N Magazine caught up with Donick Cary outside the Dreamland following Thursday’s Nantucket Film Festival Staged Reading of Bob Fisher’s My Roommate by Spencer Sloane. Cary is a NFF Board Member, Executive Producer of The New Girl and The Simpsons, and a Nantucket native.
N MAGAZINE: How would you characterize this year’s festival? What makes this one in particular so special?
CARY: I think having it be the 20th anniversary is a moment to reflect upon. There are so many moments when I think, “That was such a great film,” or “That was such an emotional film, that was so moving, that was such a funny night” and so on. It’s nice to stop at those markers and reflect. When you look back at the last 20 years and look at what’s been made possible, what’s been accomplished, it’s amazing.
N MAGAZINE: Have you been with the festival all 20 years?
CARY: I don’t know what year I joined the board exactly… The first 10 years of the festival I was really, really busy with Letterman, The Simpsons, and just starting my career. It was really hard for me to go like, “They’re doing a film festival where I went to high school, how do I fit that into my schedule?” Every year I was sad when I’d see who’d been there and I’d meet people like Ben Stiller and Jim Carey, and I’d be like, “Oh, they were just on Nantucket and I couldn’t get there, that’s crazy!” And then when I finally joined the board, I carved out time to catch a red-eye out of LA each year.
N MAGAZINE: Does this festival have a reputation in LA? Do people know about it?
CARY: It’s an interesting section of Hollywood that does know about it. And it’s always an interesting thing here when I’m constantly at these parties where there’s an executive from New Line Films who I had a meeting with five years ago, a writer I worked with at Letterman who’s here for a documentary for something, and a kid I went to high school with and used to try to smuggle beer out of Hatch’s package store…
N MAGAZINE: It’s funny how Nantucket seems to bring people together in that way. How do you think growing up here has given you perspective on the festival and board duties?
CARY: I think one of the really special things about the festival is that it not only celebrates film, it also celebrates Nantucket. There’s a really interesting artist/Nantucket person who you start to see every year at the festival. I’ll meet some of them back in LA and we’ll know we were both at that thing where we admitted that we like to let our guard down, kick our shoes of and go to a movie. The first time I met with Ben Stiller in New York was a very different experience than when we hang out here, just for an example. People are just in a different headspace – they’re more laid back and not feeling all that business pressure.
N MAGAZINE: What are you most looking forward to over the weekend? What would you encourage people to take part if they could only do one thing?
CARY: One of the programs I love every year is the Facing History, Facing Ourselves program. They always bring a filmmaker who has lived a life you can’t even imagine and it gives you such access to them – people that have been through the total opposite end of the world than what Nantucket is in the summer – and those are always very moving and very inspiring. So look into the Facing History, Facing Ourselves program. I also love music docs. There’s some great music docs this year – Nina Simone, Mavis Staples – I’m excited to see those.
N MAGAZINE: There was a great interview on NPR with Liz Garbus, the producer of What Happened, Nina Simone? yesterday.
CARY: She’s a super cool lady that made this super cool film about a super cool lady. Her film is going to be on Netflix soon, but there’s something so different about seeing it in the festival. You’re going to meet the screenwriter, hear the music on a real sound system, and carve out 2 hours for her, rather than ordering a pizza and just having something on. These are some of the things I’m looking forward to, seeing some movies. It’s so hard to carve out time to see a movie.
Interview by Vanessa Emery