At times you’ll hear someone say, “That person was meant to have that job.” Patrick Schweiss is one of those people.
For the last 13 years Schweiss has been the face — and executive director — of the Sedona International Film Festival. During the nine-day event he is everywhere and approaches each film, special appearance or concert with the same enthusiasm and showmanship.
During the festival, filmmakers and celebrities meet with the media daily and for the first time during his tenure with the festival, Schweiss agreed to sit in the hot seat and answer questions.
“When I took over it was a two-and-a-half day festival and now we’re at nine days plus a kick-off event so it’s very, very fun,” he said. “When the festival comes, my heavy work is done and I have time to have fun. The rest of the staff goes crazy with ticketing and everything. Then for me it’s all about showcasing and honoring our filmmakers as they are the true celebrities.”
Schweiss said in his early days as executive director, it could take three to four months to book a film. But over the years, and through hundreds of connections, he said it can often take just one simple phone call.
Today, they receive nearly 1,200 films and from there show around 160. This is a far cry from a dozen years ago.
“Back then I’d run to the post office every day to see if we received any films and then I’d watch them,” he said. “It’s just not possible these days. Plus, I quickly realized that you had to watch a lot of crap before you got to the good ones. I decided that my time was better spent raising money for the film festival and let the screening committee do what they do best.”
While he may be the face of the festival, Schweiss gives credit for the event’s success to his small staff, the board of directors and the hundreds of volunteers who help year in and year out. But he also praised the lodging and hospitality community as well.
“I get hundreds of emails after each festival from the filmmakers thanking me for everything from the VIP room to the audiences and how well they were treated by our staff,” he said. “That feedback helps me as we prepare for the next year.
“I’d like to take all the credit but it’s our community that deserves the credit — the hotels and restaurants that donate rooms and food for the filmmakers. It’s all donated because they know how important the festival is and how much of an economic impact it has on the area.”
So where does the festival go from here? Schweiss said despite the generosity of the hospitality community, the festival can’t be extended to any additional days. And with the use of Harkins Theaters, the Mary D. Fisher Theatre and the Sedona Performing Arts Center, they are tapped out in terms of available venues. Instead, Schweiss said he’d like to see every film sold out with a possibility of expanding in other ways.
“Our way of growing would be to make it year round by adding smaller festivals that are only three or four days focusing on maybe documentaries or short films,” he said.