By Ozzi Ramirez
Welcome to NYWIFT, Vanessa Meyer! Meyer is a filmmaker, programmer, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to having earned a Ph.D. in Communications with a specialization in personal storytelling, she has worked at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, Kiss Off Entertainment, Reel Love Film Festival and most recently, Women in Film and Television Vancouver (WIFTV).
As an artist, she is interested in exploring the complexities of feelings, a theme that has repeatedly appeared in her work. In addition to her years of experience as a programmer, Vanessa has also directed the short films Sober Reflections, The Hemispheres, CUP U, and Foot Trouble.
Meyer spoke to us about championing unique voices as a programmer, moving to NYC, and finding light in the darkness.
Tell us about yourself – Give us your elevator pitch!
Hi! My name is Vanessa Meyer and I’m a frustrated yet friendly filmmaker, academic, programmer and educator who loves to talk about storytelling and uncomfortable feelings. I also make music with my best friend and am a doctor (the kind that can’t save you if you’re having a heart attack!).
What are the best and most challenging parts of being a film programmer?
Hands down, the best part of programming is being able to recognize and champion unique voices. There’s nothing like reading a script or watching a film that really grabs you and makes you feel like, “Yes. People must hear this voice!”
The most challenging part is realizing the limitations of the system that you’re working within (of which there are many) and doing your best to support the films and filmmakers you believe in within that system.
As a programmer and someone who markets other filmmaker’s projects, what qualities stand out to you while determining which films you’re going to promote?
For me, it’s all about a clear and unique vision. I also like to see storytelling that takes risks through honesty and vulnerability because I think that that’s what makes good filmmaking resonate with audiences. I work a lot in the genre world and so for me it doesn’t matter how fantastic a story may be, I need to feel the realness and the truth at the heart of it. That’s really what hooks me.
The subject of feelings and how to address them has been central to your work as a filmmaker. Can you tell us a little more about the projects you’ve created that have addressed this topic? Did you have a specific target audience in mind?
Thank you for this question. Well, there are two main ones. The first is my autoethnographic thesis film called Everybody Gets Sad about my relationship with my mother. This project is really one film within a collection of three films, all of which are unfinished but culminated with my getting a Ph.D. in Communication Studies. The second is my first fiction short film that I directed this past year called Foot Trouble which is now being submitted to festivals.
The truth of the matter is that Foot Trouble wouldn’t exist without the many years I toiled away putting together my thesis films and grappling with ideas on how to come to terms with complicated relationships and emotions that we may not always show in obvious ways. That is why my short film is about dissociation, the teenage experience, and living in a society that doesn’t know how to process and recognize the pain and suffering that underlies it. But it’s a comedy…a dark one but a comedy nonetheless!
My target audience? Another good question! I’d say anyone who is down to get a little uncomfortable and weird while flexing their hearts and minds a bit. I think that’s the best answer I have for now.
What brings you to NYWIFT?
I recently became a resident of New York City and having participated at NYWIFT events through my previous work, I figured it was a great creative community. I am also the program director of The Genre Film Lab for WIFTV in Canada, so I thought it would be appropriate to join the team here as well!
How did the pandemic shape and influence your work experience?
Well, I defended my Ph.D. on Zoom while sitting in a closet the week the pandemic hit and the city went into lockdown. I also lost my previous job and got kicked out of my apartment. So during the pandemic, I found myself living in a strange new apartment all alone with no job, no money, a doctorate I had no idea what to do with, and a bunch of unfinished films about my relationship with my mother. Needless to say, things were quite dark.
But darkness was everywhere and like with many others, that darkness ultimately showed me the light and I’m better for it. Having to sit with myself and my work forced me to confront some fears and showed me who I am and who I want to be. So I wrote a feature about that experience which I hope to move forward with during the coming year.
Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
Yes! There’s the feature I mentioned, which I am currently developing as a third draft.
I am also working on a second short that loosely plays with the notion of perspective in the art world. With this project, I hope to push my visual style further and experiment with some things I’d like to expand on in the feature.
And last but not least, I’m attempting to turn my doctoral work (including the unfinished films) into a live performance piece, kind of like an in-your-face redemption of my closet thesis defense. I’m hoping for a productive 2023!
Connect with Vanessa Meyer on LinkedIn.
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