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Interview with Katie Schaeffers, Executive Director of the Projecting Change Film Festival

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The Projecting Change Film Festival starts on Wednesday, so what better way to kickstart PCFF by interviewing the executive director and curator of the event!

Katie-Schaeffers1Tell me about PCFF.

Katie: Projecting Change is a documentary film festival that was started six years ago by Brady Dahmer and Lindsay Nahmiache as a way to really focus on environmental and social issues in documentaries. What it’s turned into in the last few years is a way to explore different types of different questions through the lens of documentaries. We screen usually between 18 to 22 documentaries over the course of the five day festival and we pair each one with a speaker, so we have a panel series at the same time. They provide context on the global issue that we talk about in the documentary.

How did you get involved with the festival?

Katie: I joined the festival two years ago as executive director. Now I am also the head curator of all of our context so I work really closely with Brady [one of the co-founders], so I get to look at the films and discussions and I also have the operational side of the festival. I spend a lot of time working with our committee on things like events and operational and logistical…

How do you choose the films and events that go into this festival?

Katie: We spend the first part of our planning cycle really thinking about the topics and themes that we want to explore in that year, and that is everything based on things like global trafficking, things happening in the news, breaking stories that have come out… So we sort of look at what’s trendy and relevant within the different topics that we explore. Then we look for films that fit those themes, or we look for speakers that suit those themes, and then we pair the speaker with a film.

Do you have specific aims for this festival?

Katie: Our biggest aim for this festival is to instil curiosity in people. We really want people to think about these questions in a way that makes it feel achievable to raise solutions. One of the things we hear with these other events is that global issues is asking people to feel sort of insurmountable, but what we really want to do with this festival is give people tangible positions and actionable results so we want them to walk out of the theatre thinking ‘oh you know, I think I can manage this little bit of change in my life or in my community’ and so if we put all of those little bits together it makes a big change.

What was your favourite part of previous years’ festivals?

Katie: I think really connecting with an audience is one of the best parts. We really try to create conversations and dialogue within our community and our audience comes from a wide variety of places. There are community members, students, parents, people that come from all different places and it really allows us to connect them.

You mentioned students there, so tell me about the youth days that are planned. How did you come up with the idea to engage students in the way that you do and how does that work?

Katie: One of our big mandates in projecting change is a focus on education and we noticed that young people are really interested in some of the topics we were talking about so we’ve made it two days which is four sessions of film and speaker content with workshops for school-aged children. We choose specific documentaries that are tailored to that audience, then we craft workshops for them. We focus on things like eating healthy, bullying, and empowerment, teaching children to be entrepreneurs and philanthropists. We select the content based on that sort of curriculum goals for that age group.

If you were to choose only one or two films or speakers for those who can’t go to everything, what would you choose?

Katie: The film I’m most excited about is our closing night film, which is ‘Girl Rising’ and that is fairly high profile as it premiered at Sundance a couple of weeks ago. It’s a Hollywood directed documentary that follows 9 women around the world and their particular stories about their struggles and why education is important to them. Incredible film, I’m really excited about that. I think one of the speakers I’m most excited about is our opening night speakers. Two women from New York who work for a company called Unchartered Play which has developed a soccer ball which harnesses the kinetic energy when you kick the ball, the ball is called the Soccket because it has a custom plug at the top which you can use a low-watt LED bulb into. They ship these balls to developing countries and kids play soccer in the schoolyard, then they can take the balls home and light their homes with it. It’s an off the grid electricity alternative. We’ve been developing our relationship with them for about two years now, so to bring them to Vancouver is pretty exciting.

 

You can find Katie on Twitter @katieschaeffers, and you can chat with her and many others at the Opening Gala for the Projecting Change Film Festival on Wednesday night in Vancouver! Find more information on ProjectingChange.ca and their schedule here.

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