Craig Oliver discusses his showcase

by Isabella Place

San Diego State’s Television, Film and New Media department is once again credited with yet another triumphant scholar. Now an alumnus, Craig Oliver was a student in the TFM department from 2004 to 2008, during which his coursework helped propel a fantastic film project he has happening in San Diego.

The Daily Aztec: What is the Citizenfest Local Film Showcase, what’s unique about it and how long has it been around?
Craig Oliver: Citizenfest began while I was working at Citizen Video, a now-defunct boutique video store that resided in the heart of South Park for four years, between March 2006 and March 2010.

Between the store and my attending the SDSU film department, I began meeting a lot of local filmmakers, and since we’d already begun hosting events across the street at the Whistle Stop (where I now work), it just made sense to try and put together a showcase of local filmmaking talent. For the first four or five years, it was pretty sporadic, maybe once or twice a year, but as of this summer, it’s now a monthly showcase for students and non-students alike. It works well because of the quaint bar setting, giving folks a chance to loosen up and meet with other filmmakers.

DA: What is your role in the production of this project?
CO: I gather the films every month from friends and friends of friends and getting the word out, and I’m also in charge of producing and promoting the night.

DA: Is there a particular audience you aim to attract with your film genre selection?
CO: The nice thing about Citizenfest is that it’s open to anyone who’s of age to attend the night. There are plenty of passive film watchers in the community who find themselves wrapped up in seeing the works of local filmmakers, and above everything, it’s an opportunity to let everyone know that there’s plenty going on in the San Diego film world.

DA: What inspired you to start this venture?
CO: Meeting more and more people, basically, who didn’t have an easy avenue to showcase their work.  I wanted to create something that was fun and loose but still respectful of the film-viewing experience.
DA: How long do you plan on carrying it through?
CO: As long as I can. It’s becoming easier now for folks to film their projects, and more people seem to be trying their hand at filmmaking, so as long as folks are making films, I’d like to show them.

DA: Would you or have you extended this idea to other venues or cities?
CO: I don’t think so, considering it all revolves around San Diego.  Even if I took the best of the films from this city, I’m not sure how much interest there would be anywhere else.

DA: What’s next in store for the showcase?
CO: The next showcase is Thursday, Nov. 10.  I have the second Thursday of every month locked down, and it can be a scramble finding enough to show, but I know enough people at this point that I always end up with enough good stuff to show.

DA: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
CO: Remember that there doesn’t always have to be the pressure of producing some high production-value short film in order to try and get it into a film fest, and that there are always people around who are willing to help.  I’m always looking for submissions, so feel free to write me at for queries.

I’d like to thank my former boss from Citizen Video, Holly Jones, and my current boss, Sam Chammas, for allowing me the opportunity to focus on local filmmakers and give them an avenue for showcasing their work, and to all the filmmakers who’ve ever participated, along with all future filmmakers willing to brave drunken crowds in order to show their work.