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What distinguishes Bushwick from its neighbors?
Well, I feel like Bushwick is like constantly being reinvented. We've been here for six years and we still feel like it is new and there is so much more to discover and be discovered. Laree was joking the other day that you can be walking by a hidden creepy door and walk in and you discover, like, a huge garden party. Also it feels like a self-sustaining community. I'm starting to find that I don't really need to leave Bushwick anymore. Everything is here.
What do you hope the community will take away from the festival?
We hope that the community will develop an appreciation for independent film and gain exposure to the amazing stories that so many filmmakers have to tell without having to travel far and spend a lot. We also want people to walk out of the festival with new ideas and a sense of discovery. Finally, we want the community to feel like it's all here in Bushwick: movies, music, art, salons, grocery shops, schools, everything. Like a little village.
How did the festival get started?
Laree and I moved in the neighborhood six years ago, and it was very clear even at that time that there was something happening here. There was just so much energy, culture and history already here, and then top that off with all the new artists moving in in waves. As I mentioned earlier, it seemed like a Hollywood movie set, but it was real! Even much more now, today. Everyday in Bushwick seems like a movie. Anyway, at the time I was still an aspiring filmmaker that couldn't afford to go back to school to study film—especially after NYU, haha—and I was really trying to figure out the best way to learn about the industry, meet other filmmakers, and help other artists and filmmakers who were also in similar positions to get their work out there. Luckily, I had a great group of friends that were also artists, and I approached them with this idea. Laree Ross, who also has a passion for filmmaking, particularly animation and design, was very interested, especially in being able to design without corporate limitations. And so at 23, we partnered up and started our first venture.
Where do you hope to see it go in the future?
We definitely have a vision for the BFF. First, we would like to expand our international programming, so Laree and I will be doing a bit of traveling this year to go to screenings and meet international filmmakers and distributors for next year's program. We are also interested in hosting more community events and are brainstorming ways that we can further promote health and exercise for all ages in the neighborhood and contribute to young women in the community. Laree is also working with a team to design festival merchandise and we plan to open our online BFF store this year. We have so many ideas and each year we just try to fine tune the festival and make it better.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart