GULFPORT -- The Sun & Sand Film Festival, now in its fourth year, has been screening films since Friday at the Cinemark 16 theater on U.S. 49 in Gulfport and promoters said the turnout has been encouraging.
"This year's attendance started out a bit slow," said organizer Bobby Benton of Red Planet Entertainment, "but it's been building, and we think that it will finish strong. People are just starting to find out that we are here. We're starting to see it pick up. We're happy about that."
The festival runs through Saturday, and several filmmakers Tuesday attended the festival to introduce their films and to answer audience questions.
New Zealanders Peter Hansen and Sam Trafford brought their feature film "The Almosts" to Gulfport for a special screening.
"We have it showing here and in San Francisco," Hansen said. "We're very excited to be in the States. The Mississippi Gulf Coast has been amazing. It has a lot of character and charm."
Director West Hansen premiered his documentary "Peeled Face on the Amazon," a first-person account of an expedition he led down the Amazon River. West, a Texas native, praised the festival and the Coast.
"This is a really good festival," he said. "I'm surprised at how beautiful the beaches are here and also how much forest there is here. You have the best of both. In Texas, we don't have anything like the beaches you have here. They are absolutely gorgeous. I will definitely be back again."
Bobby Benton and his brother Wes Benton started the festival as a way to attract more filmmakers to Mississippi, especially the Coast.
"This festival is very good for the Coast's economy," area real estate professional Mark Cumbest said. "It puts a lot of people in hotel rooms and restaurants. I'm a site selector. I come here and meet with the filmmakers and see if they need a site for filming, be it residential, commercial, outdoors or industrial. We have so many sites down here that have never been seen in movies and TV before. The film and TV industry is definitely starting to pick up on the Coast because of the tax incentive.
"I think our biggest competition is Louisiana. I hope the legislature creates more tax incentives for the filmmakers."
Bobby Benton said there are still plenty of quality films to be seen before the festival ends Saturday night.