Santa Barbara Film Festival

Santa Barbara Film Festival

Santa Barbara has an historic connection with movie making, from the very first days of the moving pictures. In 1910, Santa Barbara was home to the “Flying A Studios,” the world’s largest film studio of the time. Between 1912 and 1921, Santa Barbara was host to over 1000 movies, the local weather perfect for year-round filming and the varied landscape providing anything from a French coastline to a Moroccan desert. Even today, visitors can often spot film-crews at work in the area.

There are film tours that visitors can take to locations used in different movies; around downtown Santa Barbara for “Steal Big, Steal Little” for instance, out in the wine country for scenes from “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Seabiscuit” and “Sideways,” and further north to Lompoc and Santa Maria valleys for scenes from “The Graduate,” “Of Mice and Men” and “Spartan.”

Apart from Santa Barbara’s fascinating movie history, there is a large and active community in the creative media arts. Santa Barbara County is home to several film schools, and all year round there are numerous film festivals with a variety of themes—from the Underwater Film Festival to the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Series and everything in between—screenings, lectures and special events.

To top all these, though, is the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which takes place every year in early February. The ten-day-long festival, with its geographical proximity to Los Angeles and its timing so close to the Oscars, has become a mainstay for the filmmaking community and a celebration of world cinema, accepting submissions from over 45 countries and screening over 250 movies.

There are panel discussions where top filmmakers discuss their work in all aspects of movie-making, from writing the screenplay to composing the musical score. February 2007 was the 22nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and over 60,000 people attended. For avid film buffs and aspiring movie makers planning a vacation in Santa Barbara, the first week of February would be the time to show up, and the weather is still as balmy and mild as a spring day practically everywhere else. The festival also hosts several competitions, the winners of the grand prize more often than not predicting Oscar selections. In addition are several student competitions, one of which is the 10-10-10, in which 10 students make 10 films over the 10-day festival period.

The grand Hotel Santa Barbara, located on State St., provides the headquarters for the festival, as well as the venue for many of the lectures and panel discussions. Six movie theatres in the downtown area screen the movies. The Lobero theatre was originally built as an opera house, but was converted to a movie theatre in 1924. The Arlington theatre is the largest of all the theatres, with seating for 2000. It was built in 1931, and its architecture is a spectacular blend of different Spanish styles. All six theatres are in the downtown area and are in easy walking distance from each other.

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