When the lights go down at the Alabama Theatre Friday evening, it will mark the 20th opening of the Sidewalk Film Festival. Sidewalk has been a source of independent movies and a touchstone for the Birmingham filmmaking community. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with Michele Forman, former president of the festival’s board and part of the group that got Sidewalk off the ground in the late 1990s.
The challenge of convincing people a downtown festival would work:
“We kept telling people at that time it’s like [the now-defunct music festival] City Stages, but for movies … That probably in my mind was a sort of model that it can be done and that you can get people to come back to downtown to be able to go out at night, eat, hang out, be able to really activate that space again.”
Finding space to screen films:
“We really didn’t have any venues … We had the Alabama Theatre and we had a lot of empty storefronts. So that involved bringing in generators. Not just projection equipment, but actually bringing in our own electricity. In those early years there were folding chairs and bean bags. It really was a pop up that first year.”
How technology such as smart phones has changed filmmaking:
“The barriers to production have really never been lower. You have the power in your pocket essentially. But it still requires the kind of training, the kind of craft, to be able to direct, to be able to do the production and set design, to be able to cast, to be able to edit, be able to put together all those visual and audio elements, to be able to create a work of art, to be able to tell a story. Those things still require the same kind of education. It’s just the expense of making it have really shifted.”
**Note: this film was reviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.