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The Santa Barbara International Film Festival takes place during an 11-day period, with a line-up that includes both world premieres and domestic US premieres. It was first established in 1985 with the intention to showcase independent films, both domestic and foreign.
With its' timing and close proximity to the Los Angeles area, the festival forms part of a string of entertainment-related events known as awards season. The festival's choice of films and artists is said to have a knack for predicting those who are favorited to win in the upcoming Academy Awards .
A distinguished feature of the festival is the 10-10-10 competition that involves an open invitation for high-school and college students in the Santa Barbara area to submit writing or film-making samples for selection in a short-film competition. 10 selected writers are matched with 10 selected filmmakers to shoot and edit a 10-minute short film, which must be made and completed during the 10 days of the festival. The films are screened and the winners announced on the festival's closing night.
An awards ceremony taking place on the last night of the film fest includes the Virtuoso award, honoring the actors and actresses with the most distinguished breakout performances of the past year. The award with the highest honor is the Modern Master award, which every year honors a different individual whose multifaceted accomplishments in the motion picture industry are thought to have greatly contributed to enriching the culture of film-making.