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Programmer Profile: Anna Feder at Boston Underground FF

Anna FederMy name: Anna “insert clever nickname here” Feder

My current festival: Boston Underground Film Festival

My title: Festival Director/ programmer

Other fests I've worked for: Northampton Independent Film Festival, Newport International Film Festival, Global Voices UN Film Festival. I am also the program director in the Visual and Media Arts department at Emerson College and serve on the board of Women in Film and Video of New England.

Movies that best represent my personal tastes: Juliet of the Spirits, Sante Sangre, Donnie Darko, Oldboy, Thirst, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Trust, Day of the Beast, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Opera, Secretary, Survive Style 5+, Wild at Heart, Hausu

When I'm not watching movies I like to: Sing karaoke, dance to new wave music, and travel to exotic destinations like Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, San Francisco, and Austin (to sit in darkened theaters and watch more movies). Also digging on schlock TV such as Weeds, Dexter, Big Love, True Blood, as well as Britcom The Mighty Boosh, IT Crowd, and The Mitchell and Webb Look.

A movie I recently programmed that I consider to be a great personal discovery: The Last American Freakshow was screened at BUFF 2009 where it had its American premiere. I have a special place in my heart for this doc about a real traveling freak show made by a British filmmaker who had a hard time finding a home for his film. Many festivals turned it down or suspiciously pulled out of planned screenings because they were uncomfortable with the unique way that disability is portrayed. Our audiences responded in a really thoughtful way and made Mr. Butchins feel like he’d finally found a home for his baby.

There are a host of filmmakers that we have built relationships with over the years, giving these folks an open invitation to submit: Steve Balderson, Bill Domonkos, Leah Meyerhoff, Patrick Smith, Ben Levin and Carey Burtt to name a few. We really cherish these relationships as they give our audience something to look forward to and the filmmakers a reliable outlet and audience for their work.

When filmmakers ask me "What's different about your film festival?" I say: We are committed to discovering films that aren’t likely to find traditional distribution for a variety of reasons. Often this is the case due to subject or the experimental nature of the form or just a lack of “marketability” on a large scale. Underground does not mean poor quality. These are well-made, competent films albeit not always polished and glossy. These are films that won’t be coming to a theater near you and BUFF is likely the only time they’ll be shown on a big screen in the Northeast. We also try to create events around the festival with live music and other performance (belly dance, burlesque, wrestling women, singing transvestite nuns). We really prioritize the festivity at our festival.

Our festival audience has come to expect: An array of films from all genres that push the boundaries in form and/or content that they wouldn’t be able to see otherwise, at least not on the big screen with a large raucous but intelligent audience. Also, tons of parties with approachable filmmakers, mind-blowing entertainment and free booze!

We program the following categories of films: We show everything but generic romantic comedy and family friendly fare. We favor hybrids such as dark comedy, experimental narrative, experimental doc, and musical kung-fu horror. We love ‘em all! We like films that make us laugh, make us cry, make us think, dazzle us with visuals and often make us cringe!

A recent trend I have noticed in submissions of which I approve: I love that filmmakers are starting to put all their materials on line. I try to discourage filmmakers from sending me these expensive wasteful glossy paper press kits when my needs are digital files of stills and trailers. We don’t want the filmmaker to bankrupt him or herself submitting to our festival. Submit early, keep the packaging simple (we care about your film – not the well designed art on the cover!), and let your work speak for itself (no lengthy introduction letter needed)!

If I could impart one thing to filmmakers about submitting to my festival, it would be: We want to discover your film! The BUFF staff watches every film submitted in an attempt to create a stellar program for our faithful audience, that’s our end of the contract. Your end as a filmmaker is to give your film every opportunity to succeed by respecting our policies and our need to charge submission fees as well as familiarizing yourself with the types of films we show. Also, be sure your DVD plays, is well marked with all the appropriate info and is well packaged to travel the US postal system.

The submissions period for our next festival is: Submissions are currently open and end November 27th for the late deadline and December 18th for the Withoutabox extended deadline. The Last Chance deadline is December 31st.

