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Programmer Profile: Joanne Feinberg, Ashland Independent FIlm Festival

picMy name: Joanne Feinberg

My current festival: Ashland Independent Film Festival, Ashland, OR

My title: Director of Programming

Other fests I've worked for: My first programming related job was Assistant to the Programmer at the Bleecker Street Cinema, an "art house" theater in NYC, when I was a student at NYU in Cinema Studies and Film Prod. It was an amazing education in film history. I'm going to date myself here, but this was when you could still see "classic" and "foreign" films on the big screen any night of the week in NY. After that, I worked as a freelance film and video editor for many years, and served on several juries and selection committees in the Bay Area.

Movies that best represent my personal tastes: Check out the AIFF festival programs for the past 5 years for a good representation! My tastes are really diverse, and there are just so many films that I love, for different reasons. Just off the top of my head - some that took my breath away the first time I saw them: Badlands (Terrence Malick), The Times of Harvey Milk (Rob Epstein), His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks), Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard), Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee), Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden). The film I think I have seen the most times ever, because I have kids, is Iron Giant - it's wonderful and I’d see it again, anytime!

When I'm not watching movies I like to: I just ran my first marathon a few weeks ago. And I have 3 children. So running on the trails in Ashland, and running trying to keep up with my kids!

A movie I recently programmed that I consider to be a great personal discovery: Ashland does not put an emphasis on premieres. But we do love to program great films that have not been seen widely yet to help build an audience for the film, as that is a large part of what festivals are ultimately about. We love screening short films, and this is a genre where there is lots of opportunity to discover emerging filmmakers. And there is nothing more satisfying then hearing what a great experience they had with our festival, to develop on-going friendships with filmmakers, and then to screen their next short or feature length film.

When filmmakers ask me "What's different about your film festival?" I say: Ashland is not a film market type of festival. But we do, and I quote, "treat filmmakers like rock stars." It's a great festival to see some films you haven't had a chance to yet, visit with other filmmakers, go to our panels, special events, and parties, and to enjoy your own screenings. We have incredibly engaged and intelligent audiences who pack the theaters for every show, and will come up and talk to you (maybe even give you a hug!) on the street, in the coffee shops and restaurants. In the words of animator Bill Plympton, "Ashland is an amazing, freakin’ town! The audiences here are so excited about film. I go to lots of festivals, and this is very unique."

Our festival audience has come to expect: Excellent programming, interaction with filmmakers, and a great community event that takes over downtown Ashland for 5 days in April.

We program the following categories of films: We program all genres and all lengths. We also have a "Locals Only" program (S. Oregon productions), and a local Student Film competition "The Launch."

A recent trend I have noticed in submissions of which I approve: Recently, I have seen a surge of filmmakers who are taking new and creative approaches to storytelling in both docs and narratives that is very exciting. Filmmakers are taking chances with the medium and the results are refreshing, especially when my days are filled with screening submissions. Definitely approve!

If I could impart one thing to filmmakers about submitting to my festival, it would be: We take our submission and screening process very seriously, and it is very respectful and thorough! All films are viewed by at least two experienced screeners, many films are seen by 4-6 people, and films programmed in the festival are often seen by as many as 7-8 programmers/screeners. Having to say "no" to so many quality films is really difficult for us. If your film is selected, we hope you will attend. If not, please consider us again.

The submissions period for our next festival is (please indicate start and end date): Submissions for our 9th Annual Festival, April 8-12, 2010 opened in August and will run through December 2009. Our late deadline is Dec. 4, 2009 and Withoutabox extended deadline is Dec. 11.

Filmmakers can contact me here: joanne@ashlandfilm.org. There is lots of information on our website at www.ashlandfilm.org and you can sign up for our mailing list at info@ashlandfilm.org

Last words: I love my work! And I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to see so many great films from so many talented filmmakers. To have Albert Maysles (AIFF Lifetime Achievement Award honoree) tell me "I have received many honors, and none of them have touched me as deeply and soulfully... I want to come back," well, it doesn’t really get much better than that!

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