A quick chat with Nantucket Film Festival Producer, Bill Curran.
N MAGAZINE: How long have you been with the Nantucket Film Festival?
CURRAN: I’ve been working at NFF for six years, the 2016 edition (June 22-27) will be my seventh. I moved to New York City straight out of college to work in television production as a production assistant. A valuable experience, but certainly not what I wanted to be doing! After a few years I found myself unemployed. On a whim I applied for a programming internship at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF). It was unpaid, but I thought, this sounds right up my alley. I got the internship, started, and within minutes knew this was the kind of work I’d always wanted to do. So I buckled down, counted my pennies, did good work, and eventually got hired to run HIFF’s office during my first film festival. That experience led to an interview with NFF, which led to my first NFF working as a coordinator. I’m now the Festival Producer, three years and counting.
N MAGAZINE: What was your favorite film (or films) from last year’s 20th anniversary Nantucket Film Festival?
CURRAN: Impossible question, the first of two. But if you’re going to twist my arm, I’ll say The Wolfpack. It bowled me over when I first saw it at Sundance: by turns perplexing, heartbreaking, funny, and life-affirming. It goes beyond its stranger-than-fiction circumstances, and never condescends these kids. I could go on and on about this film. I’d also single out Queen of Earth, Inside Out, The End of the Tour, and Best of Enemies.
N MAGAZINE: What are your top three favorite films of all time?
CURRAN: Impossible question, number two. I cherish so many films and filmmakers. Today, I’ll say The Searchers, Blow Out, and Yi Yi. And anything by Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, and Jean Renoir.
N MAGAZINE: NFF has partnered with The Dreamland to put together year-round programming here on island: NFF Now. Tell us a little about how this program came about and why it’s so important.
CURRAN: When Mystelle Brabbee took over as Executive Director, one of the first initiatives we talked about was off-season programming on the island. We knew that Melissa Murphy, Executive Director at the Dreamland, was also very eager to expand their film offerings. With the Dreamland’s successful (re-)launch in June 2012, we knew pretty quickly that we would make excellent partners. It just made sense. We both care about bringing new and interesting films to the island. While there are sometimes great films coming out in wide release each week, we all agreed that independent cinema should thrive on Nantucket, and not just during the week of NFF. We also understood that, practically speaking, some islanders can’t make it to dozens of screenings during NFF. This was another way to see the kinds of films we love and curate, outside of the film festival. So we started small in early 2014, with great little documentaries like Oma & Bella. And in response to the success of these first few screenings, we’re now programming eight NFF Now films a year!
N MAGAZINE: What is the selection process for the films you choose to screen with NFF Now?
CURRAN: As I mentioned, we started with documentaries, but we’ve since widen the net to include American independent films like Cake and While We’re Young, and foreign titles like Force Majeure. Our film program director, Basil Tsiokos, spearheads and leads the selection process. Between Basil, Mystelle, and myself, we have a pretty good sense of what’s being released in select theaters before NFF, and what films we saw and loved at other major film festivals after NFF. We compile our lists. Sometimes the choice is clear, like Cake: the screenplay won our Showtime Screenplay Competition in 2013, so naturally we felt it was important for Nantucket to get a chance to see it in theaters. It mostly comes down to timing. We have a good sense of what our audience responds to, so we all discuss, bounce our ideas off Melissa, and go from there.
N MAGAZINE: The upcoming NFF Now screening (Sunday, October 11th at 1 P.M. at the Dreamland) is a collection of short animated films geared towards children. Can you give us a couple highlights from the group?
CURRAN: Family-friendly offerings are really important to us at NFF. We’ve had great fun with our Kids’ Shorts offerings at the film festival over the years. Re-screening this program during Arts Festival has now become an annual tradition. This year’s group of short films are all animated and all delightful. They vary in size and shape, from the hand-drawn beauty of The Mitten to the fantastic CGI imagery in The Alchemist’s Letter. Many are very charming, like The Present and the Oscar-nominated Me and My Moulton. It’s a great program, selected by our Associate Programmer, Sarah Salovaara.
N MAGAZINE: While this upcoming screening is marketed for children, what makes this group of films fun for adults as well?
CURRAN: I think adults will appreciate the whimsy and the intelligence on display in many of these films. Some feature stunning animation like Seventh Heaven and some deliver a great film in a short, sweet, and unforgettable little package, like The Present. This program made many kids smile and laugh at NFF, and, hey, who doesn’t love that?
N MAGAZINE: What are the dates for future NFF Now screenings? And can you give us any info on what those featured films might be?
CURRAN: We’re still working on our November selection, but the screening will take place on Thursday, November 19. We take a break for the holidays and are back with NFF Now on January 21. Mark your calendars!
N MAGAZINE: Any exciting things already in the works for the 21st annual NFF next summer that our readers can look forward to?
CURRAN: It’s too early to spoil any surprises! But suffice it to say, we’re already very much at work on next year’s NFF. In fact, we just opened up submission to the Film Festival (features and shorts), as well as submissions for our Screenplay Competitions.