Filmmakers can contact me here: anna @ bostonunderground . org

Last words: Film fanatics run this fest on a whole lot of love and a fair bit of elbow grease. We do it for our audience and their squeals of delight and gasps of horror. We do it for the films that might otherwise be lost in obscurity. We do it for the filmmakers that need a supportive environment in which to connect to other filmmakers and their audience. And yes, we do it for ourselves (free Maker’s Mark and dinner with Frank Hennenlotter, hell yes)! We hope you check us out as filmmaker, audience member, or volunteer.

Programmer Profile: Sarah Harris at Dallas IFF

Sarah HarrisMy name: Sarah Harris

My current festival: DALLAS International Film Festival (DALLAS Film Society)

My title: Senior Programmer

Other fests I've worked for: I program year-round events for the DALLAS Film Society (which puts on the DALLAS festival . . . what was formerly called the AFI DALLAS festival). Before that, the Deep Ellum Film Festival.

Movies that best represent my personal tastes: It changes, so a few for today: Raising Arizona, Fargo, Ghostbusters, The Graduate, Clueless (don’t judge!), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Shining, Kill Bill v1, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Riding Giants, It Might Get Loud.

When I'm not watching movies I like to: Hmm...when is that? Go to other film festivals, watch LSU football, read books (yay books!), drink with friends and family, and sit by the lake/ocean/large body of water that is not in North Texas. :)

I watch other movies I don’t have to “think” about (ie. Transformers) and shows I’m behind on (Mad Men, The Wire, 30 Rock, the Daily Show). Watching movies is kind of like breathing.

A movie I recently programmed that I consider to be a great personal discovery:
More Than a Game. We didn’t program this film for the festival, but when it was having its promotional tour we hosted a screening of it here in Dallas. It had been the 5th film I had seen one day at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival and I fell in love with it. Once it was picked up, the scheduled release date didn’t allow us to bring it in for the festival, but I wouldn’t let Michael [Cain, festival director] or James [Faust, programming director] forget about it. It was great to finally host the screening with the director, Kristopher Belman, and go out for drinks with him almost a year after originally seeing the doc.

I also love when you find that a great short film in a stack. You never know what the next dvd you put in will bring and when it’s really good it makes up for the last 20 that weren’t.

When filmmakers ask me "What's different about your film festival?" I say:
The Texas hospitality is true. (The cowboy boots are definitely optional.) People in Dallas LOVE movies – love seeing them, talking about them.... It sounds a little bizarre, but people go to the movies here all the time and it's something they take seriously. The passion can be very refreshing.

Our festival audience has come to expect: Quality, in every sense of the word. A chance to discover something totally different and then be able to catch that film that may have gotten buzz somewhere else on the circuit. Maybe hang out with the filmmaker in the theater lobby or lounge. The Dallas audience loves the experience films and the festival.

We program the following categories of films: Narrative Features, Documentary Features, Short films, Student Short films, Animated Short films, Environmental Documentary Features, Texas based Features and Music Documentaries...

A recent trend I have noticed in submissions of which I disapprove: During 2008-2009 I was seeing a lot of shorts where people were getting hit by cars. It was disturbing at first and then just got really old.

Also (and my programming friends know how I feel about this one): the Los Angeles downtown skyline. At night, at dawn, for the opening shot, or to close out the film.... I’m in Texas and can tell by your other locations that you’re in L.A. Got it. Next.

If I could impart one thing to filmmakers about submitting to my festival, it would be: When it comes to making decisions based on all the reviews we’ve collected James, our Director, and I put our eyes on EVERYTHING. We give up our weekends (and any social life that’s left) for 2 months to sit in a room, watch your films and discuss them. We do care about films and filmmakers, so when it comes to tough choices please don’t take it personally and send hate mail. (Though that is a guarantee that I’ll remember you and your film.)

And we try to treat filmmakers like they are rock stars. Because they are.

The submissions period for our next festival is: For the 2010 Festival, submissions opened in August and will run through December 2009. Regular deadline: Nov. 20. Late Deadline: Dec. 11

Filmmakers can contact me here: or

Last words: Do your research on festivals, pay attention to the details, plan your budget accordingly and don’t give up. The film festival world is a crazy one, but worth every moment of the madness.

