Executive Director of the Oxford Film Festival has been there from start
By Chaning Green, News Writer
Executive Director of the Oxford Film Festival, writer and filmmaker Melanie Addington has been with the event from the very beginning. The first year she moved to Oxford was the year the film festival launched.
Born in Los Angles, Addington moved around a bit as a child. She spent a considerable amount of time growing up in San Diego and considers that to be her hometown. For her undergraduate studies, she attended California State University at San Marcos where she earned a bachelor’s degree in literature.
Addington made her way to Oxford, as many do, by moving here to attend the university. She’d gotten into three graduate schools for journalism: New York University, a small school in Pittsburgh and Ole Miss. She chose Oxford because the cost of living was drastically cheaper than that of New York City and because she knew the state. Addington has family in Vicksburg and spent most of her childhood summers in the river town.
Though, when she got to Oxford, graduate school did not seem like the preferable option, so Addington began working for the Oxford Eagle and stayed on staff there for about five years until she left to become the social media director of PMQ Pizza Magazine. During those years, she was heavily involved with the film festival.
“I moved from San Diego where there is a very active independent film scene, so I was very excited that the film festival existed,” Addington said. “I went the first year and there were a couple screenings where I was the only person in the theater. I thought, ‘hm. This has potential.’ By year three I was a regular volunteer and by year five I was a co-director.”
When Addington was a co-director, she worked with a dedicated team of volunteers. Absolutely everyone was a volunteer. None of the co-directors or other staff were compensated for the work they put into the festival, it was just something they did out of love for the event. As the years went by, the film festival continued to grow.
Soon co-directors were quitting and the group that held the film festival afloat for so long was falling apart. They had families and lives and day jobs and the film festival simply outgrew them. After nearly everyone resigned, a new board formed for the film festival and they decided the best route was to name one director and make it her job run the film festival. They named Addington executive director and what started out as a labor of love for her, became her fulltime gig.
She said her favorite part of running a film festival was being able to give independent filmmakers a stage while giving audience members the chance to experience new films that normally would not have the opportunity to see.
“When the festival started, there was no Netflix,” Addington said. “There was no streaming video. The main way to discover film was to actually go to a theater. The only way to find independent films here when we started was us. Now there’s a million ways to find it. That can be really hard so it’s nice to have some one to curate and say, ‘Hey. You need to see these.’ In that sense, my job is more curator than running a film festival.”
This is the 13th year of the film festival and it is going to be the largest yet. The number of submissions for this year more than doubled and there were over 700 films being considered for the film festival. There were screeners that went through every single submission. Out of those 700, around 140 were chose for the festival. That number is a leap from the number of films the festival featured last year, which was in the 70s.
When asked which movie people should definitely go see, Addington could pick just a few. She went through the list of all of the movies that are being featured and picked over two dozen that she thought were great. Many of the films being featured are by local filmmakers and many of those are making their world premiere at the Oxford Film Festival before making their way to other film festivals across the country.
That list, by the way, is on page 60 of the Oxford Film Festival’s booklet that can be found in most places around town.