In the past 10 months, there has been a steady rise of sibling rivalry at the Peacher-Spooner household. Charleston International Film Festival (CIFF) co-founders Brian Peacher and wife Summer Spooner Peacher see the event as their spiritual child -- they birthed it, cuddled it, nurtured and cooed over it for the last four years, but with the birth of their first natural child, Addison Skye, 10 months ago, the family dynamic has shifted.
“The festival is my child,” Summer laughs, “but now I have a real baby, and sometimes they have to fight for my attention. Addison will be playing, and I’ll be on the computer
and very, very focused. I’ll look over at her in her crib by herself and think, ‘Oh, poor baby, she’s being totally neglected.'”
“I’ll walk in and say, ‘I really think you need to be with the baby right now,’” chuckles Brian.
“Right, and I’m like, ‘I am with my baby right now,’” Summer counters.
The truth of the matter is the Peacher-Spooners are tremendously proud of both of their children, and well they should be.
As a non-profit organization, the Charleston International Film Festival has gone from a fragile babe-in-arms to an ambulatory, thriving artistic entity. After playing nursemaid to successful events like the Beverly Hills Film Festival, the Peacher-Spooners hit upon the notion of returning to Brian’s home turf to hatch up something they could call their own.
“I think people had some reservations about a film festival actually working in Charleston,” says Brian. “I think we’ve proven it works. Every year, monetarily, it’s a challenge, but this year we’ve seen more people reaching out to us rather than us having to go looking for them. The first year, we were really hitting the ground hard and running, knocking on doors and making phone calls. It may still be a tough job, but I think we’ve passed some of the biggest challenges and the biggest turning points.”
Now in its fourth year, CIFF has gone from an event entirely compacted into downtown Charleston’s American Theatre to expanding into Cinebarre’s Mount Pleasant location with a special screening at the Hippodrome Widescreen Cinema.
“We’ve kind of grown as we’ve established ourselves,” says Summer. “The first three years, we showed somewhere between 40-50 feature films, including shorts and documentaries. This year, we’ve added a few music videos, and we’ve gone from four days to five days and from 40-50 films to 80-plus films.”
CIFF’s ability to thrive is impressive, but Summer is wary of the health risks in growing too quickly. “We’ve gone from one theatre to three, and we hope to continue to grow, but I’m not a big believer in overextending yourself before you’re ready.”
In addition to expanded venues and greater variety in programming, CIFF will also be offering a wide spectrum of free panel discussions, workshops, and competitions. “It's important to us that we offer free panels and workshops,” says Summer. “I’ve had experience with other festivals that charge for those things and, having been a filmmaker myself, I know they don’t have a lot of money, or that money is all invested in their project. It’s nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, these are free of charge, believe it or not!’”
Opening night is Wednesday, May 18th, at the American Theater, and features the premiere of Tom Hine's alleged, followed by an after-party at Chai's. Beyond that, attendees can look forward to the highly touted premiere screenings of American Jihadist (Sunday, May 22nd at 3:00 p.m.) and The Price of Sex: An Investigation into Sex Trafficking (Sunday, May 22nd - 3:15 p.m.), with a least one secret and exclusive screening sure to give CIFF a leg up on the other festivals this season. As a late entry, the Cinebarre will screen the fabulously colorized version of Richard Elfman's cult-classic, Forbidden Zone (Thursday, May 19th - 11p.m.), featuring Danny Elfman and the original Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. The film will be preceded by a party, Richard will present a wild little musical surprise before the screening, then a post-screening Q&A--and more after-party!
Famous as much for its groundbreaking film works as its after-parties, CIFF is sure not to disappoint with event sponsors like local Palmetto Brewery, wines by Big Red Monster and Blonde Bombshell, along with Stoli Vodka, Hendricks Gin, Milagro Tequila, and Sailor Jerry Rum ensuring attendees' cups runneth over…and over.
As for the Peacher-Spooners, they couldn’t be more proud of both their offspring. The elder will be running Wednesday, May 18th to Sunday, May 22nd. The younger will be in bed by 5:00 p.m.