This year at the Sarasota Film Festival, Mickey Sumner, daughter of musician Sting, called executive director Tom Hall “a rock star,” and plenty of film-makers and fans agree. The 15-year-old festival included an exciting collection of indie films that tackled subjects as controversial as abortion, transgendered youth and school shootings. That’s raised the national profile of the festival—and of the newly buff Hall, who recently lost 30 pounds through dieting and boxing. The 42-year-old father of two young boys divides his time between Sarasota and his home in Brooklyn, but wherever he is, he’s always thinking film.
You got a lot of raves about this year’s programming.
“Every year, [everybody] tells me how much better the film festival is than the year before. I’m not sure whether to be grateful or insulted! Every year, we try to accomplish the same thing: to find and show films we love and think deserve to be part of the discussion of the state of film as an art form.”
Was attendance up?
“We saw about a 4-5 percent increase in sales. We sold out the Van Wezel and the Opera House (twice), and I can’t tell you what a great feeling it is to walk a filmmaker on stage at those venues and see it full.”
What’s next for the fest?
“We’re looking to build more capacity year-round, to be of value to filmmakers and distributors after the festival is over. That means marketing their work to our patrons, tying in Video on Demand and promotional opportunities, and using our web and social media capacity [to] keep our brand and our audience relevant.”
What’s the best part of the job?
“Watching the audience and the filmmakers engage. [Our] culture is obsessed with the business and celebrity, so to get a large group of people in a room, talking with a filmmaker about their film’s artistic purpose, I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”