story by karlee collins photography by paul nurnberg
In the years since the Beaufort International Film Festival began, Director Ron Tucker says that the attendance has grown from about 500 to over 12,000 in total attendance. As the years have gone by, a venue change had to be made in order to accommodate the “swelling” audience that had doubled and quadrupled in the first three years. “We actually had two records for total attendance at one screening last year; we had 473 that broke the record on Thursday, and that record was broken on Saturday with 474,” Tucker shares. The continual increase in attendance comes from a diverse audience that includes not only Beaufort residents but also people that travel from many surrounding areas. Last year’s festival boasted an audience that represented thirty-seven states and five countries, and many of those will return again this year. The film festival brings people back no matter how far they travel. Mr. Tucker says, “We have a group that comes from Connecticut almost every year and a couple from Texas that comes every year.”
The film festival’s success has developed an audience that continues to return for more which has a positive impact on the community. Hotels and restaurants in the downtown area get the opportunity to host the festival’s attendees, and that is a healthy benefit to Beaufort’s economy. When the people are not occupied with enjoying the films, they are roaming the beautiful city, and Mr. Tucker says that they all “fall in love with Beaufort” especially the downtown area. The atmosphere of the community and the success of the festival have worked together to sell to the audience an event worth returning to experience again and again. “It’s one of the things that we like,” Mr. Tucker explains, “that it has become a destination for people. It wouldn’t be Beaufort in February if it weren’t for the film festival.” The growing loyal audience would agree.
Jan Bruning and her husband, Ken, have been attending the Beaufort International Film Festival since its beginning. From hosting house guests to celebrating the films, they are a part of every aspect of the festival: “We are always there for the first showing of the day and do not leave until the last film is over. We attend every party and event associated with the festival. We have ‘film audience’ down to a science now and arrive to spend the day in our little enclave of seats,” Jan shares. They have high praise for directors, Ron and Rebecca Tucker saying, “They have turned our little festival into one that is growing amazingly fast!”
“I have seen every single film!” says Katherine Zalusky, Beaufort resident of twelve years and loyal attendee of the film festival. She would not miss being at each film every year: “My husband knows that every year for that week I have a commitment.” She loves the movies and has a list of favorites. She says, “Initially, I preferred feature films…but now I prefer and look forward to the documentaries.” For Katherine, the fantastic films are not the only reason she continues to attend. “Even though the festival has grown and continues to improve, it has not lost that feeling of intimacy,” she explains. The common ground of watching films together makes large crowds into one big family, and that is the intimacy that Katherine describes.
Arlene Hull will be attending the film festival this year for the tenth time. She heard about it through friends and has joined in on the fun since that time: “I come back every year to see the new talent and efforts of both new and experienced people in the industry.” For the Beaufort native, it is exciting to see how the festival gives exposure to her hometown. She says, “I think the impact on Beaufort is incredible, it helps to secure our place in the realms of truly being a very diversified arts community and gets us National recognition for such.” Through the festival, Arlene knows that Beaufort is being highlighted on the map, and she thanks Ron and Rebecca Tucker for it. “Every year is bigger and better,” she says, “and that is because of Ron and Rebecca and their commitment to the festival.”
In March of 2010, Lloyd and Jane Sidwell chose to make Beaufort their home. Soon afterwards they discovered the film festival through their new friends Ron and Rebecca Tucker. “The films, the excitement of the fest, the organization and attention to detail provided by Ron and Rebecca, the experience of meeting filmmakers, [and the] discussion [of] films with other filmgoers” are all reasons that they come back each year. Jane says she loves “sitting cocooned in [her] seat, in the upper reaches of the auditorium, and enjoying films for the entire day, one right after the other.” To the Sidwells, the film festival is a “world class” cultural event that is beneficial to locals and visitors alike.
Liz Entwistle first learned of the film festival through reading about it in the newspaper. She attended the first year and has been back to the festival each year. Liz says that she returns for “the comradery, the movies, the parties, and the people.” She enjoys sharing the festival with her fellow Beaufort locals and those that come from out of town. Liz says, “It exposes [Beaufort] to the world for having a real quality of life.” Her contribution to that exposure has been bringing family from New York to attend the festival; she enjoys sharing the excitement of the festival with others.
Carolyn Roos will be attending the festival from opening to closing for the fourth time this year and has been for the Saturday showing for many other years. Through the invitation of friends, Carolyn discovered a place that gives her “the opportunity to see film making at its best from newbies to remakes.” She has enjoyed getting to know the film makers and their families as well as watching Beaufort be show cased as a location for future film making. She says, “Those that come to Beaufort because of [the festival] fall in love with Beaufort and some have made it their home.”
Long-time Beaufort resident, Debbie Dawsey-Davis has attended all ten years of the film festival. She looks forward to returning to the festival, and she says, “Each year continues to be the best!” Some of her favorite parts include the question and answer sessions with those involved in making the films and the parties. She says that she and her friends “love to sit all day and become one with the festival.” The annual film festival is another reason that Debbie is proud to live in Beaufort; she is thrilled to see “so many people come together with love and passion for the arts!”
Gerry and Dianne Kenny call Beaufort their home and have been attending the film festival since the beginning. Gerry and Ron Tucker are friends which is how the Kennys discovered the festival. Although Gerry does not claim to be a film buff, he feels that this unique event is enjoyable for all audiences. “I enjoy the diversity, seeing different kinds of movies,” he says. “I like the offbeat movies and the documentaries.” Gerry thinks something can be found to suit anyone’s interest, and he believes that Beaufort residents should support and relish in the culture that the festival provides. He says, “It’s important to promote local events, and this one is convenient and of good value.”