Posted
— by Nicole Steinberg, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer

We’re excited about our newest major at Moore, Film & Digital Cinema, a program specifically built for emerging women and nonbinary filmmakers to learn and to share their unique stories in a rigorous and supportive creative environment.

In our new Q&A series, we’re asking local film industry leaders and influencers to share their excitement about the program and tell us more about why Philadelphia is a great place to be for students interested in film and cinema. 

First in our series: Selena Yip (she/they), festival director for the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, which begins its 2021 iteration on November 4.

What is your connection to film and cinema?

I am the festival director for the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF). I started at PAAFF in 2018 after I did a short documentary with Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. Through that documentary, I met a lot of leaders in both the Chinatown space and the film space. I was introduced to PAAFF through that process, so I’ve been in the local film scene for the last three or four years.

Why is Philadelphia an exciting place for film students and young filmmakers?

I’m from the Philadelphia area. I moved back here after college and just fell in love with Philly's vibe. It’s not as big as New York and it's not a small town, either. There's just so much richness in Philly culture. In the last couple of years, I've noticed how unique everything is. There's always something to discover; there's always a pocket somewhere that you haven't explored. And even though it's not as big as New York, I still feel like there are places in Philadelphia that I haven't experienced. 

When it comes to film culture in Philadelphia, it's in this process of growth. And if you're interested in being a pillar of that growth, this is the perfect place to find opportunities that you might not be able to get elsewhere in more established film spaces. Philly gave me the opportunity to be a festival director in ways that I would not have gotten if I had been in New York, if I had been in L.A. The film scene is tight knit, so it's still small enough that you get to create really personal relationships. I've grown so much because I've been able to be in film in Philadelphia. There’s so much opportunity here that I don't think exists in other cities, or there's more competition for it. We’ve been very lucky [at PAAFF] to have gotten enough grants to be able to fund a full-time job for me, and to be able to say I helped grow this thing, when I was 24, 25, 26…that’s huge. This is a place where I've learned the most and all of the lessons that I’ve learned here, I will be able to take anywhere else and continue my growth. 

Why are you excited about Moore College of Art & Design’s new Film & Digital Cinema major, which is specifically for women and nonbinary students?

It’s really exciting to know that there is a space to develop filmmakers and creators that doesn't have a focus on the male gaze. When I was in college, I took a lot of film analysis classes that I really loved. But in the ones that were led by women, with mostly women in the class, I learned the most and I was the most comfortable in. [I was] able to speak up, know that I was being heard. Knowing that there is a space like this in Philadelphia, where the whole point is to develop young women and nonbinary creators, is so cool because it's something that I never had. It’s awesome to know that there's a generation that is coming that’s had this experience, [which] will ultimately make them better creators. 

Something that I said recently in a panel at PhillyCAM was: This is supposed to be fun, right? This whole industry is about creating things that make you happy. There was a moment in time where I didn't feel good about the film industry and it was mostly due to the fact that I was the only young person that was not male-identifying, in the space that I was in. It wasn't until I was able to build a team that understood the dynamics of gender within film that I was able to lead properly and feel good about leading. It’s supposed to be fun, and hopefully a program like this will create a space where it is fun and it continues to be fun, and you're not burnt out or jaded about your work. It’s awesome to know that the point of this is to make sure that this is the best experience possible for people.

What advice do you have for future students in our program?

Supporting and getting to know one another is super important—not like, ‘I'm going to network so maybe one day I’ll have what I need.’ It’s really about being happy for each other and the goals that you're trying to achieve. Creating camaraderie within your class is super important. 

Explore Philadelphia. That's huge. Definitely see the touristy stuff, but, you know…being someone who has deep roots in Chinatown, I always advocate for people to really understand the history of Chinatown. Every neighborhood has such deep, rich history and you will find inspiration and people that will ultimately help you grow as creators. 

Make lots of friends; enjoy your time. I think that's the one thing I would have liked to know in college: Enjoy yourself, find the people that are your people and enjoy that time. It’s that sweet spot between youth and adulthood that helps you develop who you are [and] helps you develop your art. This is the greatest moment for you to kickstart your future. When you graduate, you will miss this so much. 

Can you tell us about the upcoming PAAFF festival?

The Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival is coming up, November 4–14. In a typical year, everything would be in person, but this year, we're doing a hybrid version of our festival. So we have film screenings on the opening night and the closing day, and then we have performances. We work very closely with Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists and we actually host their artists in residency. So they're doing a couple of their works-in-progress for us in person this year. Every year, we also have a music showcase and this year, we've collected a lot of awesome local Asian American musicians and artists, to showcase their work. 

We are one of the largest Asian American and Pacific Islander film festivals in the United States. And though the Asian American film festival circuit is quite small, it's a pretty big feat to host an 11-day festival with over 100 films and lots of panels and performances. As we continue to see what happens with the world, we'll be able to expand what “hybrid festival” means for us.  

At paaff.org, you can buy tickets and sign up for our newsletter. In our newsletter, we have volunteer opportunities and a section for the filmmaker community that we just started this year. As we continue to develop our festival, we're hopefully going to start doing local filmmaker meetups. We try to send out filmmaker opportunities, whether that's grants, fellowships, or even development panels, so that local Asian American filmmakers and local filmmakers in general [can] see what's going on in the city. There's lots of ways to connect with us.

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