It has been a couple weeks since the end of the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF), and I have used the this time to reflect on how my experiences this summer changed me. After engaging with the festival on a daily basis for almost 3 months, my eyes have been opened to the commercial, artistic, and activist spheres of the film and media industry. My work at AAIFF exposed me to the success and the struggles, the tips and tricks, and the motivations and passions of independent filmmakers. I am incredibly grateful for the hundreds of actors, producers, filmmakers and industry people I was able to talk to throughout the festival – who passed knowledge onto me and allowed me to think more critically about the film industry and my potential role in it later.
Before I started my internship, I took note of my goals for the summer. Some of these were strictly professional and related to what I hoped to accomplish through my work, and others were more personal and focused on self-exploration. Through my work as the Special Events and Development Coordinator, I hoped to build strong relationships and partnerships, collaborate with my peers, and run events smoothly.
I am happy to announce that I accomplished all these goals. For example, at the conclusion of our Opening Night Gala all of the sponsors and caterers I had been working with for the past two months came up to me and expressed their gratitude for organizing the event. These interactions and signs of appreciation showed me that I had done my job correctly, which made all the hard work worth it. I was at my proudest moment during Opening Night when I saw the culmination of two months of work in one night and saw people enjoying themselves.
Additionally, by working everyday at a film festival, I made it a goal to immerse myself in independent film and film production. This was not a hard goal to accomplish since I had the privilege of watching any or all of the shorts or features that we put on. By the end of the festival, I watched every short along with a few features when I had time to sit in on the screening. After watching all of these high-quality films, I believe even more strongly in the need for Asian representation in the film industry – the talent and skill exists but people are not getting the exposure they deserve.
While my summer at the festival was nothing short of extraordinary, I have mixed feelings about the film industry. The festival often had to work with high-profile distributors and producers, which could become frustrating as we battled with deadlines and budget concerns. However, the world of arts activism, and especially Asian American representation in film is important and needed. Because of this, I would absolutely recommend that any other students interested in film or arts activism volunteer for AAIFF. Even though the film industry might be stacked against Asian American interests, the work that AAIFF and many other Asian American film festivals do remains vitally important as a platform.