We Are English Graduate Students: Lindsay Baltus
Lindsay is a PhD Candidate in English and director of the Davis Feminist Film Festival. We talked to her about directing the festival (and its internship program), doing archival research, and the relationship she sees between the two.
What is the Davis Feminist Film Festival?
The festival is a campus-community event that has been running continuously since 2005. We screen international short films created by underrepresented filmmakers that focus on issues related to intersectional feminism. This year we're showing 22 documentary, narrative, and experimental films from Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, India, Israel, Mexico, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I'm particularly excited about the special screening on night two, which will spotlight two films made by UC Davis student filmmakers Lena El-Gabalawy and Yuelei Song. The screening will be followed by a panel and Q&A with the filmmakers facilitated by Branwen Okpako, which will give audience members a chance to hear about what goes into social justice filmmaking and to engage in a conversation about feminist film.
What many people don't know is that DFFF is also an internship program at the Women's Resources and Research Center. The program focuses on professional development for students with marginalized gender identities and introduces them to concepts in feminism and alternative media.
Tell us about your position as director of the festival. What do you do, and how did you get started doing this?
This is my second year as festival director, and I got started just by responding to an ad and applying for the job! I had some previous experience in program management, as well as a background in feminist media nonprofit work, so I think that helped.
I lead the curation process and the internship program, supervise the interns who plan the event, and do a lot of the nitty-gritty planning work myself, too. In the fall, I focus on recruiting and interviewing students for the intern cohort. That's also when we accept submissions, so I advertise that and lead the first round of screening. This year we had over 900 submissions, so we rely on the staff of the WRRC as well as community volunteers to help us choose the second round of stand-outs. I also plan a syllabus for the internship.
Then in the winter I lead the interns in a reading group that covers some of the basics of intersectional feminism, as well as topics related to social justice program planning. We talk about the controversy around trigger warnings, for example, and ask what a feminist approach to film curation might be. We also do some professional development work to build collaboration and time management skills. We screen the second round of films in the intern group and decide on a lineup.
In spring quarter most of the work is related to planning and promoting the event. I work with the interns on communications, outreach, ticket sales, social media, and planning a student art show to set up in the lobby of the theater. I make sure that tickets and flyers and t-shirts get printed and coordinate with the venue and the folks providing food and beer. After the event is over, I work with the interns and WRRC staff to evaluate the program, and I write up an annual report.
One of the best things about this job is working at WRRC, where the staff is incredible. At the WRRC I've been trained in crisis response and can be a confidential resource for someone who's experienced sexual violence, and I've been able to participate in some of the many other programs that support students and promote gender equity.
What connections do you see between your work with the festival your other work as a doctoral candidate?
My dissertation research focuses on the recent history of feminist media activism in the US, and right now I'm working on a chapter about feminist video. So I'm thinking about feminism and media all day long, in one way or another. As a doctoral candidate, I see myself as participating in the feminist scholarly tradition of working with archival material left by previous generations to ask how feminism has evolved and what problems it still grapples with. I'm interested in how the media technologies that have facilitated and preserved evidence of feminist activism have also changed our understanding of what feminism is and what it can do, and conversely, how feminist uses of technology change what we think media can do.
As the program director for DFFF, I see myself as a feminist media activist. Rather than studying an archive, I'm curating one, and I'm participating in its preservation. Feminist scholarship and pedagogy are vital, and I also think it's really important for me as a feminist scholar to dive into that essential but overlooked labor of curating and programming and organizing: recruiting volunteers, posting flyers, making phone calls, getting food. That's what I want to draw out of the archival material I study: What went into making this? Why and how is it still around for me to see, or hear? Doing the specific labor of building a program to connect our community with feminist media has brought my research to life.
How can we see the festival?
It’s May 10 & 11, 5:30 at the Veteran's Memorial Theatre. You can find out more information at the Davis Feminist Film Festival
People can also reserve tickets on EventBrite
Or they can come by the WRRC during regular hours!