For this week’s Geek of the Week I got to spend of a few minutes with one of my favorite Philly film geeks, Lansing Sylvia the Director of Development over at the Philadelphia Film Society. I first got to know Lansie during the 20th Philadelphia Film Festival where she helped me co-ordinate some of the great content and contests for Geekadelphia.
For it being her first year she really brought a fresh passion and perspective that I feel was really missing from the festival, and I look forward to see what she brings to the Film Society in the years to come. I hope you enjoy our little chat about all things Philly film.
Most of our readers will probably know you as the voice of the Philadelphia Film Society’s Twitter, so what exactly do you do at the Film Society and how did you land that gig in the first place?
I haven’t been able to do the Twitter as much as before.
So what I do at the Film Society is I am the Director of Development, which is philanthropic foundational individual and corporate giving. So what that means is I am partially responsible for keeping the lights on.
How I got the gig is I got my masters in non profit leadership and one of my professors had just joined the board of the Film Society, so she knew they were looking for someone with development and marketing experience. She also knew I wanted to stay in Philly, so she recommended me to Andrew our executive director who met with me and I was hired about four or five weeks after I graduated.
What is it like working with an organization like the Philadelphia Film Society?
One of the things I am constantly amazed at is how tiny the Philadelphia Film Society is, the year round staff is like 6 people and we have a great seasonal staff that comes in as well. Working in such a small environment, its like working in a family. It really honestly is.
Everyone plays a role and those roles always change. That is the best thing but it is also the most challenging.
So you don’t just sit around all day and talk about movies?
(Laughs) Common misconception, although we do talk about movies a lot.
So, what do you think the Philadelphia Film Society brings to the Philadelphia film community?
I think about this a lot. Simply put, we produce the Philadelphia Film Festival and that is the major part of our organization. Baring that I think the main thing the film society does is they are able to bring films that simply don’t get here.
There are a lot of market reasons why Philadelphia isn’t a strong film market and a lot of real estate reasons why Philadelphia doesn’t have as many theaters as it ought to and I think that is the major thing we bring to the people is access to films that you wouldn’t be able to get here otherwise.
What are some of your film geek qualifications?
I feel like I might be the least qualified geek on staff as far as the film stuff is concerned. The reason I came on board the organization is I really believe that film is the most transformational and transformative art form.
My background is in arts education and social service, like direct work with kids. I use to work for this organization called Teens for Good and we would do film screenings with them.
You can sit with a group of kids and talk and talk and talk about how local agriculture is going to impact our lives and kids will just roll their eyes. But show them a film like Food, Inc. or Super Size Me and in literally 90 minutes you start a conversation you have been trying to start with them for 6 months.
From just watching a movie, that to me is incredible that film has the capacity to do that.
What’s the favorite event or film you have shown since working for the Philadelphia Film Society?
By far my favorite even was when we screened 12 Monkey at Eastern State Penitentiary. It was so much fun. The Penitentiary, I don’t have enough great things to say about them, they were such wonderful partners.
It was a massive sell-out and it was one of the first big screenings I had done since I joined the Film Society. That was really exciting to see lines of people to see a film who wouldn’t feel good about that? I also forgot how much I liked the film and how great it was to see it.
What can we look forward to in the coming year from the Philadelphia Film Society?
One of the things we are working on is making sure the year round programming really extends the best parts of the festival. So the first program we are going to be doing will be with the University of the Arts, we haven’t fully booked it yet but the idea is Artist Turned Filmmakers and trying to pair those screenings with an art education component.
The main thing I think people can look forward to in the coming year is the Film Society getting a little weirder. Since last year was our 20th anniversary it was marked with a lot of the best of Philly films. I think out goal for next year will be to get weirder and more obscure and bring things into Philadelphia that you can’t see anywhere else.
For the festival, with the crew we have now we learned a lot from the 20th anniversary so the 21st will be a lot more streamlined. We are going to be improving ticketing, so you can look forward to that.