Colette Thomas is the film liaison for the Sonoma County Film Office, a referral office to the film community that assists with questions regarding locations, and permits and other film-related information. Interview conducted by Tanya Ruys.
Q: How many film festivals are currently active in Sonoma County this year?
Thomas: The Sonoma County Film Office website has seven film festivals listed. I do have a feeling that there are a few more that are small and have not contacted me to put them on the website. The Petaluma SRJC campus has a film festival.
Q: What is the process for obtaining a permit to conduct a film festival in Sonoma County?
Thomas: I do not know the process for obtaining a permit to conduct a film festival in Sonoma County. However, I spoke to a friend who is involved with the Jewish Film Festival and she stated that you do not need to have a permit, you just need to have a contract with the theater that will be used for the festival and one must have insurance.
Q. Is this same process necessary to obtain permission to film in the area?
Thomas: I can only speak to the process of permitting filming activity in the County of Sonoma. To permit for filming in the County one must obtain a permit from the jurisdiction in which they plan on shooting the film or several jurisdictions depending on the extent of the filming agenda. Each city and the unincorporated areas of the County have different requirements and costs to complete the process of permitting to film.
Q: How do film festivals contribute to the local economy, if at all??
Thomas: Film festivals contribute a lot to the local economy. They bring visitors into the community and that has a direct contribution to tourism in the County as well as the film industry. Restaurants and hotels benefit greatly from tourism. Film festivals can be educational as well as being entertaining. Film is an amazing form of art which encompasses many forms of creative sectors such as music, writing, craft, photography, talent, just to name a few and very importantly it provides employment.
Q: How many people traditionally attend this festival, locally and from out of town?
Thomas: I am sure that the audience is varied and connecting directly with the coordinators they could provide you with an attendance figure. I have attended a few film festivals and they are definitely popular as well as well attended.
Q: Sonoma County has a rich history in the film industry. Do you have any stories, anecdotes, memories or factual tidbits to share with us?
Thomas: The film industry is a unique form of art and demands a flexible spirit. I was once an extra in a film. When the film was advertised as “now showing” I excitedly went to the theater to see myself on the wide screen. I waited…and I waited…the film ended…mmm. I was a little disappointed maybe one could say hugely disappointed. I now laugh about it as they changed the whole story around the filming and cut what we and many others spent three days doing. All in all, a good experience.
For more information on the Sonoma County Film Office: