Murray returns to helm of Film Festival in its 25th year

By : Steve Blanchard
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Describing Margaret Murray as the “new” executive director of the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival isn’t exactly right. But she has stepped into the role for the 2014 season—TIGLFF’s 25th anniversary.

Murray, who was raised in St. Petersburg, returns to the post after serving as executive director in the early 2000s.

“I was executive director in 1999-2001 and served as program director in 2007-2009,” she said, adding that she’s not good at remembering the exact dates of her previous positions. “I was also the executive director of the film festival in D.C.”

So Murray isn’t lacking in film experience, and she added that she remembers going to TIGLFF back when there were protestors, negative media coverage and a lot of drama associated with being part of the LGBT community.

Things have changed a lot over the two-plus decades of that film’s premiere. More political leaders participate in the festival than ever before, and some of those elected officials are even part of the LGBT community.

“The political and social landscape has definitely improved,” Murray said. “But there is still such a need for events like TIGLFF. Surprisingly, the younger generation wants a separate outlet, despite LGBT issues mainstreaming.

“The political and social landscape has definitely improved,” Murray said. “But there is still such a need for events like TIGLFF. Surprisingly, the younger generation wants a separate outlet, despite LGBT issues mainstreaming. Festivals like ours are an accepting environment and kids can come and not be ashamed for who they are or for wanting to see films about their own community.”

To reach out to a larger youth contingent in 2014, the festival will give free access to anyone under the age of 18, as long as the film is age-appropriate, Murray said. She said the idea is to bring a new generation of film lovers into the TIGLFF fold, and help secure its future.

“Of course, we want this year to be successful,” Murray explained. “But I want to plant the seeds to ensure TIGLFF has another wonderful 25 years. We want to make a strong foundation.”

Enticing youth to enjoy the festival is one way. Another way is to boost the festival’s bottom line.

The board has approved a special fundraising campaign this year, encouraging 1,000 people to donate $25, either through the website or in person. The $25, of course, is symbolic of the 25th anniversary of the festival, which will again reach across both sides of Tampa Bay in October.

“The Tampa Theatre is our home again this year, and it looks like we’ll show some films at freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg as well,” Murray said. “We’ve shown some of our monthly film series there and the experience has been wonderful. It’s just such a perfect fit.”

Murray isn’t discounting the Muvico theater at the former Baywalk complex, soon to be reopened as Sundial. But with new management, Murray said it’s too early to know if that theater will come back on board.

“The LGBT community really shows us a lot of love during the festival in October,” Murray said. “The rest of the year it’s a little tough. One of my goals is to raise our visibility throughout the rest of the year, which I think we can do.”

Since she’s stepping back into the role of executive director 21 years later after her first tenure, Murray was quick to offer her thoughts on what it was like running a successful festival back in the early 1990s.

“I remember waking up the morning after and walking into the living room thinking, ‘I’m changed forever,'” she said. “I was never the same again. This is what I love to do and I had such a sense of accomplishment. I had people coming up and thanking me for bringing them on this journey. It opens minds. It builds community. It’s an amazing feeling.”

This year expect a few surprises to celebrate 25 years of TIGLFF. Murray anticipates a street party on opening night, complete with wet zones for anyone wanting an adult beverage before or after films. She also hopes to attract film talent as well as a larger portion of Tampa’s straight, allied community.

“This is a party for the city,” she said. “Yes, we’re a gay and lesbian film festival, but Tampa as a whole should be proud of what this festival does.”

The 25th Annual TIGLFF will be Oct. 3-11.
For more information on the festival, and for a schedule of monthly screenings, visit TIGLFF.com.

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