Ask a Programmer: Movieline's Guide to 5 Major Fall Film Festivals

Just ask Movieline Chief Critic Stephanie Zacharek, who is already stationed in Venice for the season's first major film festival: Fall is the happening time for these organized movie galas. In honor of this fest upswing -- and Movieline's week-long seasonal cinema celebration -- we contacted authorities at the Telluride, Toronto, New York, London and AFI film festivals to pick their brains about the programming process, their events' unique identities in the fest circuit and much more. For festival novices, consider this a primer for the autumn film festivals. And for the seasoned vets out there, enjoy these behind-the-scenes accounts of the rigorous preparation that goes into selecting tomorrow's award-winning films.

juliehuntsinger300Julie Huntsinger

Telluride Film Festival (Sept. 2 - 5)

Title: Co-Director

How many years have you been with the festival?


How many films are in this year's festival?

Approximately 50 including special programs; core program is 24

Approximately how much time is spent planning your program each year?

360 days

What are you looking forward to most this year?

Seeing our audience enjoy the films -- best payoff ever.

How would you define your festival's identity, and how does it fit into the festival circuit?

Intimate, pure, no business show business

ml_fall_preview_logo300How has festival programming changed since you started? (In terms of politics, number of fests, volume of films, etc.)

We have stayed true to our original mission. There are more festivals, economy has seen a few disappear but we hope to keep doing what we do as well as we can for as long as we can.

Has awards season's ascendancy impacted the fall festival climate for better or worse?

We try to pay it no attention.

Place us in a selection committee meeting. What are the conversations? What are the disagreements? How are they resolved?

Top secret -- we don't always agree!

What do you most look forward to at each year's festival? What do you least look forward to at each year's festival?

Getting underway; special favor requests!

What's your favorite festival memory?

Colin Firth and Claudia Cardinale reconnecting -- they had worked together on a film in South America on which Colin met his wife -- cool moment to observe.

What's your advice for aspiring festival programmers?

Be adventurous, balanced and brave.

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