Trender: newportFILM Founder Andrea van Beuren

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


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Who are the Rhode Islanders leading in arts, fashion, food, and style? They're Trenders, and GoLocalProv offers glimpses of the people you most want to know on the scene. Today, Andrea van Beuren, a longtime Newporter who founded newportFILM, the pop-up cultural event that brings international-caliber film to Rhode Island.

Homegrown factor: Raised in Middletown & NYC, summers in Rhode Island.

1. Where did you get your start in film?

I had been in the fashion industry for many years (since college really), worked for the art director at Vogue and produced advertising campaigns at Calvin Klein. I met my husband, Roger Kass, an entertainment lawyer (represents actors, directors and writers) who also produces films and became immediately ensconced in the world of independent film and documentaries. After that, there was no going back.

2.  How did you come to found newportFILM?

I had been programming documentaries for a film festival in Newport (which I had found to be extremely gratifying on many levels) and when that festival went under, I really felt there was a cultural void in the community and I became determined to create something fresh and new.

The challenge I am up against now, of course, is how to run a not for profit organization that is financially viable (a virtually impossible mission without major private backing and/or sponsorship) and that has broad community support. I feel it is really important to at least TRY a different model than that of the original film festival. I also feel that a traditional 4-5 day event is so limiting, especially one set in the beginning of the summer - pre season. Newport has such a variety of people coming and going throughout the summer months (in addition to the actual year round community) and I want to have the opportunity to try to reach everybody. So, after much discussion, we decided to create these pop up "mini fest" weekends and outdoor screenings throughout the summer.

Our goal is to bring films (narratives, documentaries and children's films) that might not otherwise be seen in Newport and (when we can) bring the filmmakers associated with those films as well. Our outdoor screenings will be held at venues in and around Newport - The Tennis Hall of Fame, Sweet Berry Farm, The Polo Grounds at Glen Farm, Salve Regina's campus, Queen Anne's Square. We are thrilled to be screening some of our indoor films at the newly renovated Casino Theater at the Tennis Hall of Fame. I will also add that newportFILM hopes to build on the foundation that Kathy Staab has created with her wonderful programming at the Jane Pickens Theater and that Newport is so incredibly lucky to have that special venue.

I have an incredible co-founder, Nancy Donahoe, who provides an endless source of inspiration and energy and an amazing managing director, Terri Conners, with a "get it done" attitude and a tireless work ethic. We have a dedicated Board and a hard working office staff. We all want this new enterprise to be a success and are intent on making that happen!

3.  What criteria do you use for selecting films for your programs?

I pull films from a variety of other festivals, Sundance, Toronto, South by Southwest, Tribeca, Berlin, NY Docs, NY Children's Film Festival, Silverdocs (just to name a few). I also work with a brilliant programmer, Tom Hall, who is the artistic director of the Sarasota Film Festival. Our tastes in film are very similar and Tom really understands our audiences. Our goal really is to program the best films we have seen over the course of the year, not necessarily the ones with the biggest stars or the ones that are going to make the most money, but the ones we think really stand out above the rest.

4.  What are the highlights of your first program?

First of all, newportFILM is NOT a film festival per se, it's an organization committed to bringing independent film and filmmakers to Newport throughout the year. We might eventually offer a traditional 4-5 day "film festival" component, but at this point I can't say that for sure. I want to see how this new model works and get lots of feedback from our audiences about what they want. But, as I previously mentioned, we do have pop-up "mini fests" and our first weekend is this Friday, June 17th. We have two great films lined up at the Casino Theater. On Friday night we are screening Richard Ayoade's whimsical coming of age indie film SUBMARINE. An acquisitions exec from The Weinstein Company (the company distributing SUBMARINE in the US) will speak at the screening about the process of finding and marketing a small, foreign indie film like this one to American audiences. On Saturday night we are screening A MATTER OF TASTE, a documentary about the rise of Paul Liebrandt who, at the age of 24, became the youngest chef ever to receive a three star review from The New York Times. Such a great little film. We are excited to have the filmmaker, Sally Rowe, at the screening.

5.  What are your personal favorite film genres and sub-genres?

As you will see from the programming line-up, I am very keen on documentaries. I love having the ability to expose the community to issues or stories that they might not otherwise know anything about, and documentaries are now so well made and so entertaining!

6.  What's the best thing about working in Rhode Island?

Being there. It's been over 100 degrees in NYC this week.

7.  What's the biggest challenge working in Rhode Island?

Funding sources just aren't as easy to come by as they are in NYC. RI just doesn't have the same number of hedge funders and media moguls willing to lend their names (well, there are a few...) and I'm happy to talk to anyone who wants to support us!


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