Fesitval Scholars Program Added to the VAFF
This fall, a small group of UVA students were uniquely schooled in the movie business as the inaugural class in a brand-new Virginia Film Festival (VAFF) initiative called the Festival Scholars Program. The 6-day immersive, educational, and networking experience took place from October 31 through November 5 and was built around the themes of filmmaking, the film industry, and film criticism. It was headed by leading film scholar, and former studio head Harry Chotiner, who served as the Lead Film Scholar in the program’s inaugural year.
The mentored and guided program of studies, discussions, and more included 8-10 screenings curated by Chotiner and VAFF’s Programmer Wesley Harris (College ‘08) and 8-10 intimate group discussions and Q&A sessions with Festival guests and VAFF Advisory Members. Chotiner, well known to VAFF audiences as a moderator for post-film discussions, is a professor of film at New York University who worked his way up the film industry ladder, starting as a reader for Francis Ford Coppola at Zoetrope Studios. He would go on to be the Head of Story Development for CBS Theatrical Films, the Vice President of Creative Affairs at 20th Century Fox, and the Executive Vice President of the Film Division of Interscope, before leaving the business to teach high school students and adult education classes at New York University. “A program like this is so special because of the kinds of conversations that inevitably develop,” Chotiner said. “It’s all about young people who love film, interacting with talented filmmakers about issues in the film industry, the process of getting films made, and the personal and ethical issues that often arise in trying to merge art and commerce in a movie. The shared experience of this kind of film immersion makes it truly memorable.” When asked what keeps him coming back to the VAFF every year, Chotiner lights up. “For me, it is walking around on the mall, chatting with friends, and even strangers, about the films they have seen at the Festival. The word community gets tossed around endlessly and vacuously. But if you’ve been on the mall after one of the great screenings – it is just electric and warm and feels both expansive and intimate. What a feeling!”