Film Festival Alliance

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A letter from Executive Director Barbara Twist

Dear FFA community,

I am grateful to begin this next chapter of Film Festival Alliance with all of you in my new role as Executive Director. I first encountered the Film Festival Alliance community through the Art House Convergence conference, as we collaborated on shared programming. Over the years, our partnership expanded, until Lela asked me to join as the Director of Membership in January 2020. My singular focus on membership had to shift as Lela led the FFA community through one of our most difficult times in recent history. We expanded virtual programming, looked for new ways for collaboration, and actively interrogated long-held beliefs and practices within our organizations, from office culture to pay equity to working hours. I am very much looking forward to building on Lela’s work, and working together as a community during the next challenging chapter of recovery as we shift out of the pandemic.

I want to share a portion of the letter I sent to the hiring committee as part of my application. In it, I outline my beliefs for collaborative working and my key tenets. It is important to me that you know where I stand and where I come from as we move this community forward together:

Exhibition is my ancestry. My great-grandfather founded a chain of movie theaters in Michigan in the early 1900s which served as places of joy, entertainment, and refuge from the stressors of daily life. These theaters were fixtures of small-town America, connecting communities across divides of class, race, and generation. When I graduated from college, I found myself unexpectedly working at one of the original Butterfield theaters: the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Long since turned non-profit, the theater was no longer connected to the Butterfield chain, which shuttered in the 1980s, yet remained linked through their shared mission of bringing the community together to watch movies. My first festival experience was at the Michigan: the Ann Arbor Film Festival. The thrill of hopping from one screening to the next, of bumping into filmmakers in the theater lobby, and of that indescribable ‘festival feeling’ we all know showed me the expansive power of community-based exhibition. I am deeply committed to continuing my family’s legacy of exhibition, of refuge-seeking, of entertaining all ages, and of bringing joy (and sorrow) to the big screen.

Throughout the last decade of working in the film community, I have observed a diverse set of work ethos, management style, and commitment to values. Through this, I have identified what is effective and sustainable for me, and what I can bring to my role with Film Festival Alliance. I believe in putting people first and honoring boundaries. I believe in establishing boundaries through clear and consistent communication. I believe in growing deeper before growing wider, in strengthening one’s mission before expanding it. I believe in getting back to the basics and building a stable financial foundation. I believe in a consistent, quality experience, and in doing a few things well, rather than many things of lesser quality. Most importantly, I believe in abundance, not scarcity, in rising tides floating all boats, and in community as the best path forward for collective health and growth.

In my two years with Film Festival Alliance, and my decade of working with exhibitors, I have developed three core tenets that I believe are foundational to supporting a national community, particularly of exhibitors who are themselves supporting a diverse community of artists and audiences. As the Executive Director, I will use these as my guides for decision-making and goal-setting for the organization.

Community: Establishing trust and a sense of camaraderie among exhibitors allows for the sharing of resources, advice, and hope, which instills a belief in the abundance model, over the traditional non-profit scarcity model.

Education: Through professional development, leadership training, and data sharing, the health and longevity of the community is ensured because exhibitors are able to make informed decisions, challenge existing power structures, and focus on personal growth, which leads to organizational growth.

Advocacy: Through collective action, exhibitors can tackle structural issues, such as accessibility and access, pay equity, and racism within existing organizational models, and increase the awareness of the festival community on a national level, from funders to media.

I want to close in gratitude to all of you for showing up and making this community the friendly, collaborative space that it is. I am honored to be part of it, and I am excited to share with you our renewed vision for Film Festival Alliance over the coming months.

You can always reach me at barbara [at] filmfestivalalliance.org. I may not respond within a day as I am part-time, but I will get back to you ☺ We’ve got exciting work ahead of us!

Until then,
Barbara