Craig Prater was the man the late Sonny Bono, then the mayor of Palm Springs, chose to head his new Palm Springs International Film Festival. Since those days, Craig has had an exciting career producing film festivals and events around the U.S., and the world. The Sun Runner recently caught up with Craig at the LA Greek Film Festival for a few words...
SR: When Sonny Bono picked you to head the new Palm Springs International Film Festival, did you ever think you’d be producing film festivals in the U.S. and abroad, all these years later?
CP: I never gave it a thought. My first remark to Sonny when he said he wanted to hire me was that I did not have a film background. He said that he didn’t want someone with a film background, that I had what he wanted....fundraising experience, community involvement and my administration abilities.
SR: What festivals and events have you managed since leaving PSIFF?
CP: The Festival of Festivals for Cathedral City; The Bangkok International Film Festival for Thailand; The Film Forecast for Big Bear Lake; The Museum of Tolerance Film Festival for the Simon Wiesenthal Center; The Conga Caliente Festival in Tampa; The Coachella Valley Latino Film Festival; The Latino Festival for the National Hispanic American Educational Foundation... I average two to three per year and most of these are start-up events.
Currently, I’m working on new events for Acapulco, Belgrade, and Palma del Mallorca, Spain.
SR: How did running the PSIFF help prepare you for the festivals you’ve managed since then?
CP: Palm Springs gave me the basics. It’s so dramatically different with each festival. In Palm Springs as most US film festivals, you have to go to great lengths to raise the money. Money is always an issue.
With foreign governments, financing comes from some department or departments within the government. It makes a big difference.Palm Springs also taught me the basics with film programming, scheduling, juggling events and the importance of volunteers.
SR: You just finished as executive director of the sixth annual LA Greek Film Festival, a fantastic smaller festival. What were the high points of that festival for you? What was it like working with Greeks and Greek Americans on a cultural project like this?
CP: The high points? Easy answer. The volunteers are a seriously committed group of people. They worked hours beyond belief. They were willing to do anything.I watched petite young ladies loading trucks.
I watched volunteers ranging in ages from very young to older seniors. They never stopped. It is basically a volunteer organization. They are committed beyond belief.
Working for the Greeks? After doing so many different film festivals with so many different cultures, people are people. I’ve yet to find a group of people or a country that I don’t like.As for the Greeks as a group in their support of the arts, I have to say that they go to the top of the list.
As we all know, the economic crisis in Greece is sad. And although we lost a large amount of funding this year, the money kept coming from the Greeks.Unlike the USA who chooses to cancel funding to the arts and education when times get rough, the Greeks don’t. The arts are a top priority.
Another example of this is the fact that we had the filmmakers from all the films in attendance. Did our film festival pay for their trips? No. The filmmakers funded their own airline tickets and the Greek community in Los Angeles opened their homes to give them a wonderful, welcome home to stay while they were here. In my opinion, this is where the Greeks shine!
SR: What are your plans for the future?
CP: Right now I’m finishing up details with the staff/volunteers of the Greek Film Festival. Then I’m working on new festivals in Mexico, Spain and Serbia and locally (USA), as well as continued work with the Latino community.
Photo: top left: Craig Prater, executive director of the LAGFF.Top right: Greek Consul General Elisabeth Fotiadou during the Orpheus Awards held at her home. The hospitality of the Consul General and her husband Dr. Vasilios Berdoukas was central to the success of the awards ceremony and banquet.