Category Archives: Member Profiles

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: El Paso Film Festival

The El Paso Film Festival’s mission is to support and empower the growing community of filmmakers in our bi-national, tri-state region by building a professional foundation of storytellers and artists from which to learn, network, and collaborate. The 4th annual festival kicks off on October 14-17th. Check out or questionnaire below with EPFF’s Artistic Director Carlos Corral.  More details on EPFF are available here.

Tell us a little bit about your festival?

The El Paso Film Festival (EPFF) is the preeminent film festival at the far edge of Texas. The EPFF is the only Texas film festival to showcase emerging filmmakers on a bi-national stage. As one of the fastest-growing film festivals in the state, it provides an inclusive platform where film lovers of every stripe can discover and support the next generation of regional moviemakers. EPFF is among the few festivals in the nation that brings the film’s directors to the audience they entertain. In our short history, we have attracted a diverse audience of film aficionados, passionate storytellers, and filmmaking executives.

What are some things that set your festival apart?

As the flagship film festival in far west Texas, we are leading the growth of a bi-national stage that empowers the new faces of filmmaking. Not only are we the fastest growing festival in the state, we are also the hardest working. Every festival year is an opportunity to create engagement and awareness among professional filmmakers, artists, and audiences across a national platform for filmmaking executives.

How has being a Film Festival Alliance member impacted your organization?

Being a part of the FFA has helped us connect with other festival professionals and programmers and serves as one of the best ways to develop our vision, mission, and goals.

What should every filmmaker know about your festival/organization?

EPFF elevates the creative voice and vision of all filmmakers as they make their path towards the film and television industry by connecting them with seasoned professionals for mentorship and collaborative opportunities. Our efforts are creating a destination event for the region that can stimulate the economy as well as the arts. Bringing films from outside the traditional studio system bucks the status quo with stories and perspectives that challenge us as much as it entertains us.

What kind of programming can someone expect at your festival?

Our festival attracts a diverse audience of film aficionados, passionate story tellers and filmmaking executives of every stripe to the rugged desert of El Paso, Texas. EPFF showcases independent films created in or about the Paso del Norte region. Our bi-national stage provides a platform for emerging directors, writers and actors from West Texas, Southern New Mexico and Northern Mexico.


Member Profile: Jacqui Lofaro, Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Festival

Jacqui Lofaro

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 Nothe 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.

A-Ha Moment

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.

In Training

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.

My Mentor

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.

Biggest Challenge

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.

Best Advice

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.

About HT2FF

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.

Member Profile: Anisa Raoof, Providence Children’s Film Festival

Anisa Raoof

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.

A-Ha Moment
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.

In Training
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 Mentor
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.

Biggest Challenge
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.

Best Advice
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.

About PCFF

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.

Membership Case Study: Advocacy (Woods Hole Film Festival)

Judy Laster
Executive Director, Woods Hole Film Festival
Cape Cod

Being a good advocate takes time and effort, but the results can be rewarding.

While we in the Festival world understand and value what we do and what we offer to our local, regional and state communities, we can’t assume that others share our enthusiasm or understanding. The best way to bring people along and to convert them into supporters is by first hand experience.

Invite them to your events and follow up afterwards to thank them for coming.

At the local level, it is important to know your civic leaders (Mayor or Selectmen) and business leaders and Chambers of Commerce.

If your town has an Arts or Tourism Council, get involved and stay involved. Become indispensable. In addition to providing them detailed information about the Festival, paint the picture of how your Festival fits into the fabric of the community from a financial, social and reputation perspective.

For example, in 2014, Woods Hole was deemed to be one of the best small towns in the United States for culture by Smithsonian Magazine, and the Festival was a determining factor in their calculus.

Understand the issues in the Community and try to develop programming that is responsive or complimentary to the broader concerns; this helps to create an ownership stake for residents and business leaders.

At the state level, understand that your local state rep or senator has many, many issues to consider. While an in-person meeting is a great idea, developing relationships with their staff is important as well. And keeping staff briefed will help to pave the way when it comes time for budget decision-making.

In Massachusetts, there are also several statewide advocacy organizations that focus on arts and arts funding. Mass Creative is a non-profit that helps inform legislators on issues related to arts and culture, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council—a state grant funding organization—does as well. We make sure their leaders know our story.

We also participate in the broader film community organizations, particularly the Massachusetts Production Coalition, which focuses on advocacy around film and the film tax credit.

We have and maintain a relationship with the state film office, and we keep emphasizing the importance of Festivals to them as well, although they don’t really have much ability to help financially. (However, at this past Sundance, they were able to make introductions to Massachusetts filmmakers whose work was in the Festival.)

Finally, when appropriate, be a thought leader through op-eds or other public forums.

Our philosophy: a rising tide floats all boats. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

Have an idea for a case study? Email us with a proposal!

Member Profile: Melissa Silverstein, Athena Film Festival

Melissa Silverstein is a writer and speaker with extensive expertise in the area of women and filmmaking. She is the founder and editor of Women and Hollywood, one of the most respected sites for issues related to women and film as well as other areas of pop culture. Women and Hollywood educates, advocates, and agitates for gender parity across the entertainment industry.

Melissa is the Entertainment Correspondent for WMC Live with Robin Morgan and was selected to be a film envoy for the American Film Showcase, the major film diplomacy program of the U.S. Department of State. And she recently published the first book from Women and Hollywood, In Her Voice: Women Directors Talk Directing, a compilation of over 40 interviews that have appeared on the site.

Women and Hollywood's Melissa Silverstein
Melissa Silverstein

In addition, Melissa is the Artistic Director and co-founder of the Athena Film Festival—A Celebration of Women and Leadership at Barnard College, a four-day festival of feature films, documentaries, and shorts dedicated to highlighting women’s leadership in real life and the fictional world. The Festival, which includes conversations with producers, directors and talent, as well as Master Classes, will take place at Barnard College in New York City from February 5-8, 2015.

What are you working on?
Right now we are in the process of making decisions on the films we want to screen at Athena, finding panels and panelists and securing our awardees.

A-ha Moment?
The festival began following an event that I put together for Jane Campion for the film Bright Star at the home of Gloria Steinem. Kathryn Kolbert (Kitty) had just arrived at Barnard College to create the Athena Center for Leadership Studies. There were women directors at the event talking about how they were having very difficult times getting their films made, and so we decided to combine forces and start a film festival that focused on women’s leadership. We screen films directed by men and women, but all must focus on women’s leadership in some way. 

In Training
I come from the theatre and have an MFA in Theatre Administration. But my best training was working in women’s non-profit organizations.

Equipment/Software Must-Haves
Couldn’t survive without Google Docs and Gchat. 

My Mentor
I stand on the shoulders of all the women who came before me. 

Biggest Challenge
Fundraising is a challenge, but so is getting filmmakers to take a shot and come to Athena rather than a bigger or more well-known festival. But that is also an advantage, because we can allow the filmmakers to stand out and garner lots of publicity because there are not hundreds of titles vying for press.

Technology is also a challenge. We are small and we can’t afford DCP, so this will continue to be a challenge for us.

Best Advice
Trust your gut. 

Greatest Accomplishment
Getting the New York premiere of Belle at last year’s festival.

What is the Right Thing to Do?
Be true to your mission. Respect everyone who gives their time to come and participate—from the volunteers to the audience members—and remember how lucky we are to be doing the work we love.

Follow Melissa on Twitter @melsil and check out Athena Film Festival on Facebook and Twitter.