This weekend, I’m going to meet many of the people whose films I have watched. As the kind of person who is horrible at small talk, this feels like a lucky cheat sheet for conversation. And I’m curious. I tend to start with a “how are you,” and while in daily life this seems pointless to ask, for filmmakers at a film festival, I think they might be equal parts relieved to vent about the drive here, and how busy they are, and how excited they are to be here. Most of them have never been to Ithaca. For many of them, this is the first film festival in which their work has been screened. No matter what, I think that the situation will elicit truly genuine emotion and energy, and I’m excited to soak that in. I’m proud of the people I worked with on this film festival, because we allowed that happen.
I also want to know what inspired these filmmakers. As a very young creative person, I feel like we might have something in common, but they’ve had more experience. I wonder what drove them to make the specific film they submitted to the festival, but also what drove them to make their first, or even give themselves permission to start pursuing this field at all. Who supports them? I want to know about who worked with them on their films, and who they talk to when they have ideas or want advice.
At this point in our conversation, I’ll wonder if I’m getting too intense and personal. I may feel awkward or shy, and start to talk about the weather or something. But maybe the filmmaker will be happy to keep talking about a topic they are so passionate about. We’ll get into the questions that I think about sometimes, and to which there is no clear answer. We’ve talked about these questions while preparing for the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival. Where do Asian American filmmakers and characters fit into the film industry? How do you feel? Doing your work and making your art, do you ever feel isolated? Does it build a community of people who encourage you to keep moving forward and stay excited, even when things feel hopeless?
I tend to stay away from these types of questions in daily polite conversation because I know all to well how these thoughts can spiral and spiral downward until you feel paralyzed and unconfident and alone. But, as I think about these questions today, right now, I feel like we, as the IPAAFF crew, have managed to support each other and create a little place where these films and filmmakers do have a sense of community hope. Maybe for just a weekend or a semester or a couple of years, but if we can keep this annual festival alive and growing, maybe forever.