Q&A: Lisa Trifone, Indy Film Fest Managing Director

The ninth Indy Film Fest, also known as the Indianapolis International Film Festival, started on a high note with a successful opening night, July 19, and continues through July 29. The movies vary in length, genre, and origin. Films in the first weekend represented filmmakers as far-flung as the Philippines, Iran, Italy, and South Africa, not to mention a number of films from the United States, some with connections to Indiana.

For an insider’s look at the festival, former IM staffer Rebecca Berfanger, a volunteer for the screening committee, sat down with Lisa Trifone, Indy Film Fest managing director and fellow volunteer. (Everyone who works for the festival does it pro bono, and Trifone would occasionally greet filmmakers and first-time festivalgoers alike.)

REBECCA BERFANGER: First of all, let’s start with your response to the shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20. Why did you feel compelled to respond on behalf of the festival?

LISA TRIFONE: I was surprised how much it affected me. We’ve all now had a chance to process it, but after the festival’s best opening night ever—I was floating on cloud nine when I fell asleep—I woke up to the news that this happened. It is our business to celebrate film, this is a community that gathers around film, and that had been attacked. It still gives me chills—the timing could not have been spookier. I wanted to say that we were still going ahead and we would be thinking of the people who were in that audience early Friday morning.

RB: What is your role with the festival?

LT: Because we’re a grassroots, volunteer-created organization, we can build it how we want it and need it. I approach this role as managing director as a hybrid of executive director and artistic director. So there’s the organizational side, and also the creative side as a curator and programmer. But that’s not to say I select the films on my own—as you know, there’s a screening committee of about 25 volunteers, plus the board, including Craig [Mince, president and Chief Operating Officer] and Jason [Roemer, vice president and marketing]. It’s definitely a collaborative effort.

RB: How do you strike a balance between programming films that will draw a wider audience while also keeping your more adventurous movie fans engaged in the festival?

LT: I think the sheer volume of what we’re able to show affords us the opportunity to screen movies that are “approachable,” as well as films that will surprise you. For instance, See Girl Run is a fun date movie and romantic comedy. It’s still an indie film that is not in theaters yet, but it will appeal to a broad audience. Then there’s An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, the winner of the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Culturally Adventurous Award because it is so innovative. [Catch See Girl Run at 5:15 p.m. on July 24 at the IMA, and An Oversimplification of Her Beauty at 8 p.m. on July 23 at Earth House and again at 1 p.m. on July 26 at the IMA.]

RB: How does the film fest partner with other art organizations around Indy?

LT: The festival would not exist without the partnerships—we don’t take that lightly. For instance, Earth House is our home, and we’ve had screenings there even before this festival. The IMA is such a great venue and offers a great opportunity for a cross-pollination of audiences. For the first time, this year the Middlewest Film Institute is sponsoring the panels for filmmakers. Also new this year, the MG Collective is involved with us in a partnership for animated films and will be showing movies at Earth House on July 28. [Business sponsors that support the festival year after year include Sun King Brewing, Lodge Design Co., and Just Pop In Popcorn.]

RB: What’s your advice for first-time festivalgoers?

LT: That’s a great question. I think the number one tip is that you can be a part of this, too. I think people might be intimidated by the idea of attending a film festival, especially if they’ve never been before. It’s just like going to a movie, but it lasts a week and these are films you can’t see anywhere else in town. You can either come to see just one film, or you can come and go as you please and see as many films as you’d like. I also recommend the shorts programs—it’s the same price for a ticket as the feature-length films, but you still get two hours’ worth of movies. The festival also offers Q&As with filmmakers when they’re available, and each film includes a personal welcome and introduction.

RB: What are some highlights of this year’s festival that are coming up?

LT: Even if you haven’t been yet, it’s not too late—the festival runs through next week. The closing night show, Somebody Up There Likes Me, is Saturday night. Other highlights coming up this week include a discussion with People for Urban Progress after Monday night’s screening of Detropia at 5 p.m. at the IMA; the Flying Wallendas are scheduled to be at the Tuesday night screening of Show Must Go On at Earth House, and we’ll have updates of other special events and appearances on our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and you can also sign up for the Daily Dispatch for emails about the film fest.

>> BONUS: See Rebecca Berfanger’s list of Indy Film Fest do’s and don’ts here.

Individual tickets $10 for feature films and blocks of short films; 10 tickets are available for $80; festival passes $150. See full descriptions of films and schedule of events at indyfilmfest.org.