Q&A with Leslie Raymond, Ann Arbor Film Festival Executive Director

Leslie Raymond is in her second year as the Executive Director of the AAFF.

During its membership meeting on Feb. 4 Eastern Michigan University’s Arts and Entertainment Management organization, AMP!, was given the opportunity to see the past submitted films of the Ann Arbor Film Festival and meet the Executive Director, Leslie Raymond.

Known as the longest independent experimental film festival in the nation, the Ann Arbor Film Festival this year has received more than 3000 submissions and will be playing 220 of those films on March 15-20 in the Michigan Theater.

In her second year as the Executive Director, Raymond shared with AMP! her experience with working at the festival and answered questions about the upcoming event.

Q: If this is someone's first year attending the festival what would you recommend for them to do first?

A: Definitely opening night program. If you like a party we throw a really fun one that same night preceding that.

Animation Program 9:30 Friday night; Music Video Program Sunday at 5; Awards programs on Sunday night at 6 and 8:15 p.m.

Q: The festival is displaying a wide range of genres but the festival is known for is the experimental category. When you were growing up, were you exposed to experimental films?

A: I saw ‘experimental’ film by way of the creative shorts on programs like Sesame Street. The National Film Board of Canada has a lot of experimental works that got shown in the public schools when I was growing up as well.

Q: This is your second year as the Executive Director for the Ann Arbor Festival, what has the process been like to get to where you are today?

A: I was a teaching artist for 14 years, then accepted the AAFF Executive Director job. It has been an incredible learning opportunity and I have grown tremendously through my deep desire to serve the organization that has given me so much. My creative voice has been inspired and informed by my relationship with the AAFF over nearly 25 years.

Q: Is there going to be anything significant and different this year that was not in previous festivals?

“Eastern Michigan University art professor, Chris Reilly, and his students are going to do the lobby decorations. We are excited about that. This is an important mission because the transformation of the Festival lobby really sets the stage for the films and festivities to happen.”

Q: What advice could you share for those interested in arts management and filmmaking?

A: Be an ambassador in every way you can for creativity and the arts. Help to open the door to those who think that art is not for them. Creativity is key to human existence—both from the making and viewing sides of things.

Q: Lastly, what are you most excited about for the festival?

A: That the magical festival week is almost here! Thousands of people will come through our doors to experience these incredible films that we have been working all year to bring to the community.

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