Published in the October 4 – 17, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life

As the new director of the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival, it’s my job to make sure this festival is no longer the best kept secret in South County.

PJIFF is coming to Morgan Hill and Gilroy, April 5 to 8. Some locals haven’t heard about it. Others have, but they may not recognize us at first. We’ve got a new logo, new venues, new programs, and new films being submitted by independent filmmakers from around the world.

Lots of people are asking about the festival, which gives me an opportunity to talk about the value of film and the benefits this festival will bring to the people of South County. Film is an art form that transcends the political, economic, and cultural boundaries that divide us as a society. There’s nothing like a great film to tap into those feelings we all share as human beings, to inspire us and to make us laugh or cry.

The mission of our film festival is to celebrate artistic achievement in film, promote emerging independent filmmakers, and create a space where they can learn from each other and connect with their audience. It’s a great way to educate local youth and adults about careers in film and digital arts. And, it will help make our region the next big movie production hub.

The Poppy Jasper festival was born in 2004 when film festivals were only found in big cities. The idea originated with founder William Leaman, who thought it would be a great way to raise money for the MHAT public TV station. It exceeded expectations. With a group of community members led by Kim Bush, the festival attracted more than 1,000 people in its first year.

For 2018, we’re taking the festival to a whole new level, with events in Morgan Hill and Gilroy, and joint promotional efforts by organizations in both cities. Between November and the festival next April, we’re offering events and programs for kids aged 4 to 14, high school and college students, and the 30 and older crowd, with opportunities to make a short film that will premiere at the film festival. Our first film and fundraising event is the latest Warren Miller ski/snowboard documentary, Line of Descent, which airs at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse on Nov. 2, 3, and 4.

The film festival got its start at the old Granada Theater. In 2018, the new Granada will host both the opening Gala and the awards ceremony. We are grateful to Frank Léal, our flagship sponsor, for donating this beautiful venue.   We’re also grateful to the The District and VIX who are donating our venues in Downtown Gilroy.

As a filmmaker, I see the opportunity and understand the benefits this film festival brings to our communities in terms of education and entertainment. PJIFF will bring the people into our downtowns, and it’s a powerful draw for local and regional tourism efforts, too.

We’ll engage a panel of jurors to review submitted films and select the finalists, who will be our guests at the festival. We believe “indie” filmmakers will be excited to visit and share their hopes and dreams with us — and maybe some will go on to win an Academy Award.

Mattie Scariot is a film industry professional and the co-owner of 152 West Productions. She volunteered with the Poppy Jasper Film Festival before assuming her new role as festival director. She has also served on the boards of CMAP and the Gilroy Arts Alliance Board of Directors, and as Chair of the Gilroy Arts and Culture Commission. Follow them on Facebook.

Marty Cheek