Op/Ed

Editorial: MNFF’s 10-year miracle

ANGELO LYNN

It’s no small deal to create something from nothing. It’s even more incredulous when what’s created is top-notch. Yet, that’s what Lloyd Komesar created when he hatched an idea to create a new filmmakers festival in Middlebury 10 years ago.

He jokes that it all came about when his wife, Maureen, told him he needed to take his boundless energy outside the house and do something productive. He had retired from the Disney Corporation, bought a 5-month “summer” home on Lake Dunmore, while Maureen was still actively working from home. 

From the kernel of an idea, he developed a key partner in Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven, got crucial support from the Town Hall Theater, the College and others, and set about on a crusade to launch something new. His energy was contagious and he made gradual progress.

But the journey wasn’t flawless. Film submissions in those early years were average, not earth-shattering. Attendance at first was tepid. It would take a few years to make their mark on the industry and attract local fans — and just about when they did, the pandemic hit. 

The festival persevered with imaginative leadership and determination. For two years the festival sold tickets online and still managed to keep its momentum. In the past two post-pandemic years, film submissions, audience growth and filmmakers’ attendance has soared.

Last year’s festival drew 508 film submissions, and this year hit 530 with several weeks ahead of the deadline; and audience participation was over capacity in several films last year, with huge turnouts at the special events. Locals host filmmakers in their homes for the event, and numerous businesses are sponsors.

The festival is, as Lloyd said in today’s front-page story, “no longer an unknown. It’s now a significant choice for first- and second-time filmmakers from around the world.” And the festival has, as Middlebury College President Laurie Patton said, “greatly enriched our town and college.”

Think of that. He took an idea and turned it into a world-class event right here in Middlebury.

That speaks to Lloyd’s amazing energy and irrepressible enthusiasm, but also to a community whose inherent assets, talent and a willingness to contribute helped make it happen. Kudos to Lloyd, Jay and the festival team, but also to everyone else who helped make the festival the success it is.

Angelo Lynn

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