The Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which kicks off Wednesday, is treating 4,000 underprivileged fifth and sixth grade students to a screening of the acclaimed Pixar film Inside Out, followed by a Q&A with one of the filmmakers.
Not only does SBIFF provide free transportation for the students, but it also offers key necessities for watching a movie – refreshments and popcorn.
It’s all part of the festival’s growing community outreach initiatives.
“It makes everything fulfilling,” SBIFF director Roger Durling tells PEOPLE exclusively. “That’s the reason why we do what we do. I just think that everybody should be entitled to be exposed to the arts and especially film. I love the fact that we’re able to make it accessible to everybody.”
Durling points out that for many, a day at the movies is beyond the budget.
“Film is something that most families cannot afford,” he says. “When you think about it, the prices this day in age and the outing of popcorn and refreshments, it’s a big commitment, a big expense.”
Because giving back to the community is “the most essential thing that the festival has to do,” Durling explains just how they meet the needs of the community.
Enter: “Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies.”
Founded by Mike DeGruy, a cinematographer and good friend of Durling, “Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies” aims to expose students to films and filmmaking.
“The program has been growing. It just keeps getting bigger every year,” says Durling. “Before, we had to try to convince the talent and filmmakers to come in and help us out. Ever since that year of James Cameron, now the studios hear about the program and are always asking.”
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Other community outreach programs that SBIFF offer include AppleBox, the Student Film Studies Program, and the 10-10-10 Student Screenwriting and Filmmaking Competition.
“The opportunities are indeed endless for how we can impact students, adults and senior citizens and all the different programs we can do,” explains Durling.