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Film festival attracted enthusiastic crowds

MIDDLEBURY — The Second Annual Middlebury New Filmmakers’ Festival (MNFF) featured an impressive seven sell-outs and filled a combined total of 2,860 seats spanning three venues during its four-day run.
“We’re really happy with the outcome and have considerable wind at our sails for next year,” a beaming MNFF Producer Lloyd Komesar said on Thursday.
Komesar and Jay Craven, MNFF’s artistic director, took some time last week to crunch numbers on attendance at the festival, which ran Aug. 25-28. This year’s MNFF offered a delectable menu of 77 films shown at the Town Hall Theater, the Marquis Theater (two screens), and Middlebury College’s Dana Auditorium. The activities weren’t confined to movie watching, however. There were social gatherings, a dance and a variety of panel discussions that included Academy Award winning documentary producers, judges, A-list actors and media luminaries who talked about the increasing role of film in conveying current events.
“Overall, it was a stronger program,” Craven said. “There was more of a variety of things to do.”
The festival culminated in the presentation on Aug. 28 of seven “VTeddy” awards to what judges deemed to be the most outstanding feature films, documentaries and shorts. Log on to middfilmfest.org for the complete list of those winners.
Komesar and Craven, a renowned filmmaker in his own right, said this sophomore edition of the festival generated bigger numbers in every attendance category. Organizers sold more than 300 festival passes and day passes, up 10 percent compared to last year. Individual ticket sales were placed in the 650-range, representing a 24-percent increase from 2015. This year’s MNFF had 35 sponsors — a bump of 50 percent over last year, noted Komesar.
Many lodgers, restaurants and shops in Middlebury reported a spike in receipts during the four-day event, organizers said.
“There was a significant economic impact,” Komesar said.
“The template we’ve created sets the bar high, but it’s (a standard) we want to continue to deliver on,” Komesar added.
Organizers during the coming weeks will release more details about upcoming MNFF-related entertainment that will extend the festival’s brand year-round. Those events will include a Town Hall Theater screening of “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” on Sept. 21, during which Lear will Skype in for a question-and-answer session and discussion. 
A “Best of Festival” screening will also take place at Town Hall Theater during the coming months.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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