Behind the Scenes
Greg Sorvig Is Living His Dream As Director of Film Programming for Heartland International Film Festival
Photographer / Michael Durr
Greg Sorvig lived in 10 different states before his family moved to Indiana when he was a high school senior.
“I had no intention of staying here,” says Sorvig, though he admits that he found one wonderful thing while residing in Avon — his future bride Rachel.
“The girl I took to prom later became my wife,” he says. They’ve been married for 11 years and have two daughters, Leona and Elise, as well as a wiener-dog named Tootsie.
Before he became a husband and father, however, Sorvig studied Communication & Culture (with a focus in Film Studies) at Indiana University. A fan of movies since he was a boy, Sorvig hoped to one day carve out a career in the film industry. He just didn’t know quite what that would look like.
“In college, I wrote an atrocious coming-of-age screenplay,” says Sorvig, who completed two summer internships with Walt Disney World in Orlando. Both experiences sharpened his interpersonal communication skills.
In the years to follow, Sorvig delved into a number of jobs, including graphic design, website development and marketing. Then in 2011, he started working with the Heartland Film Festival, reviewing movies and doing marketing before becoming the Director of Film Programming for Heartland Film and its Academy Award-qualifying Indy Shorts International Film Festival.
“I think many people picture me with my legs propped up, kicked back, watching movies,” Sorvig says. “They forget I lead a nonprofit, as well.”
And that’s no small feat. He’s in charge of studio relationships, picking out what they show and what they market.
“The heart of Heartland is the films and these relationships so I’m definitely busy making calls, meetings and providing organizational guidance,” Sorvig says.
When deciding on which films to premiere he studies the artistic quality of the film, including its story, technical aspects and how it will resonate with audiences. He considers what audiences expect or hope to see, which includes those films with predictable endings, but he also balances those out with movies that are progressive in content. Even if some films have that “love it or hate it” quality, he likes it when people say, “You know what? I didn’t like it, but I understand why it’s here.”
Much like an extensive menu selection at a restaurant, Sorvig provides something for everyone at Heartland, which typically attracts around 20,000 people.
“Film is such a change agent,” Sorvig says. “It broadens people’s horizons to other topics and cultures.”
According to Sorvig, this year Heartland received 3,100 short films from more than 98 countries to review, which is a record number. The review committee whittled that number down to 152 films, less than 5%.
“Getting Oscar accolades and nominations is like finding multiple needles in global haystacks,” Sorvig says. Yet, since 2011, seven short films programmed at Heartland have gone on to win Academy Awards® with a total of 19 nominations.
“We used to be ancillary, but we’ve spread our wings,” says Sorvig, who has had the opportunity to serve as a panelist at different film festivals. This past December, he was one of the 30 grant panelists for the National Endowment for the Arts where he encouraged funding for media arts programs across the country.
Though he always wanted to be a screenwriter or filmmaker, Sorvig says he found a dream he didn’t know existed and feels custom-made to do it.
“Serendipitously, this career path found me, and I’m so glad it did,” says Sorvig, who though he once swore he’d never stay in the Midwest is so glad he chose to settle in Carmel, a town that embraces the arts.
Sorvig encourages locals to attend the Heartland International Film Festival to see what it’s all about.
“If you don’t go, you don’t know,” he says. “Come dip your toe in the water. Hopefully, once you experience it, you’ll love it enough to jump into the pool with us.”
For one thing, there’s the chance to rub elbows with some stars.
“If you want to feel like you are part of the film industry on an intimate yet casual level, where you can actually meet and interact with people, the Heartland Film Festival is a great one to attend,” Sorvig adds. “At Sundance, Toronto and these huge festivals, you might be lucky to catch a glimpse of somebody on stage. Here stars partake in panels with Q&A sessions.”
In fact, Sorvig has moderated many of those Q&A sessions, having shared a stage with a bunch of showbiz Robs — Rob Reiner, Robert DeNiro, Robert Downey Jr. — “The Avengers” star graciously tweeted about the Heartland Film Festival.
“He didn’t need to do that, but those are the connections that are made here,” Sorvig says. “It all comes down to our Hoosier hospitality. We have a great reputation for treating people right.”
The 2019 Heartland International Film Festival will be held October 10-20. For more information, visit heartlandfilm.org.