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Fest personalizes experience with retreat

Palm Springs International Film Festival 2012

Now in its second year, the PSIFF filmmakers’ forum brings together a select crop of directors chosen by fest organizers at the tranquil Annenberg Retreat Center at Sunnylands in nearby Rancho Mirage. During the day-and-a-half, off-site retreat, directors meet, mingle and connect within the Annenberg Center’s collegial and spacious setting.

According to fest artistic director Helen du Toit, “Often festivals are very lonely, quite isolating experiences,” where filmmakers are typically left on their own, each with a singular agenda. PSIFF’s program was specifically designed to counteract festival business-as-usual and instead foster a sense of community among attendees who hail from across the world.

For the second forum, fest organizers sought a balance, inviting participants from North America, South America, the Middle East and Europe that is a good representation of the fest’s international focus. Tyro helmers and seasoned vets from both fiction and non-fiction genres will take part.

While the atmosphere was laid back and informal last year, the discussions were dynamic. “It was not about, ‘We’ll teach you something,’ but rather, ‘What can we learn from one another?’?” du Toit says.

Included in the activities will be a presentation by a keynote speaker; in 2011, producer Ron Yerxa set a great tone, du Toit remembers.

Most important to du Toit, “Last year the filmmakers totally bonded,” she says of 2011’s productive inaugural sesh. Filmmakers readily agree. “We were able to know each other through our work,” says Lisa Gossels, helmer of the doc “My So-Called Enemy,” who says she remains in touch with many of the other participants.

“It was my fantasy of what a film festival experience would be like,” says “Louder Than a Bomb” co-director Jon Siskel. Reflecting on a gathering that covered everything from funding to distribution, he says, “Filmmakers are usually in their own world, but I found my experiences weren’t unique.”

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