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Shorts Programmer Profile: Lisa Ogdie

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Sundance Institute

The 2011 Festival may have come and gone, but you’ve still yet to meet all eight of the Sundance Film Festival shorts programmers. Lisa Ogdie is our true renaissance woman on the Sundance Film Festival team. In addition to assisting Festival Director John Cooper and managing public programming, Lisa still finds time every fall to fulfill a unique, but invaluable, role on the shorts programming team. After wearing too many hats to count during this past Festival season, Lisa had some time to share her thoughts on all things short film…

1). What is your role at Sundance Institute?

My primary role is as Festival Director John Cooper’s assistant, but I also work on various projects for the Institute. You may recognize me as the blurry, out of focus one in many of Cooper’s Festival photos.

2). How are you involved in the shorts process?

I mostly do second watches on those shorts that have been highly rated by someone else on the shorts programming team.  If it’s something I find inspiring or really connect with, it gets put back in the mix.  It feels like treasure hunting!

3). What is the role of a programmer in your opinion?

I think the role of a programmer is to push boundaries and expose audiences to exciting new talent. 

4). What attracts you to the short form?

I’m a fairly new convert to the short form.  It wasn’t until I volunteered at the Festival back in 2006 that I had even seen one and thought, “What are these delightful little things?!”  I think short film is a fantastic form of expression that not only allows a filmmaker to explore new ideas and methods, but allows audiences to take risks and discover new talent. 

5). What advice would you give filmmakers who are about to put their film out on the festival circuit?

Be honest with yourself about your film.  What do you want to accomplish?  What would make this film better?   And you should get open and honest feedback wherever and whenever you can.  So many films would be tremendously better with just a little editing.  It’s tough, I know, when you fall in love with scenes and when you’ve watched it a million times, but you gotta do it.  Also, know that the festival circuit is definitely a good time, but keep your expectations realistic. The shorts game can be tough, and even if you make it into a major festival, it doesn’t mean a three picture deal is just around the corner. 

6). Best Festival experience (can be any festival).

Ohh…there are so many, too many. I can’t pick just one, but I’ve had some of the best times of my life at both the Sundance Film Festival and CineVegas (RIP).  I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed so hard I cried.  I’ve dealt with private plane emergencies, seizures, horse trailers, food allergies, bomb threats, fear of heights.  I’ve seen it all…well, I’ve seen a lot of “it all” anyway.  Let’s just say that without festivals, I wouldn’t know that you can bring a monkey into a casino, but not a food court–as long as you keep him away from the tables.  They’ve run into problems with that in the past.

7). What was your highlight from the 2011 Festival?

What a great year!  I think the biggest highlight for me was having so many of our shorts alumni returning to the Festival with features.  Five in our U.S. Dramatic Competition alone!!

8) Any notable SFF 2011 short films?

Any notable?!  I think they’re all notable!  We had an exceptional year and I can’t wait to see what 2012 delivers.  Huzzah!!

9). Biggest pet peeve when it comes to your shorts screening experience (top clichés…or things to avoid)?

For every cliché, there’s an example of a film that does that thing really well. So, I’m open to clichés, but I do have pet peeves.  Consistency issues are a big problem for me, they can totally throw me out of a film. 

10). What are your thoughts on shorts distribution? How has it changed? What is the future? Who is doing it right and who isn’t?

The Internet has opened a whole new realm of possibility. I think most filmmakers just want to share their films with audiences and now everyone can do that.  And if the filmmaker can make a little bit of money along the way, even better!

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