A Film Festival BY Filmmakers FOR Filmmakers
The mission of The Central Florida Film Festival is to entertain, educate and expose Florida residents and audiences to the cultural importance of independent film as an art. CENFLO is about creating an environment for filmmakers to celebrate and enjoy each other's works, to have the opportunity to network across a fun-filled weekend and to interact with audience members who are seeing their work for the very first time. Through unique workshops and interactions, local residents can see first-hand how independent cinema is crafted and why it is so important to preserve.
From Humble Beginnings...
In 2005, veteran writer, director and producer Bob Cook and Brandon Arrington, the Artistic Director of the Osceola Center for the Arts decided that the time was right to create, produce and develop a new film festival for the Central Florida region. Right from the start, Bob and Brandon wanted to make sure that this new festival was a brand apart from others; a festival where filmmakers wouldn't wonder whether their film was even viewed or if a friend or local filmmaker had won Best Picture based on something other than merit. Through Bob's extensive experience and industry contacts he was able to develop a festival program that included screenings, seminars and workshops with the goal of helping the attending filmmakers better at their craft. After many months of development, The Central Florida Film Festival debuted in 2006 with a modest 24 films out of 33 submitted. While nine films were rejected that year, Bob Cook wanted to let the film makers know their work was given every chance and he wrote a detailed critique with a rejection notice. Having already made more than twenty films himself by that point, Bob was able to critique the films from objective experience and to offer suggestions to the filmmakers on how certain problems with their films could be solved for future directorial efforts.
...To an International Festival
It didn't take long for CENFLO to become a popular hub for attending filmmakers to meet and network along with local audiences being entertained with indie films that they otherwise would not get to enjoy. Despite only being a three day festival, the number of submissions began to grow from year to year and in 2008, CENFLO became a full-fledged international film festival when Robert Hackett of the United Kingdom became the first filmmaker from outside the U.S. to win the “Best Short” award for his film, 'Patience'. 2008 also marked the year CENFLO became a Florida State 501c-3 non-profit. All of this expansion meant that a new space was surely needed, and Bob soon found the answer by moving CENFLO to the West Orange Cinemas in Ocoee. Screening in a professional movie theater meant that CENFLO could now offer filmmakers the opportunity to see their films displayed to audiences as they were meant to be. More space also provided more room for the seminars and workshops that Bob led throughout the weekend. The fun, entertaining atmosphere provided over our annual festival weekend, coupled with the valuable networking opportunities for both veteran and aspiring filmmakers alike was among the reasons that CENFLO was named in the list of the “Top 25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” by Movie Maker Magazine.
The End of an Era
Despite the many years of taking CENFLO from an inspiring idea to a much loved international film festival, Bob still remained a filmmaker at heart. Wanting to spend more of his energy getting back to making movies on a full time basis, Bob felt that the time was approaching in 2016 to pass the stewardship of CENFLO on to a new generation. Knowing how important it was to ensure that CENFLO would continue to grow and develop as a premiere film festival infused with a new energy, Bob named regional actor/producer/director Brendon Rogers to succeed him as Executive Director. Bob had first met Brendon at CENFLO in 2015 when Brendon and his QiCo Films producing partner Sonny Dyon were attending the festival to support their short film 'Clarity', which went on to be the first short in CENFLO's then ten year history to win the Audience Choice Award. After spending more time with them the following year when Brendon and Sonny were back again with their second short, 'The Grove', Bob felt that he found the perfect team to pass the torch to. Their overall engaging energy, coupled with Brendon's extensive experience working with Orlando regional non-profit theaters made him Bob's choice to take the helm of CENFLO. While Bob had locked Brendon down as his successor at the end of 2016 and the two had worked on the transition plan throughout 2017, the official announcement of the change in stewardship was made at CENFLO's 2017 Awards Ceremony.
Into the Future
Now, in 2018, Executive Director Brendon Rogers, the new operations team and the board of directors have been dedicating themselves to expanding and building upon Bob's original vision of an international film festival that both attracts filmmakers from around the world and provides entertainment and education to the central Florida community in which it's based. Beginning in January, Brendon has shifted the landscape of CENFLO by moving the festival from Ocoee to Mount Dora, "The Festival City", and establishing our new venue as the recently completed $10 million Epic Theatres at Mount Dora w/ Epic XL. By anchoring CENFLO in a more centralized location, our festival is now located, truly, in the heart of Florida. In addition to preparing for our 13th annual festival, the CENFLO executive team is also developing a brand new Showcase Series (films that will screen outside of the regular festival and be comprised of a much narrower criteria), strong community outreach through fundraising for other non-profit locally-based organizations, the creation of workshops and master classes for aspiring filmmakers and a forthcoming screenwriting competition component that will be added to annual festival. These new programs will be announced as soon as we are ready to roll them out to the public. All of us at CENFLO are greatly looking forward to our festival's next chapter in the beautiful City of Mount Dora. As a film festival BY filmmakers FOR filmmakers, guests joining us from around the world and local audiences alike will be treated to a weekend of great films, fabulous entertainment and dazzling special appearances. See you at the movies!
See you at this year's event!