This series of posts highlights some of our talented local industry: on-screen and behind-the-scenes, established and up-and-coming.
Patrick Hubley is currently the Programming Director at the Utah Film Center. Since 2009, he has overseen all of the Utah Film Center’s public programming, including the Film Center’s year-round programs, the annual Damn These Heels LGBTQ Film Festival, and the Tumbleweeds Film Festival for Kids, of which he is the founder. He moved to Utah in 2001 to work for Sundance Institute as their Press Office Manager. Before that, he worked as a festival employee for the Toronto International Film Festival Group (TIFFG) and the Sundance Film Festival. We caught up with Patrick at the Film Center’s 7th annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival, which took place March 2-4 in Salt Lake City.
Tell us about your current role.
In my role as Programming Director, I direct the team that curates, plans and implements all of the Film Center’s film screening program. As part of that, I watch a lot of films that could be part of our various programs and correspond regularly with filmmakers, producers, booking agents, distributors and publicists, in order to book the films that we do decide to show. I also spend a lot of time researching films, film festivals, what other film organizations are doing to come up with new programming ideas. Though there are always some challenges, I love my job and hope that the work we do at the Film Center has an impact.
Did you always want to work in the film industry, and how did you initially do so?
No. For a couple of years after graduating from University I worked for my alma mater’s entertainment division helping to organize and implement a variety of concerts and other events. I then enrolled in a public relations program offered by my local community college. The program offered an internship component where we selected the organization we wanted to intern with, the school initiated the contact and set-up the interview. I was looking for an opportunity to work for an organization that supported the arts and that had wide reach. I had always had a minor passion in film, was aware of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), so requested that as my internship. I was hired as in intern in the TIFF Press Office, which opened a few doors for me, and the rest is history.
What was the initial inspiration/thinking behind Tumbleweeds?
Prior to moving to Utah, I worked on TIFFG’s children’s film festival, which at the time was called Sprockets, and I was taken by the experience. It was one of the most rewarding and inspirational experiences from my time working at TIFFG. Though I had lived in Utah since 2001, I never really considered it home, until I met my wife and we decided to stay here in Utah. I was working for Sundance Institute at the time, but I wanted to make a greater contribution to what I was starting to think of as my community. Salt Lake City is a very cinema friendly community. With the biggest film festival in country in our backyard, the Utah Film Center presenting curated programming, and the Salt Lake Film Society as our local arthouse cinema, SLC has a great cinema culture, but there was limited film programming for younger audiences outside of what was being screened at the local multiplex, and the idea of Tumbleweeds was born.
Our vision is to present a festival that introduces young audiences to films and stories from around the world that are challenging, inspiring and thought-provoking. We also strive to provide engaging hands-on experiences through workshops and installation that connect our young audience with the creative arts that contribute to the magic of filmmaking.
How does the Festival programming work?
I track films year-round, and have contacts with filmmakers, distributors and sales agents all over the world. I reach out to them about potential films to consider for the festival. We also accept submissions. In the past, we have used FilmFreeway as our submission platform and plan to do so again for 2019.
How many films do you typically watch ahead of determining the program?
I watched approximately 60 feature films and 200 short films that eventually became 15 feature films and 21 short films that made up the 2018 Tumbleweeds Film Festival program.
How do you typically prepare for a Festival?
Our goal is to start planning for the upcoming festival at least 2-3 months after the previous edition. At the moment, we’re reviewing what worked and what didn’t, as well as gathering feedback from festival attendees to start the process of planning for next year. My primary role is to lead and be part of the Film Center’s Tumbleweeds team, guiding the overall vision and direction of the festival, as well as to oversee the festival’s overall film and off-screen programming. I have an amazing group of colleagues and I’m proud of the work they do to make the festival possible.
What do you hope attendees take away from the Festival?
Cinema and the moving image are powerful mediums that can entertain while also presenting new ideas, challenging preconceived perceptions, and introducing both kids and adults to stories from around the world. I hope that these films and the Tumbleweeds programming inspires both conversation about important issues and kids to engage with their creative spirit.
What is your favorite genre? And do you have an all-time favorite film?
I like most genres, but if forced to pick then documentary is my favorite genre, which works well because the Film Center’s core programming is mostly documentary films. I don’t really like horror/slasher films. It’s also hard for me to pick a favorite. I watch a lot of films as part of my job so I see a lot of great films. Some films that I’ve seen recently that I loved are UP IN THE SKY, SCIENCE FAIR, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, and STREET FIGHTING MEN from Utah-based director Andrew James.
Any future hopes or plans to grow the Festival even further in the future? Definitely, although it’s too soon to talk about them in any detail. This past event was the first time we partnered with the Library, UMOCA, and The Leonardo to host the festival on Library Square. It was our biggest festival to date and there is great potential for future growth. We’re just not sure what that will look like just yet.
What advice would you give to a local who is trying to get into the industry?
Be open to all opportunities – big, small, random – because you never know where they might lead, and to keep in mind that there is more than one path to achieving your goals and dreams.
Pictured above: Patrick Hubley (r) at the opening night of the Tumbleweeds Film Festival, with Micah Barber, director of INTO THE WHO KNOWS!, and Oliver Downen (dressed as one of the characters from the film), who has attended every Tumbleweeds Film Festival to date.
Photo credit: LM Sorenson
Debra Vago is a publicist, writer and film enthusiast. She resides in Salt Lake City, having relocated from London, England.
Contact Debra for any Utah Film Commission press and media inquires at email@example.com.