All things A24! The best A24 films according to the BendFilm Staff

A24 is truly making a name for themselves as one of the premier Indie Film Producers. Over at Tin Pan Theater we are huge fans of everything A24 and are stoked that we get to screen their films. If you’ve been living under a rock, A24 is an American independent entertainment company that specializes in film and television production, as well as film distribution. Some of their most popular films are Ex Machina, Uncut Gems, Moonlight and most recently, Everything Everywhere All at Once


Here is the ultimate list of the A24 films that have played at the Tin Pan! 

Enemy, Under the Skin, Obvious Child, Laggies, A Most Violent Year, While We’re Young, Ex Machina, Slow West, Amy, The End of the Tour, Room, The Witch, Green Room, The Lobster, Swiss Army Man, 20th Century Women, The Florida Project, Lady Bird, The Disaster Artist, Lean on Pete, Eighth Grade, The Last Blackman in SF, The Farewell, Uncut Gems, Minari, Zola, The Green Knight, Lamb, C’mon C’mon, Red Rocket, The Tragedy of Macbeth, X, Everything Everywhere All At Once and Men. 

We also have some A24 films coming to the Tin Pan that we are really excited for! In August we will be showing Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Bodies Bodies Bodies and Pearl! 


Not sure which A24 film to watch first? We asked our staff for their top A24 picks, check them out below: 


Selin (Head of Festival Programing)

Under the Skin







Todd Looby (Executive Director)

Uncut Gems







Todd Leiser (Screening Manager, Tin Pan Theater)

Ex Machina







Hanna (Operations Manager and Associate Programmer)

Last Black Man in San Francisco 







Elise (Marketing and Creative Content Coordinator)

The Spectacular Now 







Doone (Social Media & Screening Manager)

A Ghost Story







Jared (Programming & Screening Manager, Tin Pan Theater) 

First Reformed







Jayna (Intern)

Lady Bird 







Emily (Intern):

Mid 90’s







Betsy (Intern)








Honorable Mentions: 

American Honey

End of the Tour


The Farewell

Green Room

Under the Silver Lake

The Lighthouse

The Lobster





If you want to learn/hear more, the hilarious and wildy knowledgeable duo of Jared Rasic and Todd Leiser have a whole podcast episode dedicated to A24.

Also, check out Jared’s awesome tattoo inspired by A Ghost Story!











We may be a little obsessed, but can you blame us? 

A conversation with “Everything Everywhere All At Once” star Tallie Medel!

What do you do when Tallie Medel (Becky) from Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEAAO) calls and says they are coming to a screening of their film at our very own Tin Pan Theater? Grab a drink and chat, of course!  We sat down with Tallie at our favorite bar, San Simon (Tin Pan Theater’s neighbor) and asked some of our burning questions: 

*Some Questions/Responses have been edited for length and clarity*


Q. So, you are from Alaska correct? 

A. Yes! I’m from Ketchikan


 Q. Tell us about how you get started in acting? 

A. Well I auditioned for Emerson College because our friend’s daughter told me she was checking it out, and at the same time, I had seen The Roast of Denis Leary on Comedy Central and all these people were talking about it and it just sounded cool. It was the first time I had thought about auditioning for an acting school, because I grew up dancing. 

 So I went to Emerson and that is how I met Dan and Daniel (the directors of EEAAO), my wife, and a bunch of other people who are now my go to collaborators. 


Q. This is the 11th week EEAAO has been showing at the Tin Pan Theater which makes it one of our longest played films. We are curious if you could talk about why you think this film has resonated so much with audiences, and continues to be so popular?

A. We were talking about facism at dinner and I really do think this is an important anti-facist film. There’s meme culture too, but this movie feels really appropriate, really timely for a million reasons. One, that it’s about a Chinese American family. But also that just the idea of being kind, especially when you don’t know what’s going on, is so essential. I really think the movie came along at a time we never had predicted would be as important as it is. 


 Q. Do you have a favorite memory from shooting the film?

 A. Everybody was just so happy to be there. But I was talking to Jenny Slate, and Jamie (Lee Curtis) was sitting by us and came over and showed us a Garfunkle and Oats video about (somethings we can’t mention) and sat on my lap so that she and Jenny and I could watch it together. It was great. 


Q. Was it filmed during Covid?

A. We barely got it done in time. We actually did not finish. The shot in the cab of the van when Waymond is explaining why he brought the divorce papers to Evelyn, she was in Paris and he was in LA. They had to do that as a split screen. 


Q. Do you have a movie or actors that inspired you to get into the industry?

A. Wayne’s World. 


Q. Do you have a favorite movie or one you could watch over and over again? 

A. I love Playtime and Akira the anime. And a movie I think about all the time but don’t talk about enough is Monsoon Wedding, it’s so good.


Q. Have you seen any movie recently that you really liked? 

A. I got to see Bodies Bodies Bodies when I was in LA last week, it’s really fun! And I loved The Dropout on Hulu. 


Q. Do you have anything in the works or happening right now that you can tell us about?

 A. No, I gave up haha. Well, I wrote a movie about Ketchikan. My friend Annalisa Raya-Flores wrote a perfect movie called ‘Farewell Chica’ about two Chicanas who are competing for the same forest ranger position. It goes from being a frenemy thing to like, The Revenant. I’m going to go back to LA to work on a short film with a director named Christian Cerezo ‘Indoor Baseball’ that will then hopefully turn into a feature. And I’ve been teaching Clown classes, I love it! 


Q. Tell us more about your Clown, where do you teach them and what do they consist of?

 A. Yeah, leading with “Clown” always feels risky. I do them wherever! I taught one out here actually. 

*Tallies family friend who has taken one of the classes spoke on what it’s all about* 

 A. It was just a lot on how to move, and what I took away from it was it’s the same movements you would normally do, but you exaggerate them, you expand upon them so that it’s natural but bigger than normal. 


Tallie Medel (they/them/she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist and award-winning actor in New York City. Medel is one third of Cocoon Central Dance Team. Their short film “Snowy Bing Bongs” is now streaming on Mubi. They lead clown and movement and dance classes, which you can register for here. Recent work includes the role of Becky in A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once which makes them very happy. 

BendFilm’s Ultimate List of LBGTQIA+ Films!

Happy Pride Month! Looking for some inspiration on movies to watch during Pride Month or year round? Look no further! We asked all of our staff/movie fanatics about their favorite LGBTQIA+ films that celebrate diverse stories and perspectives. Check out our picks below:


Elise (Marketing and Content Coordinator): Call Me By Your Name

Call Me by Your Name offers a melancholy, powerfully affecting portrait of first love, empathetically acted by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer.” -Rotten Tomatoes



Hanna (Operations Manager and Associate Programmer): Moonlight

“Ending as enigmatically as it begins, Moonlight is a film about the lives that slip between the cracks. It’s unmissable” -Rotten Tomatoes



Todd Looby (Executive Director): Bound 

“Bound‘s more titillating elements attracted attention, but it’s the stylish direction, solid performances, and entertaining neo-noir caper plot that make it worth a watch””-Rotten Tomatoes 



(Social Media & Screening Manager): Philadelphia

“Philadelphia is a superb drama starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Jonathan Demme crafts a solid film that brought to light the issue of AIDS.”-Rotten Tomatoes


Jared (Programming & Screening Manager): Y tu Mama Tambien

“In Mexico, two teenage boys and an attractive older woman embark on a road trip and learn a thing or two about life, friendship, sex, and each other.” -IMDB

(Head of Festival Programming): Tangerine

“Tangerine shatters casting conventions and its filmmaking techniques are up-to-the-minute, but it’s an old-fashioned comedy at heart — and a pretty wonderful one at that” -Rotten Tomatoes

Todd Leiser
(Screening Manager): Ed Wood

“From visionary director Tim Burton comes the fantastical tale of Ed Wood, the best worst director of all time.” Rotten Tomatoes


It was hard to just pick one film per person so here is a list of bonus films!

