Inspired by “Nevertheless, she persisted,” the Nevertheless Film Festival was established in response to the rising conversations about equal representation in the film industry. AWD spoke to Festival Director and Founder Meredith Finch about the origins of the festival and the plans for the fest’s inaugural year.
Congratulations with the inaugural edition of Nevertheless Film Festival! What was the catalyst that spearheaded this festival to life?
Thank you! The idea actually came to me while riding the bus to work last year – coincidentally on International Women’s Day! I’d been working in film festival operations – for festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and San Francisco International Film Festival – for over five years, and it hit me that it was time to start one of my own, and that it would be a chance to highlight the work of female-identifying filmmakers. Conversations about representation in the industry have been at an all-time high, which is so exciting. Film festivals around the world have announced their own initiatives to increase representation in their programming within the next few years, but what I found myself thinking on that fateful bus ride to work was, Why not now? So, Nevertheless Film Festival was born on the promise that at least 50% of designated leadership positions on each film we program would be filled by female-identifying filmmakers.
The staff and programmers of the Nevertheless FF are women. What brought you all together and how are your experiences influencing the programming of the festival?
My favorite thing so far about this experience of starting a film festival has been assembling a team of some of the smartest, most creative women I know. Alana Davis (Director of Artist Relations), Courtney Cox (Senior Programmer), and programmers Shayna Weingast, Cat Fisher, Priya Gupta, Alexandria Kelly, and Regina Riccitelli are all friends I’ve worked with at both Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals. Nicole Torchio (Director of PR + Social Marketing) and I met while working together in film distribution in 2017. And programmers Proma Khosla, Radhika Menon, and Emily Lyon (who is also our graphic designer) are all friends from college!
While we all have shared experiences, everyone brings a different valuable perspective when it comes to programming. Our diversity of experiences and tastes is lending itself to what will be a very exciting program of films.
While going through the submissions, have you observed any emerging trends in the films you have received? What are your plans on balancing between shorts and features, and documentary and narrative films?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the films we’ve received have been about women, whether they’re documentaries or narratives. And there are few things I love more than stories about women by women! We have received a lot of short films, primarily narrative shorts, which is fun for me because I love short films. Submissions have come in from six continents! I hope we’ll get all seven – does anyone know anyone in Antarctica? Our plan is to have two short film programs, and about nine features, which will hopefully be split 50/50 narrative and documentary.
What does the location of Ann Arbor offer to the attending filmmakers? Are you planning for any Nevertheless FF events beyond screening this year, like panels or meetups?
Ann Arbor is my college town, and there was never a question that this festival would take place there. It is a vibrant, diverse, welcoming city that embraces the arts in ways I’ve never experienced before! I cannot wait for filmmakers to come to Ann Arbor, many of whom will be visiting for the very first time. All festival screenings are taking place at the historic Michigan Theater, which is a sight to see in itself, and we hope to have several panels featuring visiting filmmakers. And when festival-goers aren’t in a screening, Ann Arbor offers a plethora of local (women-owned!) businesses, bookstores, coffee shops, art galleries…and not to forget the gorgeous Huron River, which is the perfect place to kayak on a hot summer day.
What does the festival hope to achieve in its inaugural year? And in the next five years?
I hope that this first year of Nevertheless Film Festival achieves its goal of sparking conversations about the power and importance of inclusivity by providing an empowering platform for female-identifying filmmakers. I hope to engage the community, even beyond festival attendees, in these types of conversations. Within the next five years, I hope that our festival doubles in size and opportunity for female-identifying filmmakers to showcase their work!
What has attracted you about Alliance of Women Directors to pursue a partnership with the organization? What do you wish to achieve with this collaboration?
The Alliance of Women Directors truly embodies the spirit of Nevertheless Film Festival – it’s all about women empowering each other! I love the community spirit of AWD and how supportive everyone is of each other. Already, our collaboration has led to dozens of fantastic film submissions by AWD members! I hope our partnership connects AWD directors to other female-identifying filmmakers, like producers and composers featured in our program, and together they can make even more films with women in leadership positions!
Is there anything else you would like AWD Members to know about Nevertheless Film Festival?
We hope to see you at the festival July 11-14!