Letters to the Editor

Published the week of July 12-18, 2000

It's also false that if the St. Louis International Film Festival doesn't play a film, then it's not likely to be seen in St. Louis. (By the way, we did screen Lamerica.) With the support of Webster University, the Webster Film Series has provided St. Louis film lovers with a year-round program of films (and visiting directors) for the last 22 years that they would not otherwise have seen -- primarily because the content or nature of these films appeals to a limited number of filmgoers. Because these films have a limited audience, needless to say, they rarely make a profit. Where else in St. Louis except for venues that are subsidized, such as Webster and the St. Louis Film Festival, would these films play?

Just as the St. Louis International Film Festival's lineup attracts a small group of loyal patrons who have "more demanding tastes," so does the Webster Film Series. Without a doubt, Webster and the festival share the same patrons, and I'm certain these film lovers would not like to see either the Webster Film Series or the film festival languish. As far as mentioning that the film festival has only an average rating: Virtually every town in the U.S. has a film festival now, and most are well attended and assets to their cities. How many should we expect to be world-renowned?

Which leads to another point I wish to raise. It's extraordinarily difficult to continue to provide any arts programing to the St. Louis community without the support of the local press -- as well as state funding. We have no funds to pay for expensive ads, and press attention is vital to the continuation of smaller arts programs. Coverage of the arts in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is virtually nonexistent, and in The Riverfront Times, formerly the city's undisputed leader in reviewing and promoting underdog arts events, coverage has slipped the most. As a result, many small arts organizations have disappeared from lack of support, leaving St. Louisans to believe that all that remains is a menu of mainstream mediocre entertainment.

To this date, there are no universities that I know of that teach film programming. Yes, it's true, one can study film theory and criticism, but that doesn't prepare one to be a good programmer. Knowing how to negotiate and what's good is important, but, more important, knowing one's patrons and one's community and having the support of the local press, community and granting agencies are much stronger indices of whether or not a program is likely to succeed or fail. Let's hope for the sake of both Chris Clark and Shirley Marvin and the St. Louis International Film Festival -- as well as the Webster Film Series and all the other dance, music, art, photography, theater, poetry and literature programs that are struggling to provide St. Louis with art that's new and fresh but are barely thriving in this arid atmosphere -- that the RFT can print as much ink about all that's good and happening rather than what may potentially fail. I wish the best to the festival and to its new staff and hope that St. Louisans continue to support their (and other arts programs') efforts.
Vicki Woods
Director, Webster University Film Series

After reading your feature "Reel Change" by Eddie Silva, decrying the lack of professional credentials on the staff of the St. Louis International Film Festival, I began to wonder just how many staff members at RFT have "formal educational training" in journalism. But mostly I just wondered, does Eddie? And I don't mean people who are good writers, know about writing or have done work in writing. These people should not be writing. I mean, what are the professional qualifications of the staff?

Sure, all RFT employees have worked for the RFT in differing capacities (staff, volunteer, board member), but how many can be described as "writing professionals"? OK, we obviously all know how unimportant skill and talent in your chosen profession can be. What the employer and consumer really care about are your diplomas. But until Mr. Silva's article, it had just never occurred to me how incompetent the RFT staff probably is according to these standards.

Using Eddie Silva's flawless objective journalistic methodology, I decided I'd interview a bunch of former RFT staff members and base my entire opinion of the RFT's credentials around their statements, without affording any current SLIFF employees a chance to respond. However, I don't know any former employees. So I went straight to the source: The RFT employment link. This is a great plan: I have a degree in English from a major college. Obviously it's not as good as journalism, but I should at least be qualified to work in the mailroom or sweep floors for the accredited professionals at RFT -- a virtual "who's who" of journalists in America.

Well, as it turns out, you are looking for a music writer whose only credentials are knowing a lot about music and liking to talk about it. I'll be referring you to my 17-year-old cousin.

There is also an opening in production. Apparently this person need only know how to do the job, but no reference is made to a college degree. I'm sure you'll be glad I told you so you can correct such an obvious mistake. And, finally, we come to the retail sales department. The only qualifications there are "career oriented (sans hyphen)," "high achiever" and "college graduate." Finally! That master's in anthropology can finally be put to good use. Before I read this article, I had come to expect a more liberal and/or alternative slant from the RFT. I wasn't aware that your paper judged people based on their college pedigree or that your underlying message is that, to succeed, we should "buy in" (read: sell out) to the traditional educational and corporate philosophies.

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