Pariah (Dee Rees)

Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche)

Happy Together (Wong Kar-Wai)

Fucking Amal (AKA Show Me Love) (Lukas Moodysson)

A Soap (Pernille Fischer Christensen)

Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)

A Fantastic Woman (Sebastian Lelio)

The Crying Game (Neil Jordan)

Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Celine Sciamma)

God’s Own Country (Francis Lee)

My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears)

Handsome Devil (John Butler)

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller)

Heartstone (Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson)

But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit)

The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)

My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant)

All About My Mother (Pedro Almodovar)

Beau Travail (Claire Denis) 

Carol (Todd Haynes)

Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson) 

Beginners (Mike Mills) 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell) 

A Home at the End of the World (Michael Mayers)

The Birdcage (Mike Nichols)

Booksmart (Olivia Wilde)

Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman)


By: Allison Flowers

Tin Pan Theater

In a narrow alley in downtown Bend, Oregon sits the Tin Pan Theater. A small hidden room with 28 seats and a screen where films come to life. Once a month, students in Bend who share a similar passion for the world of film gather for a movie showing. Students can watch the film together, then discuss their different perspectives or deeper thoughts about it. Behind this club is Manhattan Wood, a Senior Student at Bend High School. Manhattan found that there was a lack of community for Students in Bend who felt the same passion for film as her, so she decided to do something.


Todd Looby, the executive director of the Bend Film festival told us that he first met Manhattan in the summer of 2020 when she asked if there was any way she could get involved. She made her way into the film world by volunteering at the drive-in movies for the festival.Todd says as he got to spend more time with Manhattan he saw that she was “very talented and enthusiastic.” Manhattan made her first film debut for the BendFilm City of Bend TV Commercial contest where people who are wanting to share their progress submit a 30 second commercial for a chance to work with a profesional tv crew to reshoot the commercial to air on televisions across central Oregon.Manhattan won the grade 9 12 category with ad called “puppy pollution” about keeping our local parks clean. 

We talked to Manhattan as we wanted to learn more about her inspiration and when her film passion began. “I came from a line of fine artists,…a stem career wasn’t really an option for me” she said.In 8th grade Manhattan had 6 months to work on and independent study.She chose to do a film about the hardships of life.Manhattan said the film was “Supposed to symbolize how everyone is going through something and no one knows what others are experiencing.” Working on this project made Manhattan realize this is what she wanted to do with her life.If you have seen any films that have been submitted to the Bend Film Festival you would know that they usually evoke an inspiring feeling inside you.This is one of manhattans goals when it comes to her films. 

The BendFilm organization has also worked to give students a platform to share their film passion by starting the Future Filmmakers. From the website description; “The BendFilm Future Filmmakers program encourages youth to share their voices and talents through moving pictures.The program showcases films from one to five minutes made in the last year.” 


Bend Student Film Club

When working at the Bend Film Festival’s drive in movie theatre Manhattan mentioned her idea of a film club to Todd Looby, the director of the festival and the owner of Tin Pan Theatre. He wanted to support her so he allowed her to host the club at the Tin Pan in Downtown Bend. Manhattan’s Bend Student film club appeals to kids who maybe haven’t found a way into Bends film community because it usually organized by adults. The Student Club nights are a safe space for those who want to be around people their age who share their passion. The club meets once a month where they watch a movie, discuss and play trivia about the movie 

Manhattan plans on going to a school in Southern California to pursue film. Currently her top two choices are University of Southern California (USC) and Chapman University. She plans on focusing on outdoor/ nature documentaries and hopes to submit to the Sundance film festival in the near future. This year she is working on a film about diamond peak and Mt. Bachelor which she plans on submitting to the Bend Film Festival this fall. Manhattan previously worked with Reverb Films and currently has an internship with Bradley Lanphear Productions.


