Meet Associate Director Ryan Cannon
Recently, the Show Me Justice Film Festival gained its newest member. We sat down with Professor Ryan Cannon to speak with him about his new position as Associate Director of the festival.
“I’m excited and honored to help produce the Film Festival now in its fourth year, continuing its fine tradition of showcasing social justice films, underrepresented narratives, and the work of independent film artists,” said Ryan Cannon.
1) What is SMJFF about?
“Like other film festivals, Show Me Justice Film Festival is a place to watch, talk about, and to celebrate film. Unlike other film festivals, SMJFF is specifically interested in films that deal with issues of social justice. To this end, we gather to watch films. We talk about those films. We talk about making films. We talk about the things those films are talking about. We talk about why film, why social justice, is important. The virtue of these kinds of dialogues is that they bring to the forefront things we don’t often talk about, but should talk about more: social issues, economic disparity, gender and racial inequality, marginalized populations, war, avarice, etc. The core of any
film festival is stories. The core of our festival is stories that aren’t often told, underrepresented narratives, bringing unpopular and oft-overlooked issues into the light. This isn’t to say we’re interested in dwelling excessively on social ills, but before there are solutions, there are always conversations, and we’re interested in promoting those conversations.”
2) What does Social injustice mean to you?
“I’m a humanist, and I think, at heart, no matter how we articulate the semantics, most of us are. This means that we believe the problems to our solutions lie within ourselves, within our societies, though recent political/social events pointing to the contrary always seem close at hand. Not to be too reductive, but social injustice occurs when we, humans, treat other humans as though they aren’t humans, or at least not humans equal in standing to us. It sounds like common sense, but unfortunately this equation of inequality and injustice oft-times describes the human condition.”
3) What is your role in the SMJFF program?
“I’m the associate director of the festival this year. That’s a fairly ambiguous title to mean that I’m helping Dr. Mark von Schlemmer, the festival director, organize and curate the film festival, now in its fourth year.”
4) I understand that you are in charge of the submission process, what is different about the submissions thus far compared to those from last year?
“In the past, SMJFF has used Withoutabox, a film submission system that connects filmmakers with festivals. It’s a very widely used system that can generate a lot of submissions for a festival. Withoutabox, I might mention tangentially, is owned by IMDB.com, which is in turn owned by Amazon. Big players, all.
Due to an issue with how Withoutabox accepts submission fees from filmmakers, and University of Central Missouri liability requirements, we cannot use Withoutabox this year. This is unfortunate in terms of promoting our festival to filmmakers, and generating submissions. So, working in conjunction with the UCM accounting department, we’ve designed and implemented a submission site whereby filmmakers can submit their films to the festival. It’s definitely a challenge trying to promote the festival through other channels, and generate interest and submissions for the festival. Thus far, our submission numbers look promising, and hopefully word will continue to get out.
Filmmakers can submit their work to SMJFF here:http://www.ucmo.edu/filmfest/submit/.”
5) What are some of the films that you have shot?
“I’ve worked on a good number of films, some fairly bad, many mediocre, and only a small number that were very good. I’m quite fond of a short film, Shale, I photographed last year. We had grants from Panavision and HBO and so were able to shoot on Super-16mm film, a luxury in our digital age. It premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival this year and also played at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. I did the lighting (read: gaffed) for a holiday-themed feature film, Christmas for a Dollar, that is premiering in LA this November. The Adventures of Food Boy, a Nickelodeon-style feature film that I photographed on 35mm film in 2008, probably has the widest distribution. It’s available on Netflix and other streaming/rental services. I photographed another short that year, The Loss of a Wrestling Match, that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. I think that film was quite good.”
6) What do you look forward to the most at SMJFF?
“Filmmaker Q&As. I love watching the films, but I think a good deal of the festival magic happens afterward, when the filmmakers talk about their work and the audience responds to it. I’ll never forget a panel discussion at the Sundance Film Festival where the great filmmakers Werner Herzog and Frederick Wiseman talked with the audience about their varied approaches to documentary film, what the art form meant to them, what stories meant to them. It was quite wonderful.”
7) How would you encourage students to participate in this year’s festival?
“There are many ways to get involved with the film festival this year. Students can help in the screening/selection process, having a very real impact on what films/filmmakers we bring to the festival this year. There are also opportunities to get involved organizationally prior to the festival in April, and volunteer opportunities during the festival. Above all, though, I would encourage students to attend. Very few are the university campuses that host their own international film festival. SMJFF is a real boon to our university, our faculty, and our students.”