Steven Savage, founder of the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
The Idyllwild 2014 International Festival of Cinema will open Jan. 7, 2014, and continue for four more days until the Awards Ceremony, the evening of Saturday, Jan. 11, under the festival’s founder.

Steve Savage will reprise his role until a new chair is found to replace Phil Calderone whose time is focused on the Rustic Theatre as its new owner. But he remains committed to being involved, Savage quickly stressed.

“Without Phil, it would have been a tough challenge. He’s been there for us,” said Savage. “He did a lot and I have to pick up and start taking lessons from him. Phil and Barbara [Calderone’s wife] will be missed, but I want Phil to be a big success.”

Some of the changes Savage discussed last week include designating the first day, Tuesday, Jan. 7, as Idyllwild Locals and Merchants Appreciation Day. Locals and merchants will be admitted free to all screenings that day only.

“We’ll open the theater doors and show the movies for free with proof of Idyllwild residence,” Savage said. We really want all the town’s merchants more involved. “The innkeepers have been phenomenal; they’ve been incredible,” he added.

As part of the emphasis on the town, Savage is considering another format change. “Perhaps we should take a full, one-and-half break midday,” he suggested. “It would be the Idyllwild shopping tour — time for lunch and to let visitors walk around and look at the shops.”

Another idea being considered is more festival evening parties. The two this year at Jo’An’s were very successful for filmmakers to network and Savage would like to enhance these opportunities. But that also means, he said, that filmmakers will need to make commitments to attend the festival and promote it among their contacts.

“Last year, ‘Red, White, Black and Blue’ brought two busloads of kids to town to see its screening,” Savage said.

Inner City Education Foundation rugby program founder Stuart Krohn brought his team and community members to Idyllwild. Two busloads of South Los Angeles high school rugby players, alums, parents and friends, more than 100 in all, made the trek to Idyllwild for the film’s premiere, a move that captured Best Full Length Documentary.

“It’s about lighting fires for new filmmakers and giving them a voice,” Savage said. “If you do, they’ll respond.”

In 2014, the official opening night will be Wednesday, Jan. 8. While reviewing the films has not begun, Savage plans to accept fewer films this year, about 75 compared to nearly 100 for Idyllwild 2013.

“With the number of venues, that was too many,” Savage said. “The better films deserve three screenings and every film should play once at the theater.” He intends to continue the relationship with AstroCamp, “People loved that venue,” Savage said.

But, he is looking for another venue to show the films. This year the Caine Learning Center will be limited to seminars and workshops.

Savage does plan to continue using local volunteers to introduce and discuss each film’s screening. “I was really impressed by how well they learned about the movies, led the presentations and ran the question-and-answer sessions,” Savage noted.

Each year, Savage has listened to feedback and attempted to make improvements for the following year. Idyllwild 2014 will be the first film festival. “Most film fests don’t get past three years,” Savage said. Part of the festival’s success he attributes to its location here.

“Idyllwild is a unique little place. Some of us forget that, but when people come for the festival it’s phenomenal. For example, Phil or Scott Foster wouldn’t live here without the film fest,” Savage said proudly.

“Everybody said it would never happen in Idyllwild,” Savage continued. “But every film has an audience. It’s just about meeting people, and attendees do. That’s why the opening night party is so good.”