Find Some of Manhattans work here:


Q & A with Alberta Poon

Based in Portland, OR, Alberta Poon is a first-generation Chinese-American director and screenwriter known for her surreal-like imagery, lush soundscapes, and fondness for vibrant punches of color—creating bold worlds that embody beauty and humor in a fun and refreshing light. Alberta’s work explores the themes of the Asian-American diaspora experience using comedy to grab the attention of people that might otherwise tune out.


Q.  What inspired you to start making films?

A. As a kid my dad was super into photography and making home videos of the fam. I would always “steal” his cameras and make really ridiculous content to subject my friends and family to. This is back in the day when a camcorder was on VHS and you had to edit in camera. I guess that drive to make absurd content never left me and now as an adult I make a living in this line of work.


Q. What do you like best about Portland’s film scene?

A. I really love how supportive most people are of each other’s projects regardless of budget. I know that I have a great pool of talent that are always down-to-clown even if it’s just for the sake of an inside joke or a TikTok that only seven people will see.


Q.  It was so fun having your music video for ‘Worry With You’ by Sleater Kinney at our first Music Video Program at BFF21 last year – what did you learn as a director when making that video?

A. Making that music video taught me that I am unstoppable LOL. Carrie Brownstein reached out to me and told me Sleater Kinney needed a music video conceptualized, shot, edited, and delivered in three weeks. This is basically an impossible ask, but if Carrie Brownstein reaches out to you, you pop an Adderall or two and go to town!


Q. How does directing a music video differentiate from directing a narrative or documentary film? Or any other kind of film for that matter?

A. Music videos are a blast because you can get super experimental with everything. If you get too weird with narrative or commercial work everyone wants to reign you in because it might not work or they fear change. With music videos I think it’s encouraged to be as out there as possible. It’s a great medium to explore your wildest ideas and be put on a pedestal for doing so.


Q. If you could give any advice to future female filmmakers what would it be?

A. Don’t treat other women as competition, make them your allies and support each other.


Q. In your opinion, what stands out most to you about being a woman in the film industry? Do you find it to be more challenging or more empowering?

A. Definitely both. Being a WOC absolutely has its challenges. People don’t take you seriously, you get paid less, and if you’re confident people can read that as being a diva or a threat. I find being a WOC director empowering when I’m confident that my POV is unique in a sea of sameness.


Q. What are you currently working on?

A.The project I am focusing on the most right now is my pilot Cult-de-sac which is based on my experience growing up as the only Asian girl in Mormon Utah. I don’t plan on making this myself—the hope is to get a production company interested and see where that goes. Aiming for the stars here!


Q. What kind of topics or narratives do you hope film festivals bring forth in 2022?

A. It would be great to see more film festivals curate more diverse filmmakers without drawing attention to it and making a category specifically calling out the programming block “diverse filmmakers” or whatever. Just program more underrepresented filmmakers into your regular lineups until we are not underrepresented anymore. Boom, done—easy-peasy.

Q & A with Dawn Jones-Redstone

Dawn Jones Redstone (she/her) is an award-winning queer, Mexican American writer/director whose short films have screened around the globe including the acclaimed Sista in the Brotherhood. Her work often features women of color (cast and crew) and explores themes of resistance, feminism and the internal machinations that help us transform into the people we want to become. She believes in using her hiring decisions to lift people up and help create an inclusive filmmaking community that reflects and brings needed perspective to the world we live in.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we interviewed Dawn to talk about her upcoming feature film and and experience as a female filmmaker:


Q. How did you get started in filmmaking?

A. I grew up with movies so when I had my chance to buy a camera, I did. It was only after doing so that I began to see how I could invite others to see what I see through use of its lens. What an intoxicating idea–especially if you have something to say. I took my first film class at what used to be the NW Film Center here in Portland and immediately got into my first festival. I was hooked.


