Programmer Profile: Anna Feder at Boston Underground FF

Anna FederMy name: Anna “insert clever nickname here” Feder My current festival: Boston Underground Film Festival

My title: Festival Director/ programmer

Other fests I've worked for: Northampton Independent Film Festival, Newport International Film Festival, Global Voices UN Film Festival. I am also the program director in the Visual and Media Arts department at Emerson College and serve on the board of Women in Film and Video of New England.

Movies that best represent my personal tastes: Juliet of the Spirits, Sante Sangre, Donnie Darko, Oldboy, Thirst, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Trust, Day of the Beast, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Opera, Secretary, Survive Style 5+, Wild at Heart, Hausu

When I'm not watching movies I like to: Sing karaoke, dance to new wave music, and travel to exotic destinations like Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, San Francisco, and Austin (to sit in darkened theaters and watch more movies). Also digging on schlock TV such as Weeds, Dexter, Big Love, True Blood, as well as Britcom The Mighty Boosh, IT Crowd, and The Mitchell and Webb Look.

A movie I recently programmed that I consider to be a great personal discovery: The Last American Freakshow was screened at BUFF 2009 where it had its American premiere. I have a special place in my heart for this doc about a real traveling freak show made by a British filmmaker who had a hard time finding a home for his film. Many festivals turned it down or suspiciously pulled out of planned screenings because they were uncomfortable with the unique way that disability is portrayed. Our audiences responded in a really thoughtful way and made Mr. Butchins feel like he’d finally found a home for his baby.

There are a host of filmmakers that we have built relationships with over the years, giving these folks an open invitation to submit: Steve Balderson, Bill Domonkos, Leah Meyerhoff, Patrick Smith, Ben Levin and Carey Burtt to name a few. We really cherish these relationships as they give our audience something to look forward to and the filmmakers a reliable outlet and audience for their work.

When filmmakers ask me "What's different about your film festival?" I say: We are committed to discovering films that aren’t likely to find traditional distribution for a variety of reasons. Often this is the case due to subject or the experimental nature of the form or just a lack of “marketability” on a large scale. Underground does not mean poor quality. These are well-made, competent films albeit not always polished and glossy. These are films that won’t be coming to a theater near you and BUFF is likely the only time they’ll be shown on a big screen in the Northeast. We also try to create events around the festival with live music and other performance (belly dance, burlesque, wrestling women, singing transvestite nuns). We really prioritize the festivity at our festival.

Our festival audience has come to expect: An array of films from all genres that push the boundaries in form and/or content that they wouldn’t be able to see otherwise, at least not on the big screen with a large raucous but intelligent audience. Also, tons of parties with approachable filmmakers, mind-blowing entertainment and free booze!

We program the following categories of films: We show everything but generic romantic comedy and family friendly fare. We favor hybrids such as dark comedy, experimental narrative, experimental doc, and musical kung-fu horror. We love ‘em all! We like films that make us laugh, make us cry, make us think, dazzle us with visuals and often make us cringe!

A recent trend I have noticed in submissions of which I approve: I love that filmmakers are starting to put all their materials on line. I try to discourage filmmakers from sending me these expensive wasteful glossy paper press kits when my needs are digital files of stills and trailers. We don’t want the filmmaker to bankrupt him or herself submitting to our festival. Submit early, keep the packaging simple (we care about your film – not the well designed art on the cover!), and let your work speak for itself (no lengthy introduction letter needed)!

If I could impart one thing to filmmakers about submitting to my festival, it would be: We want to discover your film! The BUFF staff watches every film submitted in an attempt to create a stellar program for our faithful audience, that’s our end of the contract. Your end as a filmmaker is to give your film every opportunity to succeed by respecting our policies and our need to charge submission fees as well as familiarizing yourself with the types of films we show. Also, be sure your DVD plays, is well marked with all the appropriate info and is well packaged to travel the US postal system.

The submissions period for our next festival is: Submissions are currently open and end November 27th for the late deadline and December 18th for the Withoutabox extended deadline. The Last Chance deadline is December 31st.

Filmmakers can contact me here: anna @ bostonunderground . org

Last words: Film fanatics run this fest on a whole lot of love and a fair bit of elbow grease. We do it for our audience and their squeals of delight and gasps of horror. We do it for the films that might otherwise be lost in obscurity. We do it for the filmmakers that need a supportive environment in which to connect to other filmmakers and their audience. And yes, we do it for ourselves (free Maker’s Mark and dinner with Frank Hennenlotter, hell yes)! We hope you check us out as filmmaker, audience member, or volunteer.