When I last wrote my Week In the Life series for PhDs at Work I was excitedly preparing for the 2012 Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. I am glad to have the chance to report that that the festival continues to be a great success, and in 2013, we doubled attendance from the previous year, bringing two thousand guests to our festival over four days.
On the second day I came up from the subway and walked around the block and as I approached the theater I was stunned to see a line that stretched around the block. Because I am a New Yorker I saw a queue outside the building and immediately assumed that something was wrong. It wasn’t until I got closer that I realized that this giant crowd of people was here for the festival. We had four sold out screenings in total and had to add chairs to a 300-seat theater—twice. Guests came from all over Brooklyn, New York City, and beyond. Two young women planned their first visit to New York from their homes in Florida and Portland, OR around the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. They introduced themselves and told me that they had so much fun with us in Brooklyn that they’d stopped going in to Manhattan because they didn’t want to miss anything. We closed out the festival by handing out our awards, which were hand cast in aluminum by a Brooklyn artisan and affixed to individual pieces of architectural salvage. In the end our Best Director-winning feature Eric Trenkamp’s American Bomber went on to get a distribution deal after premiering with AoBFF.
2013 was a growing year for us but not every opportunity to grow has been so pleasant. We entered into an interview process with a Brooklyn-based art and cultural organization and we hoped to move the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival into their brand new million-dollar facility. Our meetings went well—extraordinarily well—but they were frustratingly open-ended. One meeting lead to another until six months passed with plenty of assurances but no contract.
A large part of these meetings involved brainstorming programming ideas. As a scholar and a practicing artist I am used to sharing ideas in an open forum with no fear. But as the Executive Director of a nonprofit I have had to learn to be more circumspect. This became clear when the partnership agreement never materialized and the organization went ahead with developing some of our ideas without us. We have since strategized with our lawyer to come up with ways to preserve our tendency toward open exchange while protecting our interests. We value collaboration and partnerships but not at our own expense, and that has been a hard lesson to learn.
It’s always a blur leading up to the festival, and I’m happy for the opportunity to reflect on last year’s event even as I am in the midst of doing it all over again for 2014. This year we are continuing to fulfill the promise of our mission to serve the entire borough by expanding into more neighborhoods. Most film festivals in Brooklyn are attached to single neighborhoods but screen films from all over. At the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival we have reversed this formula: We show films by Brooklyn makers from all over the world and we include the entire borough. For us there are no “wrong” neighborhoods.
Our main screening location remains in Downtown Brooklyn, because it’s relatively easy to access from across the entire borough. We’ll screen at the historic Brooklyn Heights Cinema, Kumble Theater at LIU Brooklyn, and we’ll return to Founders Hall at St Francis College. For the first time we’ll host screenings in Bay Ridge, an ethnically diverse south Brooklyn neighborhood that is often ignored by the “new” Brooklyn art renaissance, and Clinton Hill, with its independent galleries and coffee shops. We are beginning a relationship with the office of incoming Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has offered Borough Hall for our nomination and awards ceremonies. AoBFF judge and actress Annabella Sciorra will announce the nominations at the festival’s opening and Borough President Adams will give our award winning filmmakers proclamations to go with their statuettes at the end.
One of the biggest challenges for me as Executive Director is managing resources to keep pace with our growth. We are getting bigger very quickly. While I want to encourage that momentum I’m also aware of making sure that we don’t grow beyond what we are able to deliver successfully. It’s a balancing act where the stakes just keep getting higher. But it’s very exciting.
I want to end, as I did in my last postings, by inviting PhD At Work readers and fellow bloggers to join us for the 2014 Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. If you are in the area and interested in getting involved, we welcome volunteers.
AoBFF opens on May 7th and runs through May 11th, with specific screening times and locations online soon at www.aobff.org.
Start from the beginning – Read Joseph Shahadi’s “Week in the Life”