Q. What do you enjoy most about being a filmmaker in Portland? Anything you would change?

A. I enjoy being amongst a community of artists after taking some time to find “my people.” While it might be a terribly dark time to be in the world right now, being amongst people who care and are processing it all through art is consoling. I do continuously want to see more women and people of color in the narrative film directing space! Part of that is having more spaces for us to connect and support each other as well.


Q. What has your experience of being a queer, POC filmmaker been like?

A. I seek out more people like me and be supportive to others coming up behind me. That’s one reason why I often make a point of announcing my identities because it may not be obvious that I am queer and Latinx. It’s my way of being visible and saying, “I’m here. We deserve to be here. It’s possible!”


Q. How do you use your experience to uplift other people within the filmmaking community?

A. First and foremost, I hire women and people of color. In my feature, Mother of Color, we posted the data on our website ( of who we hired and it was mostly women of color. In a lot of instances, this meant hiring people who were stepping into a larger role for the first time. This is really the key. We know that as the saying goes, “Like hires like,” which means that because the industry is predominantly made up of white men, they predominantly hire other white men. I do the same thing, but when I do it, I’m correcting this historical exclusion. And I have to think outside the box a bit to do that.

But outside of this, I also am in contact with other up and coming filmmakers who have reached out to me and I also try to show where I came from and how I got here. Showing the winding and unwieldy path to others embarking on it, is key.


Q. What are the most important messages you hope your audience receives when viewing your work?

A. Every film has its own messages, but there are clear threads running through my work around resistance, emotionality, self-care/healing and righteousness.


Q. If you could use one word that describes the kind of films you make, what would it be?

A. That’s tough to answer. My films have tended to be dramas with moments of humor and tenderness, but I’ve also made some comedies and am currently writing one.  I guess the thing they all have in common is women of color, striving for something better and whether they succeed the way they envisioned or somehow differently, there is hope.


Q. You are currently working on your first feature film, Mother of Color, can you tell us more about that?

A. It’s about a single mom who begins hearing messages from her ancestors as she sets out to try to get to a life changing job interview with a local commissioner. It stars Ana del Rocío, Patricia Alvitez, and two incredible kids Kasey Tinoco and Julian Hernandez. Portland  City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Luz Elena Mendoza (of the band Y La Bamba) are in it, too!


Q. What do you hope for future female, queer and POC filmmakers?

A. I hope that the world continues to make way for our voices and that we ourselves, maintain belief in ourselves when others might not so that our voices, too, can be heard.


Q. What is your favorite film you have seen recently?

A. I recently watched The Fallout. Loved it.


Q. Do you have a favorite film of all time? What is it?

A. My brain doesn’t work in absolutes, but random faves that popped into my head: A Fantastic Woman, Pariah, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Contact, The Rider, The Forty Year Old Version, Mosquita y Mari.




The 18th Annual Bend Film Festival Short and Feature Award Winners

Best in Show 
Youth V Gov
Directed by Christi Cooper 
Central Oregon Premiere

The story of America’s youth taking on the world’s most powerful government. Armed with a wealth of evidence, twenty-one courageous leaders file a ground-breaking lawsuit against the U.S. government, asserting it has willfully acted over six decades to create the climate crisis, thus endangering their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. If these young people are successful, they will not only make history, they will change the future.

Best Directing 
Kaveh Nabatian for Sin La Habana 
Oregon Premiere

Leonardo, a classical dancer, and Sara, a lawyer, are young, beautiful and in love. They’re also ambitious, but their dreams are thwarted by Cuba’s closed borders. Their ticket to a brighter future lies with Nasim, a tourist with a taste for the exotic. An Iranian-born Canadian, Nasim struggles with her own demons and finds an emotional outlet in Leonardo. Power, money, creativity and destiny intertwine in a passionate love triangle with a hint of magic, where cultures clash in a torrid dance between Quebec’s winter and Havana’s sultry Malecón.

