Interview with Festival Director Shira Dubrovner (Mammoth Lakes Film Festival)

Awarded in 2016 by MovieMaker Magazine as a top 50 film festival worth the entry fee. In 2017, the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival will screen over 60 features and shorts in the spectacular setting of Mammoth Lakes—California’s premier mountain resort, high in the Eastern Sierra. It will take place on the Wednesday through Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Shira Dubrovner: We combine our commitment to cutting-edge programming with our efforts to create a friendly, nurturing, fun atmosphere, giving our filmmakers a unique experience to be a part of what’s new and exciting in the independent film world and to make personal and professional connections in a truly unique setting. We believe films can change the world, but we also believe in art for art’s sake. Our slogan is “Movies Unfiltered,” and we make a point of showcasing work that digs deep, gets personal, and gets real and raw and confrontational when necessary. We put our filmmakers first, and make every effort to bring them to the festival and give them an unforgettable experience. We are truly a filmmaker friendly film festival. We offer all our filmmakers travel stipends and housing. We take over a student housing facility and house all the filmmakers under one roof, which creates a great synergy and a “Filmmaker-First Festival”.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

We create an intimate atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable to connect: filmmaker to filmmaker, filmmaker to audience, and filmmaker to industry professionals (from our Jury) and sponsors. Whether you are a filmmaker or cinephile you will be inspired and challenged with the lineup of films that we carefully procure for our audiences. We also have both guided and spontaneous outings to visit the amazing natural surroundings.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

For this year, 2017, they must have been completed after January 1, 2016. They also must not have had a theatrical release.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

I think the bigger festivals rely on reaching out to established filmmakers and organizations for their programming, and submitted films can become an afterthought. We make a point of carefully evaluating all submitted films and drawing a large percentage of our program from blind submissions.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Our commitment to find films with a specific and original vision. We love discovering the filmmakers of the future. Our director of programming Paul Sbrizzi discovered Lena Dunham and Ben Zeitlen before their careers took off. We love discovering and nurturing young filmmakers’ careers and watching them grow. We also love to showcase fresh and stimulating work by established filmmakers.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Very smooth. We find the platform very easy to use and easy to keep all the submissions organized and we are able to communicate with all the programmers well through the platform.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Our goal is to be a destination festival that is known for showcasing a selection of the best new work from around the world as well as finding up-and-coming talent. We are well on our way and intend on achieving that by 2020.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

The Wizard of Oz because it comes on T.V. every year and it brings out the kid in me.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A naturally gifted filmmaker who is unafraid of expressing a personal, inspired vision with style and sensitivity.

How is the film scene in your city?

Mammoth Lakes is a ski resort where many second-home-owners are industry professionals with a passion for filmmaking and a great interest in new talent. A lot of the year-round locals have a taste for art and culture; they welcome the festival and the filmmakers with open arms.



Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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