Sunday, September 13, 2015

Interview with Andrew Rogers from RiverRun IFF

Interview with Mr. Andrew Rogers
The Interview with Exec Director Mr. Rogers was conducted over the phone Friday morning at 10:00.
1.     You are the Executive Director of RiverRun IFF, what position did you start out as, and how did you work your way up?
à Hired at RiverRun as director in 2005 (previous director leaving); began as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, then became involved with publicity at Sundance Film Festival; worked among other film festivals before landing RiverRun – was in the right place at the right time.
2.     As Exec Director, what do your day-to-day activities consist of?
à No typical day; maintaining staff, coordinates meetings between other directors, makes larger marketing decisions
3.     I’ve read the mission of your festival, however, what are your personal goals for it?
à First, be a resource to the community, to find the best new films and filmmakers and bring them to light. Second, promote film generally, but specifically to kids because film is such an important medium and it resonates well with children, it is a great method for teaching. Third, to highlight uniqueness, and avoid the mainstream; we want to challenge audiences with films.
4.     Tell me more about your festival’s involvement with kids.
à Have a Saturday morning cartoon program with animated films from all over, sometimes accompanied by a band or comedian. Set aside blocks/screenings of kid-friendly films. Many of the films screened at the festival contain inappropriate themes for kids, and RiverRun recognized this, so they set up their own rating system (as far as Rogers knows they are the only festival that has their own rating system, no MPAA). Having two kids himself, Rogers recognized that his social life changed and he needed to refocus activities to include his kids. The festival had these kid-friendly activities set in place prior to director Rogers having kids but as of late, more emphasis has been put on this younger demographic.
5.     What are some of your favorite things about the festival?
à First, PitchFest: A single day event where students pitch their documentary films to Jurors (expert judges), whom evaluate and pronounce winners at the end. It’s about 3-4 years old, some celebrities attend; students selected by their schools (mostly in-state, expanding out of state, international desired). Second, the archival film screenings (35 mm), these films deserved to be seen the way they were intended; preserved. RiverRun works with different archivals such as UCLA and the Library of Congress.
6.     What are some of the challenges of running a festival?
à Such things as volunteers do not show up, or an audience member gets hurt – these are unplanned issues that could occur at any time during the festival. As for common constraints: mostly managing limited resources where creative solutions must be applied, some examples include, small, decentralized theaters, where tickets sell out quickly (rigid ticket system creates high fees), and transportation must be provided to move people to and from theater locations. 
7.     How many entries do you receive annually?
à Just set in place a new submission system, prior to this system about 800-850, as a result of this system, in 2014-15 about 1500 submissions, this 2015-16 year an estimated 1500+
8.     What do receive the most and least of?
à The largest category is narrative shorts, and students make a lot of these. The smallest category is animated and documentary shorts - funny, because these two categories are the ones we’ve received Academy Award nominations from.
9.     What is your pre-screeners process?
à Employ two full time programmers (just hired a third), to watch all the submissions, every film watched 2-3 times. Community volunteers will also watch films and give feedback. Mostly just want to make sure not too many similar films are screened.
10.  How do you score entries?
à Do not use a strict scoring system; do rate films on a 1-10 scale but it is hard to give films a single number, so this is just a tool, not the sole method.
11.  What kind of community outreach are you involved in?
à Show films in grade school, free screenings; ITBS (allied with PBS) produces documentary films that RiverRun will receive prior to their national broadcast, they will share them with schools in the area. Otherwise, throughout the year the festival keeps in touch with journalists, tends to not spend a lot of money on promoting the festival off-season.
12.  What “perks” do your filmmakers enjoy at the festival?
à Filmmakers, Jurors (25 or so), and additional honorees and panelists are given all access passes to films and events, transportation totally covered (volunteer drivers). Hotel accommodations (2-3 nights generally, but welcome for longer stays) for those the festival has invited. Feature length filmmakers/jurors/honorees offered round-trip flights – apparently an uncommon perk. Payment to some feature films has been offered, future cash awards has been discussed.
13.  Do you give out guest bags?

à Yes – this past year was a high end, leather messenger bag (each costing about $30-40), with a RiverRun hat, magazines from partners, locally made butter mints, copper shot glasses, CD from local band, energy beverage, bottle opener, wool socks…a total of 40ish items, most from shops local to the area or partners of the festival. About 100-130 of these bags given out to filmmakers, jurors, honorees, or approximated about two bags per film.

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