Best Narrative Feature 
The Falconer
Directed by Seanne Winslow, Adam Sjoberg

Two best friends, one Middle Eastern and one Western, conspire to steal animals from the zoo and sell them on the black market to pay their sister’s divorce from an abusive marriage.


Best Documentary Feature 
Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche
Directed by Jared Drake & Steven Siig
Northwest Premiere

A motley crew of thrill-seeking ski patrollers living the outdoorsman’s dream faces a reckoning with mother nature when the Alpine Meadows avalanche of 1982 strikes, leaving eight people missing during a raging storm.

Best Cinematography
A Hard Problem
Cinematography by Brandon Alperin
Northwest Premiere

After the death of his mother, Ian must pack up the house where he cared for her in her waning years. A strained relationship between him and his sister leads Ian to discover there are complicated circumstances behind the life he didn’t realize he was living.

Special Jury Award for Exceptional Performances and Unique Storytelling
7 Days
West Coast Premiere
Directed by Roshan Sethi

Ravi and Rita are set up on a date arranged by their traditional Indian parents. When unforeseen circumstances force them to live together for a week, Ravi discovers that Rita is not quite the traditional girl of his dreams—but her “bad influence” might be just what he needs to expand his limited worldview. As irritation gives way to intimacy over the course of seven days, they are both forced to confront what they’ve been hiding from each other, from their families, and from themselves.

Best Editing
Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche
Edited by Matthew Mercer

A motley crew of thrill-seeking ski patrollers living the outdoorsman’s dream faces a reckoning with mother nature when the Alpine Meadows avalanche of 1982 strikes, leaving eight people missing during a raging storm.

Special Jury Award for Indomitable Spirit
Alaskan Nets
Directed by Jeff Harasimowicz
Oregon Premiere

Off the coast of Alaska lies a remote island that’s home to the Tsimshian Indians of Alaska’s last native reserve, Metlakatla. For more than a century, two sacred traditions have defined Metlakatla: fishing and basketball. In an improbable journey, two cousins lead their team and town in search of their first state championship in more than thirty years—the only thing that will bring life back to an island that has been rocked by tragedy.

Special Jury Award for Archival Editing
AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman
Directed by Dante Alencastre

Seizing her power as she confronts her mortality, trailblazing trans activist Connie Norman evolves as an irrepressible, challenging, and soulful voice for the AIDS and queer communities of early 90’s Los Angeles.

Best Outdoor/Environmental Short
Understory: A Journey into the Tongass
Directed by Colin Arisman
Central Oregon Premiere

Three women set sail on a 350 mile expedition through Alaska’s vast Tongass National Forest to explore how clearcut logging in this coastal rainforest could affect wildlife, local communities, and our planet’s climate.

Best Outdoor/Environmental Feature
Youth V Gov
Directed by Christi Cooper 
Central Oregon Premiere

The story of America’s youth taking on the world’s most powerful government. Armed with a wealth of evidence, twenty-one courageous leaders file a ground-breaking lawsuit against the U.S. government, asserting it has willfully acted over six decades to create the climate crisis, thus endangering their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. If these young people are successful, they will not only make history, they will change the future.

Best Indigenous Short
Joe Buffalo
Directed by Amar Chebib
Oregon Premiere

Joe Buffalo is an Indigenous skateboard legend. He’s also a survivor of Canada’s notorious Indian Residential School system. Following a traumatic childhood and decades of addiction, Joe must face his inner demons to realize his dream of turning pro.

Indigenous Shorts Special Jury Award
Honor Thy Mother
Directed by Lucy Ostrander

The untold story of Aboriginal women and their Indipino children.



Best Narrative Short
Noor & Layla
Directed by Fawzia Mirza

Noor & Layla are breaking up. Is it the end of the road for these two Muslim women… or is it just the beginning?


