Last week I was reading some of the bios of the programmers for TIFF and I’ve always thought it’d be great to get some insights into what it’s like to be the one in charge of selecting films for a film fest. Well, the lead programmer of TCFF, Steve Snyder, who’s also a TIME magazine editor, was kind enough to grant me an interview via the phone.
Just a bit of background on Steve. He is originally from Minnesota and attended University of Minnesota where he wrote for the MNDaily, UofM’s student-produced newspaper. He then finished his graduate degree in Journalism in Columbia. He held various writing stints in a number of publications in MN, as well as serving as a judge for various film festivals. He’s been with TIME magazine since 2006 and is currently serving as its editor.
Over the course of 45 minutes, we talked about everything from how he got involved with TCFF from its initial idea back in 2007 to his love for Stanley Kubrick ever since he saw 2001 Space Odyssey about 30 times over the course of 3 months in 7th grade. That film was truly a defining moment of his life and he praised Kubrick for being ahead of his time both in his imagination and that film was truly a quantum leap in cinematic history.
Even just within minutes of talking with Steve, it’s obvious that he’s passionate about film. His wealth of insights and information about films is astounding, so it’s no surprise that he was one of the three co-founder of TCFF since the idea inception began in 2007. He still remembered the night when he and TCFF’s board of directors Jatin Setia & Bill Cooper first talked about the idea in a bar in NYC.
As far as programming the films, he revealed that it started with a wish list of must haves and he went from there. The process of obtaining a certain film vary from one feature to the next, some studios offer free screenings, some charge a fee and sometimes they get to speak with the filmmakers themselves. He said we are fortunate to get most of the films they wanted in the slots that are available. There is a plan to expand the amount of mainstream/studio films in the future, which is great news indeed!
Below is Steve’s film recommendation from each category:
- Studio Film: Like Crazy, which tells the story of a British college student who falls for an American student, only to be separated from him when she’s banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa. Steve said it’s one of the best dramas he’s seen all year which deservedly won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize winner. Fantastic writing and acting all around by Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones.
- Independent: Ordinary Family (Midwest Premiere) – An annual family reunion gets rocky when Seth arrives with his new boyfriend; no one bats an eye except his brother Thomas, a married man of the cloth. It’s a humorous family drama that is also relatable and entertaining.
- Documentary: Where Soldiers Come From – One of the five docs I featured here comes highly recommended from Steve. It’s an intimate look at the young men who fight our wars and the families and town they come from. Director Heather Courtney gains extraordinary access following these young men as they grow and change from teenagers stuck in their town, to 23-year-old veterans facing the struggles of returning home.
- Shorts: 14 Minutes (which is actually 17-minute long) – Part of the 6 Short Stories You’ll Never Forget. An engaged American girl sets off on a road-trip to decipher her decision to get married in a few weeks by meeting up with a gruff, Canadian photographer.