New "no fee" festivals (Nov 17, 2009)

One of the more popular pages on the Film Festival Secrets web site is the list of fests that require no entry fee for some or all of the submissions they accept. As festivals fitting this description come to my attention I'll be posting them to that page and highlighting them here on the blog.

Boys & Girls Club Aspiring Filmmakers Festival - The BGCAFF was created to showcase films by young filmmakers (21 and under) from across the country. The festival is designed to promote the making of films by youth, especially youth who traditionally do not have the resources to explore filmmaking.

The Archaeology Channel International Film & Video Festival - To exhibit for our audience the wonderful diversity of human cultures past and present in the exploration of our place in history and in our world. To promote the genre and the makers of film and video productions about archaeology and indigenous peoples.

Bicycle Film Festival - The Bicycle Film Festival celebrates the bicycle in all forms and styles. If you can name it - Tall Bike Jousting, Track Bikes, BMX, Alleycats, Critical Mass, Bike Polo, Road Cycling, Mountain Biking Recumbents - we've probably either ridden or screened it. What better way to celebrate these lifestyles than through art, film, music and performance?

Filmed by Bike - Every year the festival features a fresh selection of exciting, creative films that are eight minutes or under. Sure, we like those movies of messengers riding like daredevils in-and-out of NYC traffic, smacking taxi butts and skidding in style, but Filmed by Bike is about so much more than that. An advanced and mature society is one that recognizes, nurtures, revels in and celebrates it's creative class, it's art and culture. Here in Portland, our bike culture is beyond the basics and we are wholely embracing our place in society as more than just bikers. We revel in bringing together movies from around the world for festival that celebrates bike culture.

Programmer Profile: Tom Hall of the Sarasota Film Festival & Newport International FF

Tom HallMy name: Tom Hall

My current festivals: The Sarasota Film Festival, The Newport International Film Festival

My title: Artistic Director (both)

Other places I've worked: IFC, The Hamptons International Film Festival (Industry Relations/ Guest Services), The Nantucket Film Festival

Movies that best represent my personal tastes: Au hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson, My Sex Life (...or how I got into an argument) by Arnaud Desplechin, Climates by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

When I'm not watching movies I like to: Play with my son, spend time with my wife, support Liverpool FC, write

A movie I recently programmed that I consider to be a great personal discovery: Tony Manero -- We were one of the first regional festivals to show the film, and it was the first time I felt a deep connection to a certain perspective regarding the Pinochet regime. That said, I don't feel like films are discovered any more; films are made and a certain group of people see them, and we all make our best efforts to help them find an audience during the same, ever-collapsing window. A great movie is more like a collective call to arms than a personal discovery any more; I can't take credit for anything other than giving it a chance to be seen!

When filmmakers ask me "What's different about your film festival?" I say: We are a festival built on curating great films for our audience of film lovers and the film industry and while we are not a market, we are committed to building serious, long-term relationships among filmmakers, the industry and our community. Several great projects have had their genesis in Sarasota (Alex Karpovsky's Woodpecker, Mary Bronstein and Amy Seimeiz's Round Town Girls, etc), which I think shows that we are committed to both quality international cinema AND supporting emerging American independent works. We don't love a specific "type" of movie, and our 10-day event gives us a very broad palate to program all kinds of different films. So, while lots of market festivals specialize in a certain kind of film, we offer a very diverse line-up and host over 100 filmmakers and industry guests, which fosters a great sense of community and creative possibility.

Our festival audience has come to expect: Great films and the opportunity to interact with the artists responsible for making them.

We program the following categories of films (narrative features, doc features, doc/narrative shorts, animated, etc): All of the aforementioned categories from all over the world, plus retrospective screenings, long-form conversations with actors and directors and a few works in progress now and again.

A recent trend I have noticed in submissions of which I approve/disapprove: Short films with long running times can be problematic for us as it is hard to make time for them, but mostly we're open to seeing whatever filmmakers are interested in sharing. Obviously it may go without saying at this point, but your packaging/personal letter, etc make no difference to us at all, so if you're looking to save money/time, just make a professional looking label on your DVD and don't worry about the rest of it. The movie will tell us all we need to know.

