Like millions of movie fans, Jim Farmer will be glued to the tube for Sunday’s Academy Awards.
But this year, Farmer — a lifelong Oscar fanatic — has an extra reason to be excited. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave his Out on Film festival its first-ever national grant for its most recent event. And more than just the money came the acknowledgement and exposure that only Hollywood’s biggest guns can provide.
Out on Film is Atlanta’s annual gay film festival, which Farmer has programmed since 2008. It’s grown every year since then, to a record attendance of 8,000 in 2014. Over the course of a week right before the annual gay Pride celebration, Out on Film presents more than 100 movies at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema.
Farmer’s focus from the start was on branding Out on Film as a vital, independent celebration — with consistent scheduling (year-round events, but with the festival always the first week in October) and high-quality programming.
“When it comes to marketing and putting butts in seats, you could get a ‘naked guy’ movie and sell out every time,” says Farmer, who has worked in theater marketing and entertainment journalism. “But we focus on quality films that otherwise might not make it to Atlanta, and also on the diversity within the LGBT community.”
The Oscar grant helped secure last fall’s opening night, with a red carpet and appearances by the makers and some cast members of “Blackbird,” which stars Mo’Nique and will be released widely in April.
“We try to focus on our festival as an event,” Farmer says. “It’s not just seeing a movie. You can watch a movie on your iPhone these days. But there’s nothing quite like seeing a film that is a story about us, for us, told by our filmmakers and experienced together.”
Grants don’t come easy, of course. At the same time the Academy shared its gift, the state of Georgia declined to support the festival, although it had for two previous years.
“It gives us a lot of momentum,” Farmer says about the Oscar grant. “We reached a lot of people last year that we had never reached. The Academy put us on their website. The Academy issued a press release… It was tremendous in terms of the exposure and awareness that we got.”
And more personally, it was a shot of confidence for Farmer, who grew up watching the Oscars and hangs on every development of awards season.
He’ll be at home with his partner Sunday night, not at a party where people might talk over the broadcast. “I don’t care if it lasts four hours. I don’t care if the speeches are long and rambling. I want to see every moment and hear every word.”
And maybe offer up his own version of “I’d like to thank the Academy…”
Jim Farmer’s Oscar predictions
Farmer says it’s easier to call many top categories nowadays, with so many pre-Oscar awards.
But he agrees that three top categories are a lock for Julianne Moore (Best Actress in “Still Alice”), Patricia Arquette (Best Supporting Actress for “Boyhood”) and J.K. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor for “Whiplash”).
After that, thing’s get a little more exciting He sees tight races between “Boyhood” and “Birdman” for Best Picture and Best Director, and expects “Birdman” star Michael Keaton to edge out Eddie Redmayne from “The Theory of Everything” for Best Actor.
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