Jacqui Lofaro is the Founder and Executive Director of the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Festival (HT2FF).
An award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Bridgehampton, Long Island, New York, Jacqui Lofaro produced/directed The Empty Chair: Death Penalty Yes or No, the recipient of the 2006 prestigious Thurgood Marshall Broadcast Journalism Award. The companion documentary 70 x 7: the Forgiveness Equation was invited for screening at the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty conference, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and the Global Peace Film Festival. In 2009, The Last Fix: An Addict’s Passage from Hell to Hope, a feature documentary on drug addiction, a problem of epic proportion, premiered at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
What are you working on?
Right now we are screening submissions for our early December film festival. Also, my Advisory Board is selecting the honoree for the ‘Career Achievement” award presented at our Gala event. In the past we have honored Richard Leacock, Susan Lacy, D A Pennebaker / Chris Hegedus, and Barbara Kopple.
Eight years ago, along with many other hopeful artists, I submitted my documentary film to a major film festival and it didn’t make the cut. But there were no sour grapes. It was just the motivation I needed to launch an alternative festival—a more inclusive one that offered a ‘second chance’ to filmmakers whose work deserved a screening, a ‘take 2’ as they say in the movie business. And so the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival was born.
I founded and ran a boutique advertising agency in New York City, where our expertise was creating and producing corporate promotional video films. I believed then, as I do now, that moving images communicate better and more effectively. Several of our films won industry awards. So I didn’t need any convincing about the medium of film; it was the subject matter that changed.
When I left NYC and relocated to the East End of Long Island I began making short environmental pieces, and that shift in focus led me to social justice issues. My first feature documentary took up the subject of the death penalty: The Empty Chair: Death Penalty Yes or No. It went on to receive the prestigious Thurgood Marshall Broadcast Journalism Award.
Equipment/Software Must Haves
The single most important tool in the toolbox to have if you are running a film festival is a strong belief in the genre. Our humanity is the raw material for documentarians to shape into films. Whatever the subject, they reach the frontal cortex of the brains, an area that moves people, sometimes into action. Other tools are the same everyone needs for success: leadership, perseverance, good budgeting skills, and even better people skills.
Gandhi. He was a creative thinker who solved problems by thinking outside the box. A few of his strategies and virtues resonate with me: faith in oneself, resistance and persistence, learning from mistakes, truthfulness, and finally, take the first steps and do it.
Always, raising enough funds! To expand, bring filmmakers to the festival, pay consultants, advertise and promote. The list expands as our festival expands. The challenge is to persuade sponsors that supporting the arts and independent filmmaking is as important as any other investment. The profit from investing in the arts is more intangible. It doesn’t always show up in the bottom line. But it does show up in helping shape a richer society.
As a filmmaker, I was struggling to end a documentary. It was a question of letting go of ‘my baby.’ One day when a fellow documentarian said, ‘Just end it,’ I realized that was the push I needed.
The best advice for a film festival is to understand that it takes time to build a loyal and committed audience. It takes several years for people to know you’ll be around. A consultant said, ‘Be patient.’ I learned to be… but also to be persistent.
Greatest Accomplishment as a Festival
To keep this festival going and thriving for eight years, and holding it at a time of the year when folks need a really good motivator to leave their warm homes and come out to the movie theater, especially when it snows. But they come.
The Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival, now in its 8th year, builds community around the art of visual storytelling. The festival celebrates the documentary genre and supports documentary filmmakers both upcoming and established. Community response assures us of a preference and appreciation for quality documentary films. We are known as the ‘art house’ festival presenting 4 days of emerging premieres and award-winning documentaries, shorts, features and student submissions. These fill our “all docs all day” mission coupled with insightful and stimulating Q/A talks after each screening.
Our annual gala event honors legendary documentary filmmakers and have included luminaries such as Richard Leacock, the master of direct cinema; Susan Lacy, creator of WNET/PBS American Masters and currently producing for HBO Documentary; the dynamic and pioneering documentary team of D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus; Barbara Kopple and her 40+year career of Academy-award winning films.
Our Filmmaker’s Choice Award is a peer selection that celebrates one of its own esteemed documentarians. And our Audience Award presents a sponsored cash prize to both the best feature and short films in the festival.
The Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival has carved out a special segment in the film festival dedicated exclusively for middle school and high school students to document and share stories. Screening their films in a theater, on the big movie screen with a live audience is our festival’s way of sprouting careers in media arts.
We are a year-round community presence with seasonal screenings of important documentary films in Spring and Fall. We also launched a very successful Library Outreach program providing festival films to East End libraries to screen for members.