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A Mind-Bending Education: 30+ Years of Interns at AAFF | Collected Quotes

Published August 12, 2022

The Ann Arbor Film Festival commissioned essays from the curators of our special programs for the 60th AAFF, and published them in our program book. Enjoy these quotes from former AAFF Interns, collected by Vera Brunner-Sung.

C. Jacqueline Wood is a filmmaker, programmer, and media educator in Cincinnati. She attended the University of Michigan and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is the founder of The Mini Microcinema.

In 2002, I walked into the AAFF office and was welcomed with open arms by Chrisstina Hamilton and Carrie Romant. Little did I know that my life would change forever and the AAFF would weave in and out of my life for the next 20 years. From intern and housing coordinator in college, to screening committee member and media educator post-grad school, I have played many roles. And now I run my own microcinema where we have screened the yearly tour. I am forever thankful to George Manupelli for making this beautiful platform, and to all the directors, staff, and volunteers who have helped it thrive.

–CJW (AAFF intern ’03–’05)

Shrihari Sathe is an Independent Spirit Award-winning producer. 1000 Rupee Note, his directorial debut, has received 30+ awards. Sathe is a member of PGA, IMPPA and AMPAS.

Interning at AAFF broadened my cinematic horizons and ambitions. In my formative years as a filmmaker it was very exciting to see the films, video art projects, and installations at AAFF and study how various artists from all over the world approached the cinematic medium. Being an intern followed by being a volunteer coordinator and programmer provided me with an inside look into the workings of an established non-profit. I fondly remember my time at the AAFF.

–SS, intern ’03–’05

Joanie Wind (she/they) is an interdisciplinary artist living and teaching art in the Detroit area and exhibiting their work internationally.

Interning with the Ann Arbor Film Festival not only showed me all that goes on behind the scenes to make a festival what it is, but it also revealed the various local and international communities who meet through this vital festival to both generate and celebrate its content. I was comforted at the realization that even in a world boiled down to box office figures and superhero sequels, there are many people all over the globe working hard to nurture small voices, real experiences, and unique ways of telling stories. Since my time as an intern, I have shown work in the festival several times and at many like-minded festivals internationally.

–JW, intern ’17

Kate Phelan used to make lots of stuff on the technical side and now she makes stuff on the creative side. She lives in NYC with her husband and two kids.

My first year as a volunteer was 1992, the 30th anniversary. Vicki Honeyman invited celebrated underground filmmakers from all over the country to come and speak. I saw for the first time the community of creators. Folks spoke about the nuts and bolts of making. I realized that there was room for work beyond the studio system—personal, documentary, and experimental work. It was electrifying to see such a wide range of films all in one place. I am so grateful to have been exposed to such amazing artists.

–KP, intern ’92

Sultan Sharrief is a filmmaker and VR designer. His films and other works have premiered worldwide at venues including Sundance, MoMA, LA Film Festival, and MIT Media Lab.

I wouldn’t be the artist and activist I am today if not for my internship with AAFF. I was blessed to intern under the audacious Vicki Honeyman and fabulous Chrisstina Hamilton for the 40th festival. Having just arrived from Inkster, AAFF became my intro to cinema, the city of Ann Arbor, and the rich history surrounding the festival. It nurtured a deep appreciation for the craft of filmmaking and the importance of the community cinema exhibition facilitates. I would go on to shoot my debut feature on 16mm and co-found a community-based youth program focused on cultivating the filmmaking experience.

–SS, intern ’02-’03

Vera Brunner-Sung has screened her work at festivals and museums around the world. She is the recipient of fellowships from Sundance and CAAM and teaches at Ohio State.

I pretty much realized I could become a filmmaker because of the festival. The revelation was that I didn’t need massive resources, or even actors, to make movies that were powerful and affecting. Ironically, I now love working with actors and crews—but I don’t think I’d be here, and doing it so idiosyncratically, without my time at the festival and the mentorship of director Chrisstina Hamilton. I learned about artists’ cinema and the professional world, and found a really special community that encouraged me to follow my passion.

–VBS, intern ’03


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