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A Word from our Executive Director

Early last fall under clear blue Ann Arbor skies, on a downtown sidewalk in front of RoosRoast, I met up with Bhushan Kulkarni and Maurice Collins of InfoReady for coffee. I’d learned of their cloud-based internal grant review software from Bill Mayer of SPARK. InfoReady developed and deployed InfoReady Review at over 100 universities, and I was curious to find out if it shared elements with our nonexistent dream platform for reviewing Festival submissions, yet to be created.

The Festival had been stumbling along for some time with a system for film review that was lumpy and cumbersome. Frankensteined together over the past decade-and-a-half as the AAFF rode a long wave of technological developments, we had been using a combination of FileMaker Pro and Excel spreadsheets. Effusive thanks to our many volunteer screeners for tolerating our awkward method for so long. With more than 2500 films submitted each year, it also took a ton of person power on our end to handle the entire operation. The Festival owes an enormous debt of gratitude to AAFF staff, and a mighty shout out to Maria Feldman, Ellie White, Tim Harkins, Kyle Stefek and Allison Buck-- folks I’ve known personally over the years to have shouldered this critical and demanding administrative chore.

I learned from colleagues from other film festivals that we weren’t the only one coping with this difficulty, without a straightforward solution in sight. As the sun filtered down through overhead leaves, I relayed our hopes to Bhushan and Maurice for an efficient and elegant solution to our problem, a vision of a tool that many other film festivals would also be keen to employ. After some deliberation, they eventually accepted the challenge.

Fast forward to just a couple weeks ago, after months of developing and testing. About half of the fifty or so screeners who will participate in reviewing films for the 56th AAFF convened at InfoReady's office for the first screening cadre orientations of the season. After a round of introductions, Maurice unveiled the web portal where each screener will log in to watch and score film submissions. Everyone was thrilled to hear that screeners will no longer need to jump back and forth between spreadsheets and websites, copy-pasting URLs, submission numbers and passwords! With the web portal created by InfoReady, our screeners will be able to login, watch, score and submit all of their reviews in one place-- an indubitable improvement.

As for the administrative side, our staff will no longer be chained to the mass of data exports and imports and other related, tedious tasks. The resulting increased bandwidth can be applied to creative imagining, connecting and communicating, and to putting on the best Festival possible. These kinds of internal changes may seem far from sexy, but streamlining our practices and extending our capacity is a big deal to our tiny non-profit.

What does it mean to our audience? With greater efficiency, we have the ability to cast a wider net in order to find more of the best in art films. Also, more volunteers can screen with us, further enabling our historic embrace of the democratic process. Notably, diverse groups come up with better outcomes. The new platform also opens the door to explore further modes of dialogue between our screeners, including online forums and chat.

An auspicious constellation of conditions fueled this collaboration-- right time, right place, right team. Thank you Maurice Collins and Allison Buck for leading the charge, to Katie McGowan, Aaron Knight, and Pam Hayes for supporting the design and build, to our focus group and beta testers for all of your input: Ken Bawcom, Vicki Honeyman, Linda Knox, Patti Smith, Robin Sober, Jason Stevens, and Sarah Thiefels.

We are thrilled to launch in the coming days!

Interested in screening with us? You must have attended the AAFF and be familiar with what we show, but can participate from anywhere with a robust internet connection. Contact

Leslie Raymond

AAFF Executive Director

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