Letter From the Board President

By April of this year, the non-profit sector in Massachusetts had lost $8 billion and 15,000 jobs. Cultural non-profits were hit particularly hard, and many have since closed for good. Thanks to the dedication of our staff, board, and community, the Provincetown Film Society is not among them. You stuck by us in what were, with no exaggeration, the darkest days of our organization.

In July, largely through volunteer efforts, PFS was able to present a re-imagined virtual film festival which, in characteristic P-town fashion, charted a new path for other film festivals across the country. PFS was the first to offer an outdoor drive-in experience, including a double feature selected by renowned director John Waters, as well as a robust program of in-depth conversations with artists and directors, complementing a stellar array of films. Mischa Richter’s film, I AM A TOWN, played to a sold-out audience and was a true highlight in an historic year, speaking to our love of Provincetown, the resilience of our community, and the power of artistic expression.

Mischa Ritcher at The Wellfleet Drive-In, PIFF Reimagined, 2020.
Photo by Mae Gammino.

We were then able to continue raising money throughout the summer with weekly outdoor screenings at the Mary Heaton Vorse House, in partnership with the Provincetown Arts Society, as well as a mini-film festival honoring our former executive director, Christine Walker, who now leads our diversity initiatives. Although I am happy to report we were able to re-hire our staff in October, we are not yet out of the woods. We still need your support to continue championing diverse voices, speaking truth to power, and making P-town a global destination for creative exploration in film. 

Our team is hard at work on PIFF 2021, which promises to be a rich and rewarding experience, full of surprises and innovative ways to meet the occasion. We also look forward to resuming our work promoting gender and race equity in the film industry. With your continued support, I have no doubt we will return as strong as ever to bring Provincetown to the world, at a time when our vision of a just and equitable society can serve as an inspiration. 

In fact, one of the most surprising twists of the year, for me, was seeing our virtual festival reach places far and wide, including Wyoming, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah, amongst many others. We have uncommon resources and with them a responsibility to be there for people across the nation and around the world. Our virtual platform has the power to provide people with access to artists like never before, and we will continue to use that platform to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Representation in film matters. It has the power to humanize the “other,” change how people see one another, and redraw the boundaries of inclusion within the human heart. With one of the most divisive presidential elections in our nation’s history now behind us, the urgency of our mission has never been greater, as we believe film is uniquely suited to promote the empathy required for sustaining one of the most pluralistic, complex democracies in the world. Thank you again for your support. I invite you to continue joining us in our work; we cannot do it without you.

Anthony Lawson

Member In The News

By Tracy Pease

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Blythe Robertson

Checking all the boxes, this month’s member in the news is a narrative and documentary film producer, a decades-long Massachusetts convert, and uniquely the newest member of the Provincetown Film Society Board of Directors, Blythe Robertson.  Blythe said, “I’m excited to join the PFS board to help further their advocacy of diversity in film and look forward to bringing new ideas to expand this vision.”

You’ve seen her on the streets of Provincetown, at the Waters Edge Cinema taking in a movie, at the annual June film festivals, at the Women’s Media Summits and Film Financing Forum.  She’s rolled up her sleeves to fundraise at PFS’ recent production of DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester and now PFS is pleased to add her name to the board roster. 

Originally from Huntsville Alabama, Blythe is a graduate of the University of Alabama.  With her wife Mary & dog Maisy, this fall, they moved east from Provincetown to Truro to renovate a fixer-upper that will have all the flair and style uniquely them!

Blythe has been making films for 15+ years. During COVID, she has been in development with South African director Bruce Donnelly on the feature documentary, THE ELEPHANT CORRIDOR about human-elephant conflict in southern Africa and how scientists, rural communities and park wardens are coming together to solve the crisis by using, of all things, honeybees.

Blythe executive produced Ira Sachs’ LITTLE MEN, starring Greg Kinnear and Paulina Garcia, which premiered at Sundance 2016. Previously, she EP’d Sachs’ critically acclaimed LOVE IS STRANGE, starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei, which was nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards. She produced ABOUT SUNNY, starring Lauren Ambrose and was nominated for another Independent Spirit Award.   Closer to home, Blythe was a line producer on the American Experience/Frontline doc series, GOD IN AMERICA. Other projects include The History Channel’s Emmy-nominated, DESPERATE CROSSING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE MAYFLOWER.  Blythe also co-produced the revival of Broadway’s revival of SIDE SHOW.

I’ve always been drawn to stories of social inequality and I’d like to think my films reflect that. My goal is that the projects I’m involved with create awareness around the unjust issues they highlight” said Robertson. PFS is thrilled to be part of this Legacy Member in The News’ next chapter.

Institute News

During this time of unprecedented global crisis and economic and racial upheaval, the lessons from previous crises tells us that a commitment to diversity and inclusion could easily take a back seat to other priorities. Yet, even during these trying times, we maintain that diversity and inclusion are in fact critical to recovery, resilience and reimagination. As we look towards and plan for a brighter and healthier future, among our priorities is to continue to amplify the diverse voice, particularly the least represented and to step up our efforts to hold ourselves and others accountable for supporting and incentivizing storytellers that represent the full breadth of human understanding and experience. Heading up our diversity initiatives will be former PFS CEO Christine Walker. Over the course of her tenure, she oversaw the development of the Women Filmmakers Residency Program, the Women’s Week Film Festival, the First Annual PFS Jamaican Film Festival, the PFS Film Financing Forum for Diverse Projects, the Celebration of Transgender Filmmakers and the Transgender Filmmaker’s Community Forum, among other programs.

