A celebrarty programming during the 25th anniversary of the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) led to the launch of HIFF’s latest offering, Now Showing.
We caught up with Executive Director Anne Chaisson and Artistic Director David Nugent to learn more about the new series, the upcoming Winter Classic with Alec Baldwin, and more.
When did you start thinking about Now Showing?
AC: Last year we celebrated our 25th anniversary and we started to do a look back series at films from each year, out east – we did it all over the place at different venues, and we realized there was an appetite for more movies during the offseason. So, we thought if people were willing to come out and see a movie from 15 to 25 years ago, on a Saturday or Sunday during the middle of the winter, I’m sure they would be really happy to see more first run style films that are out in theaters now. After the festival we talked about it a little more seriously, and spoke with Guild Hall and Bay Street, explained what we’d like to do, set some dates, got our contracts straight with our distributors and we started to do it.
DN: Anne, who lives out there fulltime, has a very keen instinct for what people want to do and when and what they’re interested in. She was really the one that sort of spearheaded it. When Sag Harbor Cinema sadly burned down, it left a vacuum for some people – who are maybe New York Times subscribers that would read about great films that were coming out but then get frustrated because now they have an even harder time getting to be seen and released out in the Hamptons without Sag Harbor Cinema. So, we felt it would be nice to give our audiences the chance to see some of these films outside of just these very specific festival events that we do. This was something that was of interest to us as well. Happily we’ve seemed to be proven correct because we’ve had great audiences come out and see these films.
How do you decide what films to feature?
AC: It’s a bit of a collaboration amongst all of us. David and his programming team, Megan, who’s also now a fulltimer, have seen most of all of the films. I nor Lily, our Deputy Director, have seen everything, so we talk to some external forces and through these distributors telling us what’s upcoming we run it by Megan and David and say what do you think of these x, y and z films? So, it’s a collaborative effort.
DN: Some of the films have been in the festival and that we really liked and think our audiences would like the chance to see again. Some of the films are films that weren’t available for the festival or didn’t work out for the festival for a host of reasons, but we really liked and wanted to be able to share with audiences out there. It’s a mixture. It’s just like the festival itself – a mixture of all different styles of films, but really with a nod towards the types of films that otherwise wouldn’t be seen out there.
Can we expect the series to run throughout the entire year?
AC: No, not right now. By the time we start to ramp up to high season those dates are all taken by Guild Hall and Bay Street. We’re only doing the series through March, but hopefully we’ll bring it back in November of 2018.
What screenings are you looking forward to?
AC: We don’t even have March completely programming yet. We had December, January, and February – so we’re excited and thrilled that we were able to play some very important films that got a nomination from a bunch of different folks – not just the Oscars. Faces Places we showed in December and Loving Vincent, and The Insult – that’s nominated for Foreign Language.
DN: We are trying to show as many foreign films as we can because that’s what you really cannot see out here at this time.
While the series was exclusively shown at Guild Hall in East Hampton, you recently expanded to Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Any further plans to expand?
AC: We’d love to. Southampton Arts Center is a wonderful partner of ours too, especially all summer. We’d love to be able to partner with them to do a bit more, but we sort of had our hands full at the moment and we wanted to see how it worked out before we branched out a bit further.
We will be doing a screening with the Southampton Arts Center in March for the THAWFest. We’re going to be screening another Oscar contender, The Breadwinner, for animation. We’re going to be screening that on Sunday, March 25.
The Winter Screening is coming up. Tell us a little bit about that?
DN: That’s a series that Alec [Baldwin] and I have been doing for nine years now. I came from a background of teaching film history. He is a film buff for sure and continues to be involved with TCM and loves classic cinema, as I do. We just liked the idea of picking a film or two in the winter, when it’s a very quite time out there and screening the film and digging into a discussion of the film. This year we picked Strangers on a Train. We’re both big Hitchcock fans and we’ll screen the film and discuss it afterwards. We’re really excited about it.
I know this year’s HIFF is still a ways away, but have you started thinking about the 2018 Festival?
AC: Oh yeah.
DN: We sure have. We think about the festival all year-round. We start thinking about the next year’s festival while we’re at the previous year’s festival. We had an advisory board meeting last week. We have constant discussions about it.
AC: We’re about to open for submissions.
DN: Starting on the 19th we will start getting thousands of films sent to us and we’ll start reviewing them. We’re still reading scripts from the Screenwriters Labs, so it’s a very busy time in the programming department when we’re both reading scripts and watching films.
The Lab is coming up.
DN: Yes, the Lab is April 6 to 8th.
We’re in the midst of awards season. When you see a HIFF film win an award, what does it mean to you?
DN: It’s always nice. I think our audiences, like many audiences, love the idea of seeing a film before it catches fire and becomes full of buzz. Our audiences out there were the first audiences in the United States to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which is a film that really has a lot of momentum and steam and has really connected with audiences. We were the first audiences on the East Coast to see The Shape of Water. It fills us with a little bit of pride, but we don’t focus on it.
AC: David, and we also had the U.S. premiere of I, Tonya.
DN: Yes, we also had the U.S. premiere of I, Tonya and we had the actress Margot Robbie come out. She is nominated for Best Actress. We had about five or so of the nominated actors and actresses come out this year with the films they had in the festival. Sam Rockwell, who is nominated. Richard Jenkins, who is nominated. Margot Robbie, who is nominated. Timothée Chalamet, who is nominated, Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out.
For us, we like to see that type of thing happen. It’s not the main focus of what we do, but we’re always happy when some of these films that we feel really strongly about and champion – like Get Out, which we did a whole special program for – get some attention towards the end of the year.
AC: And, you know, David’s being a little modest because David and his team, and really the whole team, we pay so much attention to the films that we love. We’re here to give a platform for films that deserve a place on the festival circuit and we’re happy that our festival is one of those places that these films like to come to and want to sort of launch their campaigns in the U.S. through us. But, that’s just one section as David keeps saying. We have a competition – we have amazing films from all over the world that play our film festival, and David and his team do a lot to focus on all the different subject matter style films that we do for animal rights or conflict and resolution or air, land and sea. So, we’re very proud of that, equally I would say, but it’s such great recognition when all these films do go on to become award favorites.
Any other programs you’re working on?
AC: Yes, a lot of programs. We have a full-slated summer coming up – with summer documentaries like we always do. It’s our SummerDocs 10th anniversary, with David and Alec who do the series together. We are expanding our education programs this summer and around the year. We’ve gotten very, very busy. So this offseason has turned into anything but off. This is the way we wanted it. We’re a year-round organization, so we’re here to do things for the community, and so we’re happy that we’re able to have such great partners to allow us to continue to do all these great things that we’re bringing out here.
And once the Cinema’s built you’ll have another place to screen at.
AC: That’s right! We are so looking forward to that – and additional screens at that!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
AC: Make sure to look up the films that we’re playing because they’re all really exciting and fun in their own right. They have something to say. Some can be a little serious, some are really funny, but they’re all certainly worthy films to see.
For more information about the Hamptons International Film Festival, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.