(Vicki Honeyman and her dog, Lucy at her store Heavenly Metal - PC: Courtney Sacco)
Vicki Honeyman was the Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival for 15 years, spanning the 26th through the 40th festivals (1988 – 2002). During that time, she worked hard to keep the festival and its aesthetic alive.
We caught up with Vicki before the screening of her special program Vick's Picks, a hand-picked retrospective takes viewers on a visual celebration of some of the most outstanding film art presented from the 15th through 38th festivals. Here's what she had to say:
How did you get involved with the Ann Arbor Film Festival?
As a high school student in Detroit I spent many many hours at Wayne Cinema Guild watching films from the 1940’s/1950’s. I was enthralled by 16mm film: the richness and depth of the format is so beautiful. As a film major in college I ran three different campus film societies, including Cinema Guild which was a co-sponsor of the Ann Arbor Film Festival at the time. I became a volunteer with the festival, screening film entries for several years and becoming a huge fan of independent and experimental film. In 1988 I took over the festival’s directorship. I was Director for 15 years, during which time I put on the festival’s 30th and 40th anniversaries. At the turn of the century, new technologies were changing the face of small festival’s like AAFF. As more and more festival submissions were being created in this new and changing media (video, digital, etc), I recognized that the festival needed younger management which led to my resignation in 2002.
How has your experiences with the Ann Arbor Film Festival shaped the festivals unique identity and upheld George Maunupelli's intended vision?
I worked directly with George Manupelli on the festival, as well as with Woody Sempliner and Ruth Bradley who managed and ran the festival before my tenure. When I took over leadership of the festival it was in bad shape: very few entries, tiny audiences, barely any donor base. Because I’d been involved with the festival during it’s heyday, I was determined (with great success!) to grow the festival, nationally and internationally, with increased film submissions and audiences. Along the way I also increased the festival’s donor base, awards monies, sponsorships, and grant funding, as well as building volunteer and community participation. I’m proud to say that the festival is strong and alive because of my hard work.
Why do you think people are inspired to attend the film festival?
The AAFF is the antithesis to Hollywood cinema. This festival is entirely about film as art, self-expression, unbounded creativity, and crossing boundaries. This means of expression has always been valued by artists and audiences, curators and galleries. Because nothing about this work is main stream, there are few venues in which to participate and view the works.
Without giving too much away, please share with us a little about your project this year? Is it challenging to come up with fresh ideas?
My curated program, Vick’s Picks, is a sampling of films that stand out for me as representational of the films I viewed and programmed during my 25+ year history with the festival. There have been 100’s of memorable submissions over the festival’s 56 years: I have no problem coming up with a program of works to share!
What are you looking forward to accomplishing this year, that may be different from years before?
I look forward to tonight's audience walking out happy to have had an opportunity see films from years past….or works completely new to them.
Where do you see the future of the festival headed?
The festival will continue growing with submissions, a larger donor base, and larger grants and endowments.
Do you have any remarks for first time audience members who are still on the fence about attending?
For first-time attendees: if you don’t like the film you’re watching, don’t leave! The next one may be the one you remember for the rest of your life! Because these works aren’t by famous makers and actors, don’t rely on the film description to decide whether or not to attend the festival: just go! It’s an amazing learning experience.
Be sure to check out Vick's Picks tonight at 9:15pm at the Ann Arbor Film Festival!