The amazing Palm Springs International Short Film Festival and market opens on June 18th and like every year we have a chance to see the work of emerging filmmakers and talented filmmaking students. To learn more about 2014 festival we interviewed Kathleen McInnis, new director of Palm Springs International Short Film Festival and market.
Kathleen McInnis is a Film Strategist with a distinctive background in film festivals and publicity consulting. Her company, See-Through Films LLC, offers business development for emerging filmmakers. She is a veteran of the global film festival circuit and has been at such festivals as Seattle Int’l Film Festival (Director of Publicity/Promotion, Lead Programmer), Slamdance Film Festival (Festival Director), and Palm Springs ShortFest (Festival Director). She is also a programmer for International Shorts at Toronto International Film Festival. As Festival Strategist, McInnis works in concert with her filmmakers to maximize their festival experience and opportunities in all aspects–from press to marketing and sales. As Publicity Consultant, McInnis has worked with such notable directors as Jennifer Lynch, István Szabó, John Carpenter, Victor Nunez and David Slade among others. She is also the personal publicist for actor Bill Pullman. McInnis is a Professor at NYU-Tisch/Asia and UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television specializing in festival strategies and professional transitions. She currently is a programmers of International Shorts at Toronto Int’l Film Festival.
Bijan tehrani: This is your first year as director of the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival and market. So how are you finding the experience?
Kathleen McInnis: I love this festival. The experience I am having as director is great. This festival means so much to me and it is so deeply embedded in my heart that I was honored that the festival was entrusted to me. It has been wonderful.
BT: This festival showcases the future of cinema and highlights the future filmmakers and there is such freshness for the films and the way they are made, so how do you see the festival going this year?
KM: I love the phrase fresh air-that is the festival in a nutshell. We see all of the emerging filmmakers and their promise, but we also see filmmakers taking risk and opportunities that they probably will never get to take again in such a clean way. They will likely never have this opportunity to let their voices sing as stand-alone voices and I think that is what makes it so exciting. What we have noticed this year in particular is that there seems to be more joy and love of cinema in the films this year; the films are not as dark. We have a lot of sci-fi this year that we have not had before. We have a new program called the silver screen which is an homage to the heart and passion and dream of telling stories visually.
BT: How do you see the presence of international cinema this year?
KM: This is our stellar standout year because we had submission from 82 countries; a record number of countries submitting to us, more than we have ever had before.
We have 177 World, North American and US Premieres, the largest number by far we’ve had. I think this is a result of a number of things including the programming team being out on the festival circuit all year long– meeting other filmmakers and talking about the festivals. I think that continues to make a difference and I think the profile of the festival continues to grow by virtue of the people who have come before talking about and spreading the word about what they do and how much they like it, I think that has been important. We have increased our industry and this year we have well over 100 participating industries to engage with our filmmakers; we know that people engage at the festival at every level because we have so many alumni filmmakers and alumni industry makers coming back, we had people who were jury members in the past year asking if they could come back because they wanted to be a part of it just to come and enjoy the filmmakers and the films.
BT: I think the evolution of short films will give more power to the festival, do you agree with this?
KM: We have always had more non-students at the festival than students. Yes, more filmmakers are using the short form, but I don’t think it’s because there is now a business model. I believe that filmmakers are practicing their craft: it is just like training for a marathon and you have to keep moving and making films and this practice can be done on any level and it keeps the creative eye and creative ability going.
BT: Why do you think Palm Springs is such a great location for the festival?
KM: We really do have the best audiences, they know their cinema like no one else and when a filmmaker walks in at 11 in the morning and there are people ready to engage with them after the screening, they want to talk about the film and talk about the filmmakers, filmmakers go crazy and they never see that anywhere else and we grow that without audience each year and I think this year will be another year of great audience engagement, I always feel like there are three parts to the film industry and the film world at large, there is the filmmaker, the industry and then there is the audience and I think we hit all three parts of that at Palm Springs.
BT: What other events will be at the festival this year?
KM: We added a day and we have three days at the filmmaker forum, we have two master classes; we have panels and workshops. The Casting Society of America has joined us for a special event; we have a music master class and Ted Hope is coming back to do a master class lecture series.
BT: Do you have any guest filmmakers attending this year?
KM: So far we have well over 300 filmmakers confirmed from over 30 countries.
BT: What are some of the awards and prizes that will be awarded this year?
KM: The Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau has given a $5,000 cash prize dedicated to the Grand Jury Prize. We couldn’t be happier with this new award and are delighted to partner with them to inspire a new generation of filmmakers.