale yet. If we flash back to this time last year, this sort of financial comfort wasn't the rallying cry for BendFilm. In fact, in August of 2007, former Executive Director Erik Jambor was looking for a hefty $80,000 in last-minute donations to keep the BendFilm on track.
"Honestly, we were in panic mode near this time last year. We're not in panic mode at all right now," Bailey says.
Henderson is optimistic about the increased exposure an event like the screening in Portland provides BendFilm, but also about the 400 submissions received this year for the festival, which is slated for October 9-12. The increase in submissions and a move to woo Portlanders point toward a festival that is determined to grow, but Henderson says expanding BendFilm at this point isn't the goal of the organization. Henderson is currently the festival's sole paid employee and as Bailey puts it, the board was "conservative in projecting revenues," yet "aggressive as to what the expenses would be" for 2008. Yet, within this conservative mindset, BendFilm still managed to add the Indie Reels collaboration with the Tower to further its year-around presence while also taking a stab at regionalizing the festival with a stab at a screening in Portland - something that Henderson sees as nothing less than necessary.
"Anybody who lives here knows what we've here in Bend - and BendFilm is part of that. It just makes sense to spread the word," she says.