Interview: Philadelphia Film And Music Festival co-founder Joseph Lekkas
Are you ready for more live musical performances and film screenings than any human being could ever hope attend in a four-day span? You’d better be. Tonight is the launch of the Philadelphia Film And Music Festival—and, through Sunday night, the city will host over 300 bands and 55 film screenings in more than 30 venues. Once you’ve caught your breath, make sure to give one-third of your gratitude to Joseph Lekkas, who co-founded the festival with Isaac Friese and Joanna Marmon. Over a recent series of emails, Lekkas—who also co-owns Surreal Sound Studios in Kensington and owns Village Green Productions booking agency—spoke with The Key about the festival’s first year, his definition of success, and sleeping on a pillow made of Excel spreadsheets.
The Key: Who thought of the idea for Philly F/M? Did you have a specific vision in mind?
Joseph Lekkas: I go down to SXSW every year and really love the energy of that particular festival. In past years, when I’d go, I would stay with Isaac Friese—a friend of a friend, and an Austin native since high school. He had been going to SXSW for many years and saw it build from a small, almost local, music festival to the huge event it has become. A year ago, he decided to make the move to Philadelphia for a change of scenery. He suggested we try for something like SXSW here, and I initially didn’t think it was possible on many levels. The more it sunk in, though, the more I thought, “This may actually be something that could work.” So, we got to work in December of last year, hashing out details, reserving venues, reaching out to bands and sponsors. It has been a wild ride, to say the least, but when we hear someone say “Thanks for doing this, Philly could use something like this.” It makes us very happy. I don’t think we did too bad for a first-year showing.
TK: Why did you decide to include film as well?
JL: For variety. I’ve always been a big fan of film, and SXSW has interactive film and music portioned over a nine-day period. Instead of segregating them, we decided to have the movies and music happen concurrently. We also decided to keep the films focused on music documentaries and movies that have some connection to music. The live scoring of Attack Of The Giant Leeches by local collective Agent Moosehead, to me, is a perfect merging of both mediums. Doug Sakmann and Isaac Williams, the movie programmers, have done an excellent job with the films.
TK: Do you feel that the local music scene has flourished in the last several years?
JL: I have been a musician in Philadelphia for about 20 years. I have also booked shows here for about 10. The amount of awesome bands just keeps growing. The venues are much better as well. More and more artists are getting national and worldwide attention. Any part I could have in casting a brighter spotlight on Philadelphia music would be my pleasure.
TK: When the festival ends, what’s the picture of success look like for you?
JL: Success would be a much larger festival next year and the years following. The Philadelphia audiences are getting bigger and the bands are getting better. I’d love for Philadelphia F/M to be a destination festival for not only music fans, but the industry as well. I’d also love to show off more of the awesome performance spaces we have here in Philly.
TK: What are the one or two things that have kept you up at night?
JL: Excel spreadsheets have become my pillows! I guess, aside from that, it’s dealing with so many moving parts and personalities and trying to keep everyone happy. Venue owners, volunteers, bands, managers, and sponsors—the list goes on. It really is a lot for three people and one intern to handle. But I have made my bed and intend to lie in it, even for a couple hours of sleep a night.