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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 Alisha Tamarchenko at 10:07PM

The library was packed with students, including myself, studying nervously with midterms only a few short weeks away.

Tommy and I walked up to the third floor of the library where the chatter of anxious students was a little more subdued. We found a table towards the back where we’d be able to hear each other and not be interrupted by the constant flow of friends and acquaintances that comes with going to a school as small as Ithaca.

Tall and slender, Tommy is one-inch shy of six feet so I was glad to finally sit down and be able to meet him at eye-level instead of craning my neck to look up.

A Cinema and Photography major in his second year, Thomas Gonzalez, is a FLEFF blogging intern, just like myself.

He first heard of FLEFF last year and attended a couple screenings downtown. He really enjoyed the films but sensed that he had just seen the tip of the iceberg and that the festival had much more to engage with.

For instance, he didn’t realize that most films had a post-screening discussion right afterwards. He left right at the end Zama, a film that year that had a famously exciting discussion afterwards. So this time around, he decided to become a blogging intern; “Why not just go all in this year?”

So far this semester, Tommy feels like he’s gained a lot in his pre-FLEFF immersion. He’s enjoying learning about the history and politics behind film festivals and cinema’s place in the world.

“Film isn’t just a work of art on its own - it exists in the world that created it,” says Tommy. He’s appreciated learning how films and film festivals are directly affected by social and political climates.

Tommy and I also reflected on how we both as filmmakers have been approaching the writing and blogging process for FLEFF. He’s found that structuring an article is very different from structuring a film. With film, one tries to control the information and drop it in strategically. However, in an article you want to put the most important information first and then elaborate as it goes on. “You see the whole elephant, and then you go in on the tusk.”

He’s both excited about the challenge the writing format poses as well as excited about the great opportunity FLEFF provides to think more critically and deeply about festivals and art in general. This is something he’s really enjoyed about film school so far – interrogating and analyzing films.

He brought up a recent conversation he had with his aunt about the 2018 documentary “RBG” about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life. His aunt asked him if knowing how movies are made has ruined the movie-going experience for him. To that he told her that “films can only get richer, they can’t be ruined by analysis and introspection.”

Tommy first started making movies in 8th grade. Him and his friends showed their first movie at the 8th grade talent show and he’s been a filmmaker ever since.

He grew up in Flemington, New Jersey - equal distance from NYC and Philadelphia. Tommy called it, “the worst of both worlds.” Its rural and agrarian on the one hand but also a town that’s not big enough for anything to be happening. However, throughout his life his parents have travelled a lot with him.

Within just the US for instance, he’s already been to 47 states. He’s only missing Florida, California and Hawaii. He feels these experiences have helped him think globally. He’s learned to appreciate people and look at them with a lot more depth and more insight.

When you’re driving in Mississippi for instance, Tommy said “you can’t swing a dead cat around without hitting a church.” He lives in a relatively secular area and having exposure to different lifestyles, such as a heavily religious one, has positively added to his global understanding.

In addition to being committed to his growth as a global citizen, Tommy’s parents are also very supportive of his film career. He remembers his dad, a lawyer, once saying to him “you could be a street performer and I’d support you but don’t be a lawyer.” He feels fortunate that his parents support whatever interest or career he’d go into (except law).

As for his interest in art, he attributes this in part to his grandfather. His grandfather died when he was very young but Tommy remembers that he loved art, especially Picasso. And Tommy finds himself wondering if his interest in art and the pursuit of it as a career, comes from him wanting to relate to his grandfather.

As we finished the interview, and walked out of the library, I thought about how excited I was to be able to have the opportunity to be in this class and meet other intellectually engaged and curious students such as Tommy. I look forward to engaging with him and everyone else in my blogging cohort in class and this time in post-screening discussions.



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