If I could impart one thing to filmmakers about submitting to my festival, it would be: We watch everything, we care about your movie but our festival is very competitive in terms of acceptance. We're looking for great films. The other thing I would say is that your film is your property and you are responsible for your own festival strategy; don't let festivals and programmers push you around by playing the "premieres" game -- we don't play by those rules. If your movie is great, we want to show it regardless of where it played first. Make a plan and stick to it, control your film's festival run with the same passion you brought to making it.

The submissions period for our next festival is: We're open now, early deadline is Jan 9, 2010 Regular deadline is Jan 15, 2010, and late deadline is Jan 30, 2010.

Filmmakers can contact me here: (for Sarasota FF business), (for Newport International FF business)

Anything else? There is no magic or formula to film festivals. It's a set of decisions made by everyday people. Don't be intimidated by "the process" -- it's arbitrary and flawed. Try to enjoy it for what it is.

Programmer Profile: Lisa Vandever of CineKink

picMy name: Lisa Vandever

My festival: CineKink - “The kinky film festival.”

My title: Co-Founder/Director

Other fests I've worked for: Before co-founding CineKink in 2003, I organized and programmed the New York S/M Film Festival (2000-02). I was also—prior to an educational/frustrating stint in indie film development—the director of programming for a small-market public television station. (Whether my current focus on sexuality is a reaction to or a continuation of that experience is open for debate.)

Movies that best represent my personal tastes: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Secretary, The Auteur, Score, The Last Seduction, Say Anything

When I'm not watching movies I like to: Eat, drink and relax with friends.

A movie I recently programmed that I consider to be a great personal discovery: While I hate to single films out from all of the wonderful others, one recent film that could be deemed a signature style for us is a short that played our 2009 festival and took home one of our jury prizes, Kink, Inc. About a financially struggling couple who stumbles into the “home domination business,” the film manages to incorporate both comedy and conflict without denigrating the type of sexuality depicted—or its practitioners. It’s smutty, funny and kind of sweet—a combination that is definitely one of my weaknesses (see also The Auteur, listed above, another CineKink 2009 offering.)

When filmmakers ask me "What's different about your film festival?" I say: Obviously, the thing that sets us apart is our singular focus on films that celebrate and explore sexuality. We bring together a community of open-minded folks – at our annual festival and through our tour – who are eager for smart and engaging discussions and depictions of sex. And we also work on promoting these types of films, throughout the year, to audiences who aren’t able to attend our screenings.

CineKinkOur festival audience has come to expect: Nothing wrong with a little titillation – or a lot – the CineKink audience has also become used to works that take an intelligent approach to sexuality, to depictions that move beyond the clich├ęs, to portrayals that don’t denigrate or preach. They also join us for the sense of community you can get from experiencing a film in the company of like-minded others. And, of course, for some really killer parties!

We program the following categories of films (narrative features, doc features, doc/narrative shorts, animated, etc): We program all lengths and genres with, again, the caveat that our focus is on sex and sexuality. We look for works that cut across orientations and like to mix in both explicit and non-explicit materials.

A recent trend I have noticed in submissions of which I approve/disapprove: I’m very pleased that our pool of sex-positive and kink-friendly possibilities seems to expand every year and, though we’re not all that possessive about premiere status, I like that we’re having more and more directors create works specifically for a hopeful CineKink appearance. (On the trending disapproval side, we’ve had a jump in filmmakers submitting works—and even requesting waivers from us—who are clearly unfamiliar with the fact that we’re focused on sex. Please do your research!)

The submissions period for our next festival is: We opened submissions in August and are currently in the midst of our call for entries. Our next postmark deadline is November 20; our final deadline is December 2, 2010.

If you want to be kept up to date on the festival, you can sign up for our mailing list at:

Filmmakers can contact me here: You can email me via lisa at cinekink dot com (though watch for a spam verification reply). I’m also semi-responsive on Twitter: @CineKink

If I could impart one thing to filmmakers about submitting to my festival, it would be: If your film is selected, do consider joining us for the CineKink festivities! One of my favorite things is bringing a film’s creator together with our audiences – it’s a very heady experience for a filmmaker to show his or her work to people who clearly “get it” and I love to be around for that!

This is the first installment of the Programmer Profile series. If you're a festival staffer with a hand in programming and you'd like to be profiled, please email chris at filmfestivalsecrets dot com.