Ash Christian Courtesy of Lon Haber & Co.
Ash Christian Photo Courtesy of Lon Haber & Co.

Soon we will launch the Ash Christian Shorts Filmmaking Program for LGBTQ Youth, named after a prolific filmmaker and dear friend who served on the PFS advisory board and tragically passed this past Fall at the young age of 35. Ash is credited for jump-starting the careers of several first-time filmmakers and he produced our PFS Annual Film Financing Forum. At the forum, Ash encouraged all aspiring filmmakers to above all, ‘go out and make a short film.’ Through this program, Ash’s legacy will ensure that select applicants will work with industry professionals to develop and create a short film that will serve as a calling-card for future opportunities. Look for more information in the coming weeks.

In January, we will also announce new guidelines for our Sixth Annual Women Filmmaker’s Residency Program which will take place at the newly redesigned Mary Heaton Vorse House, the historical home of the late Provincetown author, journalist, and activist. 

Let’s Go Back to the Movies!

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Save the Date!!!
Provincetown Film Festival 2021
June 16-25, 2021

Calling all filmmakers! Submissions for the 2021 Provincetown Film Festival are now open–early bird deadline is December 4. Submit your narrative, documentary or short films here

THE LAUNCH with Julie Rockett

I’m delighted to be relaunching The Launch and who better to do it with than Provincetown’s own Fermin Rojas? You probably know Fermin as being a champion of Provincetown Film Society. We are in his debt for his inspired idea of taking Provincetown Film Society on the road and having fundraising dinners in New York, Houston, San Francisco and other great cities (we hope to add more cities to this vibrant list when all this mishugas is over and we can travel freely again.). 

Fermin Rojas

He and his husband, Jay Kubesch, are partners in DKR Films. Their documentary, BLACK MAMBAS, was a PIFF2019 award winner. His past documentaries include REVOLUTIONS which chronicled Fermin’s return to Cuba after 50 years to create a Cuban Gay Men’s Chorus. You also definitely don’t recognize him from directing a comedy short I wrote about Sarah Huckabee Sanders. He did an impeccable job of making me look so very much like her that I’d resent him for that if I didn’t adore him.

Julie Rockett: Were you able to see any films during this past summer’s PIFF Reimagined?

Fermin Rojas: I was able to watch THE CAPOTE TAPES. It was wonderful. Truman Capote is one of my favorite authors. In my formative years, I read every bit of his writing including ANSWERED PRAYERS which was nothing more than a collection of gossip columns. My favorite Capote book is a collection of short stories called MUSIC FOR CHAMELEONS and it has one of my favorite stories, “Spin Dazzle Dazzle”. It’s a great example of how Capote’s writing incorporates all five senses. It’s basically about him being told for the first time that he was gay by a fortune teller. At the end of the story he meets a prostitute and writes, “She spoke the way bananas taste.”

JR: What films do you wish had a bigger following?

FR:  Lately I’ve been watching many silent films. I think they get this bad rap for having silly storylines with over the top acting but some of them are very sophisticated and have very talented directors at the helm. I rediscovered them last year. I was part of a live play reading at The Provincetown Theatre about a murder that occurred at LA’s Silent Movie Theatre back in 1997. The film they were showing that night was PANDORA’S BOX (1929). I watched the film and found the lighting to be beautiful and the acting was sublime. I highly recommend it.

JR: What are you working on now?

FR: I’m Executive Producer for a documentary called, ELEPHANT CORRIDOR. It’s about an organization of Southern African countries that is trying to control the migration of elephants through “bee fences” which are bee hormones placed in trees. They redirect the elephants’ migration and help protect trees from being trampled by the elephants. They’re also planting gardens that repel elephants like sunflowers or chili peppers and these provide food and economic resources for the communities. It’s mostly all women who are leading this program.

I’m also quite proud of the short films that we did with the Wampanoags that can be seen at the Provincetown Monument Museum. It’s a very complicated story of the interaction between the Colonists and the Native population. I think when people talk about the bravery and heroism of the Colonists it’s important to recognize that it was done at a great cost to the civilization that already lived here. 

JR: Do you remember your first favorite film?

FR: It was from when I still lived in Cuba. It translates to THE FESTIVAL OF THE DOVE. It was a musical about two sisters, Chastity and Suzanne. My brother and sister and I would reenact this film over and over.

JR: Were you Chastity or Suzanne?

FR: I was the director! I directed the whole thing and in retrospect, I’m so lucky that it was a foreign film that was my first favorite film. Then when I moved to the States I got to see THE WIZARD OF OZ and absolutely loved and devoured Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films.

JR: And finally, what’s a Holiday film that you love?

FR: I’m so easy. It’s THE GRINCH. It packs everything. I know very little about animation but the fact that a director could take that book and get an army of artists to make such a emotionally expressive film is amazing. The way he pokes at Max the dog who’s sporting these wonderful fake antlers. It touches on all of the important themes. I just love it. 

JR: I hope you and yours remain safe and healthy this Holiday Season!

FR: Thank you! 

Provincetown Film Society is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization; as such, we rely upon community financial support for continued year-round operation. Your generous support is appreciated!