Let's get one thing clear right at the start. Allen Ebert, Wisconsin Film Festival organizer, is no relation to film critic Roger Ebert.
"Maybe way back," he laughs. "It would be a great story if that were the case. I get that a lot."
Ebert is one of only two paid Wisconsin Film Festival employees; the other is director Meg Hamel. He accepted the new position of operations director last year.
The 2010 Film Fest, which runs April 14-18, offers other changes as well.
While ticket prices remain the same, the overall $340,000 budget is up slightly from last year. Also, a major sponsor, Sony, has returned after taking 2009 off due to the bad economy.
Last year there was just one high-definition venue, at the UW Memorial Union. This year the UW's Chazen Museum of Art will also feature high def.
Renting that special equipment is expensive, but it's amortized across fewer venues, saving the festival on rent. The event will take place at only eight venues instead of 10, but it's also added a day.
"The number of screenings has remained the same," says Ebert, who formerly served as executive director of the La Crosse Community Theatre. He received his undergraduate degree in theater at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and previously worked with Children's Theater of Madison.
Ebert served in Italy as entertainment director of Soldiers' Theatre, a U.S. Army community group. He has an eclectic résumé, having produced welcome-home performances for Iraq war veterans with stars as disparate as Joan Jett and the Washington Redskin Cheerleaders.
At the Film Fest, Ebert has the more humdrum administration duties common to any arts nonprofit.
"A lot of my job is securing venues, working on contracts, accounts payable and receivable, fundraising, and just assisting on the programming side," he says.
Ebert says the festival is a good professional match for him, given his background in event planning. "Film is kind of a relative of theater. There are a lot of similarities." Plus, there are benefits.
"I do get to meet some pretty amazing artists and filmmakers," he says.
"The arts are very important to any community. Being able to bring that to people and improve the quality of life, lift the morale and make people think - I think it's wonderful."