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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Thomas Ball at 6:47PM
Dr. Tanya Saunders

~~Blog Post Written By Thomas Ball Cinema and Photography 18’, FLEFF Intern, Shelton, CT
Before the FLEFF bloggers convened last week, our director exiled us.

Through the conference room window we saw Dr. Zimmermann briefing our executive producer Dr. Tanya Saunders over a set of documents.

Neither our director nor Dr. Saunders disclosed the contents of the documents, and only let us inside after Dr. Saunders finished reviewing the papers.

With a trademark sense of austerity, Dr. Saunders looked over the materials with an attentiveness naturally befitting the Assistant Provost of International Studies.

Before I interviewed Dr. Saunders for FLEFF this year I reviewed the interview I conducted with her for FLEFF two years ago and some other interviews interns gave her in the past.

I started to notice a few common patterns. First, the assistant provost holds the opening concert as her most anticipated event each year.

The concert makes the most consistent appearance on the festival schedule, integrating the theme for that year’s FLEFF into a multimedia mosaic. In response to the lack of mini-courses by music professors, the concert serves an even more important role: interdisciplinary engagement.

Dr. Saunders identifies heterogeneity and interdisciplinary conversation as two of the most important goals of FLEFF. Although FLEFF contains film in the name, it extends to all the schools and disciplines of Ithaca College.

“Film belongs to all of us” served as an important motto across all of our discussions.

In her role as the Executive Producer of FLEFF, Dr. Saunders works as an advocate for the festival. She connects the festival to the Institutional Effectiveness and Budget Committee, which decides how much money to allocate to the festival each year.

The budget for FLEFF dictates the international guests who can participate in the festival, which films to screen and how many screenings to hold, and even the existence of the festival itself.

“A college is only as good as its reputation” explained Dr. Saunders. FLEFF acts as a way to maintain Ithaca College’s reputation as a global site of intellectual conversation. Without the festival, Dr. Saunders explained, Ithaca’s reputation and identity rarely extend beyond the northeastern United States.

For Dr. Saunders, FLEFF serves as a way to allow students to experience international thought and discussion if they cannot participate in a study abroad program.

The International Studies program exists at Ithaca College as a minor inside the Politics major. As such, FLEFF helps to connect students with international speakers and intellectuals in ways their minor could not.

In their effort to present media from a global perspective, Dr. Saunders along with her directors mutually decided to target more content from the Middle East. This comes in the wake of student protests in Iran over economic conditions throughout the country. 

The directors make no official announcements about specific programming at this time. Negotiations on pending events and speakers will continue to happen over the next few months leading up to the festival.

Dr. Saunders’ responsibilities to the festival also involve internal decisions within the festival’s staff. The blogging program, for example, took many years to refine.

In festivals past the amount of interns numbered one hundred and the blogging course lived in the General Communications major. Maintaining consistent interactions with one hundred interns, as well as training them to write in the blogging style proved fruitless for the directors.

Moving forward, Dr. Saunders and the FLEFF directors decided to reduce the amount of interns, but without reducing the amount of student engagement. The solution came from shifting student involvement into the mini courses and into festival hospitality.

Ultimately, the same amount of students engage with and participate in FLEFF. However, Dr. Saunders complicated this fact by saying that at FLEFF, she sees herself as a student. Whether she is reviewing documents late at night or attending the events at FLEFF, Dr. Saunders values ongoing learning and study as the tools to her success as FLEFF’s executive producer.


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