My Summer Planning a Film Festival

For the past few weeks I have been interning at the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF), which is presented by Asian Cinevision and in its 39th year. The festival takes place across New York City and is running from July 21-30. The festival is the longest running film festival in the country dedicated to showcasing films by, for, and about Asians and Asian Americans. In an industry where Asian faces are underrepresented, or portrayed solely through stereotypes, the festival is meaningful in giving recognition to actors, directors, and filmmakers who might otherwise be overlooked.

Our first team meeting, in the Made in NY Film Center in Brooklyn, NY. (from the @asiancinevision Instagram)
Our first team meeting, in the Made in NY Media Center in Brooklyn, NY. (from the @asiancinevision Instagram)

All staff members and interns of the film festival participate in deciding the final programming that will be shown. In my first week, I watched the entire roster of selected short films. The shorts were categorized by themes, from international Asian stories, to films made in New York, to films about parents and family, to narratives and documentaries about the LGBTQ community. As a group we also discussed where and when to show our feature-length films. Because everyone on the AAIFF team is Asian or Asian-American, these discussions have always come with personally invested praise or criticism. Everyone is dedicated to making sure the best films with the most meaningful stories or characters will be shown. On Opening and Closing Night, the largest nights of the festival, we decided to show two films with LGBTQ themes, in continuance of our mission of recognizing marginalized communities in film.

However, the main part of my work thus far has involved coordinating the logistics of the film festival itself. I am responsible for special events and development, where I will see most of my work culminate during the 10 days of the festival. In coordinating special events, I maintain contact with our theater venues and contributing sponsors. Many sponsors provide catering for our biggest nights, so I must reach out to restaurants to partner with the festival. I am also responsible for building partnerships with new and old sponsors who can offer us monetary or in-kind donations. The fundraising that comes from our partners is often in the form of a product donation that we can distribute during the festival, or monteary contributions that help cover expenses such as venues, program booklets, or filmmaker travel expenses. My work is heavily rooted in preparation and assuring that things will run smoothly when the festival comes. The fruits of my labor are not instantly recognizable, but come July 21 with everything in action, I know I will be able to take pride in what I have contributed.

A promotional postcard for this year's festival. A still from our Opening Night film, SPA NIGHT is in the background.
A promotional postcard for this year’s festival. A still from our Opening Night film, SPA NIGHT, is in the background.

Looking ahead, I am confident that my goals of building stronger relationships and partnerships with people I work with can be accomplished. The event and development planning I am working on now has already enabled to begin achieving this goal, and during the festival I will have a chance to collaborate heavily with my peers and other volunteers to ensure events run smoothly. I hope in the coming weeks I will be able to prepare my team as best as I can.