When George Manupelli started the Ann Arbor Film Festival in the 1960s, he assembled a group to help wade through the submissions and plan the program. There was a rule to leave each film on the projector until the very end and everyone was expected to view each film in its entirety. Though we have changed some things about the process and our group has expanded beyond the small group that would get together to review films, the core idea of giving each submission a fair chance and including many voices in the programming has continued to today.
Each year we receive thousands of submissions from all over the world and we have expanded to accept films created using a variety of media, we still rely on a dedicated group of volunteers to carefully consider all the films that come in. Our group of about 100 screeners come from a variety of backgrounds and are located around the world. While the entire group is essential to making the process work, we are especially indebted to the effort of our Super Screeners.
This year’s Super Screeners are Robin Sober, Ron Sober, Deanna Morse, Ethan Voyles, Cynthia Nicely, and Susan Dise. Together they submitted 1325 reviews - over half of this year’s 2330 submissions!
While we ask that all screeners have attended the festival, Super Screeners typically have been attending for years. “I have been regularly attending the AAFF for at least 10 years, but attended sporadically before that--even back in the old days when it was young and very funky,” said Cynthia. Ron, Robin, and Sue all have been attending for over 20 years.
"I thoroughly enjoy watching experimental and amateur as it inspires my own creative work and gives me a sense of others' creative output," said Ethan in response to being asked what motivates him to screen. Robin replied “It’s inspiring to see the collective talent and hard work of several filmmakers. And when a film that I pass through for consideration to the next screening round makes it into the AAFF, it’s exciting! The bonus is seeing and hearing from the filmmaker at the Festival.”
Most of our Super Screeners agreed that being able to see a wide variety of films is their favorite part of being a screener. Cynthia responded, “Screening is like a massive sneak peek--so many interesting and awful films to see. It really is thrilling.” Ron is drawn to “having the opportunity to see films I would never be exposed to, otherwise.”
"As an experimental animator interested in exploring what is distinctive to the art of animation, this is rich ground. It was inspiring to see so much excellent work that stretched the limits of traditional filmmaking, and that was engaging and intriguing. Challenging, satisfying. Interesting.” - Deanna Morse
Deanna has screened for other festivals and summed up her experience this year:
“This fall, I was honored to judge/review for three different film festivals. I was recently invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars), and I judged an international festival in Xiamen, China... and I participated as a selection committee member for the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Three very different screening experiences. Three very different venues. It was so interesting to see how varied the selection criteria and judging procedures were for these three important competitions. In each case, the number of entries was huge, and the number chosen for (programming) was small. What I valued about selection for [the AAFF] is that we were looking specifically for films that expressed a personal vision. And for pieces that considered the medium of film or video, often foregrounding abstraction. As an experimental animator interested in exploring what is distinctive to the art of animation, this is rich ground. It was inspiring to see so much excellent work that stretched the limits of traditional filmmaking, and that was engaging and intriguing. Challenging, satisfying. Interesting.”
All of our Super Screeners have also been involved with AAFF in other ways. Ethan started as an intern with the festival and Cynthia, Robin and Sue have served on the organization’s board of directors, with Sue being our current Board Chair. Deanna is part of the AAFF Advisory Board and most have been long-time donors including funding awards and supporting filmmakers receiving screening fees.
Without the dedication of this group and the rest of our screening cadre, the AAFF would not be able to live up to George’s original vision for the festival. We cannot express enough gratitude for their efforts and input. If you see them around the festival, be sure to help us thank them for their hard work.
Thank you to our Screeners!