Anisa Raoof is the Executive Director of the Providence Children’s Film Festival (PCFF).
Anisa has a passion for film, design, community, and education. A firm believer in the power of collaboration, Anisa brings her entrepreneurial experience, social media savvy, and love for storytelling and moving images to her new job as Executive Director of the Providence Children’s Film Festival.
What are you working on?
Planning the 2016 festival: everything including the marketing, scheduling, new venue logistics, special event planning, fundraising, forming new community partnerships, grant writing, training new contract staff and finding a way to make an 8-day week.
My a-ha moment was deciding whether to apply for the job as Executive Director of an organization that was in transition, moving from an all working volunteer board to a more sustainable model of staff and board just six months before the 2014 Festival. I had been a media partner of the festival since it started and a board member for 2 1/2 years.
Nervous about the challenges of limited resources and a festival to plan, but excited by the unique opportunity to help lead an organization and popular family film festival that was poised to make long lasting impact on the community, I seized the moment and applied for the position. Less sleep these days but no regrets.
Having no formal film or business training, I gathered my experience along the way from past entrepreneurial community building projects and learning from others in formal and informal settings. I have been passionate about film and creative storytelling since I was child.
Equipment/Software Must Haves
Laptop, iPhone, Dropbox, Vimeo, and a good cup of coffee.
My elementary school art teacher was joyful, colorful, and passionate about art. She created a space in her classroom that was welcoming, educational and inspiring. She shared her enthusiasm for life, her knowledge of the craft, how to work well with others, and the behind-the-scenes responsibilities needed to make the magic happen. The skills I learned from her—a good work ethic, a positive attitude, her creative energy and the fact she seemed to live and do what she loved—have stayed with me.
My biggest challenge was trying to plan the 2014 festival after being officially on the job six months while navigating an organizational change… while raising money to cover staffing and the festival. It was crazy, but in the end the festival was a success and the attendees thought everything was flawless!
In general the challenge is doing what we do on a shoestring and learning the job along the way. We have relied mainly on volunteers since the beginning and only within the last 2 years have we added some part-time staff (who technically do not work part-time…). We do not own our venues for the festival but rely on renting spaces, working with other organizations and dealing with crazy winter weather.
Surround yourself with smart, passionate, enthusiastic people who love what they do and good things will happen. Life is too short to be around negative people who do not believe in what they do or strive for excellence whenever possible. Also: partnerships are important—when paired well, collaborations can elevate / amplify what we do rather than compete / detract from our mission.
To broaden the reach of our programming beyond February, we have cultivated and expanded collaborations with peer organizations in Rhode Island to provide screenings and other opportunities for youth to learn from and engage with film. Youth-oriented partner organizations include AS220, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Providence, Providence Children’s Museum, Providence CityArts, Providence Athenaeum Children’s Library, Rhode Island Museum of Science and Arts (RIMOSA), Providence Community Library, RIOLIS, and the RISD Museum.
PCFF presents the best of independent and international children’s cinema to inspire, delight, educate, and connect a diverse community of children and families from Rhode Island and throughout New England. The annual festival takes place in February at multiple venues within walking distance of downtown Providence, with over ten days of screenings, film-making workshops, and free activities, along with post-film conversations that help deepen the film-watching experience and foster critical thinking skills. During the festival, PCFF screens an average of 18 feature-length and over 100 short films—including live-action, documentary, and animation—made by filmmakers from around the world.
Beginning in 2014, PCFF added the Youth Filmmaker Showcase, a juried program of films made by youth, followed by an opportunity for young filmmakers to talk about both the fun and the challenges they face during the creative process.
In addition to the annual festival, the organization partners and/or collaborates with a growing number of community youth organizations to offer year-round educational opportunities, where children and families can learn about the history of the medium and its critical context, as well as the craft of filmmaking, through after-school programs, hands-on workshops, and film-related presentations.