May 26, 2018
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Lewiston Auburn Film Festival already planning for next year after finishing weekend with a profit

By Daniel Hartill, Sun Journal

LEWISTON, Maine — The Lewiston Auburn Film Festival will be back for a third year.

“I think that we are committed,” festival director Joshua Shea said Monday. “We’re going to figure out in the next week or two what the dates are. It’ll probably be right around the same time of year.”

This year’s three-day festival ended Sunday with the sale of about 1,800 total tickets, with many festival-goers attending more than one event over the weekend. And it ended in the black. Profits will be invested into 2013’s event.

“We will have a nice nest egg for next year,” Shea said. Ending the year with a profit also demonstrates attendees’ affection for the event. “Every dollar that comes in is a vote of confidence.”

It comes at a time when Shea, his staff and dozens of volunteers are drained from a long weekend of events.

After months of planning, the festival kicked off Friday at the Franco-American Heritage Center with a showing of four short films and a concert by singer-songwriter Don McLean. Saturday was movie watching day, with nearly 80 movies divided across venues in downtown Lewiston-Auburn. Saturday night featured an awards gala at the Hilton Garden Inn. Sunday had a VIP brunch followed by a panel discussion and screenings of the award winners.

When it was all done, Shea said he was tired but pleased.

“I feel like I spent a long day at the beach,” he said. “I’m a little bit sore.”

The next few weeks will be a time to analyze what worked and what didn’t, he said.

“We’re going to ask ourselves, ‘How can this be more polished?’, ‘How can this be a better presentation?’, ‘How can it be easier for us?’ ” he said.

There also will be a chance to plan for a surprise or two.

“We’ll come up with a list of 10 crazy ideas and start pounding on them once we have the [festival] dates,” Shea said. In part, plans for Lewiston-Auburn’s festival will go against the grain of some festivals’ academic or high art approach.

“This started with the idea of ‘Let’s get a bunch of people who love making movies and people who love watching movies together,'” Shea said. “And let’s just be ourselves and have a good time. Let’s have it with a sense of energy and fun.”

After year one’s single-day festival, they were determined to improve and advance, he said.

“I think that will be the mindset, again,” Shea said. “I wish 10,000 people would participate and maybe someday they will.”

Yet, big plans will be accompanied by financial realities.

“It costs a lot of money to put this stuff on,” Shea said. “Our budget was around $60,000.”

The act of hiring someone like McLean, who charges many thousands of dollars to appear, comes with some risk. Festival organizers would have been happy to break even.

“The break-even point is what we hope and expect,” he said. “And when we see a number bigger than that, it says the hard work really did pay off. I think we’re going to go into next year with a lot more confidence. I’m really looking forward to it.”

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