THE QUESTIONS -June 2013
photography by: Jim Powers
How did you first get to Nantucket? Tell us your story.
I came to Nantucket with a college boyfriend whose family has a house on the island. I’m from the Rocky Mountains and I can’t remember if I had even heard of Nantucket prior to coming. I certainly had never laid eyes on anything as geographically spectacular. I was awestruck and immediately began hatching a plan that would have me move to Nantucket year-round after college. That didn’t pan out but it was only a few years later that I heard the words “Nantucket” and “Film Festival” and I figured I had struck gold.
What exactly does being artistic director of the Nantucket Film Festi- val entail? Tell us what you do.
I was the NFF artistic director for 12 years which meant I was responsible for the overall creative direction of the festival including films, signature programs, education, jury, etc. In September I became the festival director which means I am responsible for ship-steering, including board development, fundraising, financial accounting, sponsorship, new program initiatives, core-staff hiring, venue-booking, marketing and PR. The truth is, we have an incredibly strong staff. They are the “best-of” in the festival world, they move mountains daily and are not afraid of hard work.
Do you travel to other film festivals throughout the year? Where do you go? And what is the Sundance ex- perience like?
Yes, thank god! We go to Sundance, Toronto, the New York Film Festival, Tribeca and in good years Berlin and SXSW (South by Southwest).
Sundance is both exhilarating and exhausting. Few things are more satisfying than sit- ting in a dark room, being part of the first hundred people discovering a film you know instinctually will get an Oscar a year later. But I’m there for work, the hours are long and after five days of five films a day, the story lines from the various movies start to meld and I’m never sure if my psyche can process much more. Boo-hoo, I know, complaining about film-watching for a living doesn’t seem right.
How does the festival choose films? What’s the process?
It’s not a science. Each year, the trajectory is a little different. Our screening committee looks at each film submitted and they pass along the strong ones to our programming team. We cull from the various film festivals mentioned above, we reach out to past NFF filmmakers, we go to screenings, we spend months hounding the studios. Then it’s the whole gestalt when considering a film for the program: Is this a film for our audience? Does it fit with the other films programmed? Can the filmmaker attend? Have we ever screened a film like this before? What format is it on?
How did you get started in your current career?
First, tossing garbage at the Telluride Film Festival (I’d recommend it to anyone). Then, in the fall of 1996, I heard a report from someone who had just come from the first Nantucket Film Festival and said it was fantastic. I called the next day to ask if I could intern. It was a fun, spirited crew and nobody really knew what they were doing (sorry, Jill and Jonathan Burkhart) but they were doing a great job plowing through as if they did. After about four months as an intern I was asked what I really wanted to be doing. I said, “selecting movies with Jill.” They said, “OK, get started.” I wish the acceleration rate could be as fast for our interns today.
What’s your favorite aspect of the festival?
There are many favorites: Appreciative film-makers, finding that gem of a movie, lively Q&As and of course the magic when an au- dience falls in love with a film or an event we’ve been working on for six months. Probably the most satisfying aspect of running a film festival is when we program a film that is a call to action and engages audiences to think and perhaps act to improve our society.
Tell us some of your favorite films from festivals past. How about this year? What are the must-see films?
The Full Monty, Gadjo Dilo, Run Lola Run, Girlfight, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Whale Rider, Riding Giants, Murderball, The Devil Came on Horseback, The Cove, Bill Cun- ningham New York, Summer Pastures, Winter’s Bone, Buck, Searching For Sugarman, The Intouchables.
Must see for 2013: I’d like to recommend 47 films but I’ll just name a few. Blackfish, Blood Brother, Short Game, In a World and Twenty Feet From Stardom.
When you’re not working, where do like to visit and what do you like to do to get away from it all?
I’ll take nature anywhere I can get it. Between having a young child and a demanding work schedule, my more adventurous travel days are a memory (and a future wish) so I take my travel pleasure anywhere I can get it.
What do I do to get away from it all? I walk three miles to and from work. I love checking out life in my neighborhood and getting some breathing space between the backlog of e-mails.
If you could invite six people from the film industry, living or gone, to dinner, who would you invite and why?
I’d like to meet Marilyn and Brando just out of perverse curiosity, but I’m not sure they would be the most fun dinner guests. This group sounds like my kind of dinner party: Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Federico Fellini, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
What’s your favorite thing about Nantucket?
No billboards. No malls. Black night skies.