Narrative Shorts Special Jury Award
The Binding of Itzik
Directed by Anika Benkov

In his online search for bookbinding materials, a middle aged Hasidic bookbinder stumbles across a craigslist ad offering ‘binding lessons for submissive women.’ He responds to it, becoming entangled in an emotionally intense BDSM relationship with a stranger on the internet.

Best Animated Short
Washing Machine
Directed by Alexandra Májová

Wash and love.




Best Documentary Short
Last Meal
Directed by Marcus McKenzie & Daniel Principe

The final feasts of death row inmates serve as the entrée to a salivating investigation of capital punishment.

Documentary Shorts Special Jury Award
The Roads Most Travelled
Directed by Bill Wisneski

People taking life-changing risks, coming to terms with the end of things, side-stepping imminent death or facing it head-on. A striking and at times humorous glimpse into our humanity through the lens of our ultimate vulnerability.

Best Northwest Short
Pho the People
Directed by Brady Holden & Dez Ramirez

Maryam Tu and her family launch a small batch food project at the beginning of the Covid Pandemic.

Best Student Short

Directed by Chad O’Brien

A young Indigenous girl must dig deep to own her performance of a Shakespearean sonnet for her high school drama class.



Q&A with Rex Carter

Rex Carter is a filmmaker and visual effects expert based in Portland, Oregon. After having multiple shorts of his own selected for the festival, Carter joined the BendFilm team as an Associate Programmer for Narrative Shorts in 2019. We spoke with Carter about what the programming team’s work, the upcoming festival, and his advice for up-and-coming filmmakers. 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You’re a shorts programmer for the festival. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means?

A: It started with me being on the screening committee. The previous programmer, Erik, noticed that I watched a ton of movies. He asked, and I said “sure!” I just love watching all the short films. I pound through them. I’m watching like 500 of them each year as part of the screening committee. It’s just so interesting to see how many different directions people can go with something that’s between 2 and 20 minutes long. There are just so many possibilities. 


Q: What do the best shorts have in common, knowing that there is such a range of possibilities?

A: It’s no different than a feature in which you want to get to a place of emotion or something that touches or impacts you in some way. The hard part about shorts is that you don’t have a lot of time to get there. You’re spending such a short amount of time with the characters that you have to create everything economically and quickly. The best shorts find a way to establish their premise, get you into the characters, and then provide you with the narrative arc all within an abbreviated timespan.


Q: You’ve been a programmer for 3 years, 2019-2021. What’s changed this year with regard to COVID and changes within our cultural landscape?

A: I knew going into this year that we’d probably have a lot of COVID-themed films, just because when you get a whole bunch of creative people out there in the world that are all of a sudden looking for something to do, and they have to stay inside, I knew that many would do ‘I’m stuck in my apartment’ COVID films. I wanted to set a really high bar there, and only choose the best one or two of those. I knew we would have too many to choose from. I also thought, coming out of this—and unfortunately we’re not yet out of it—that an audience might not have an appetite for COVID themes; they would want an escape from these last two years. We did get a lot of COVID-themed submissions. Unfortunately, like I said, a lot of them get washed out. I set my bar really high on those. You had to be really, really good. 

But the other thing I noticed was how much filmmakers were still getting done. There were still some films that felt like nothing had changed. I don’t know if they just got their friends together and took longer to do it, but they were still cranking out high-quality short films this year. I was impressed with that.


Q: So two things to be excited about: high-quality films about COVID, and a lot of non-COVID related work. 

A: Yeah. I really try to put myself as the viewer in a block of short films and think, ‘What would I enjoy sitting through with an audience for 90 minutes?’ I’m a big fan of comedies, because usually when I go to film festivals, comedy is one of the lesser-submitted genres, compared to say, drama or experimental. I try to find room for comedies, because when you’re in a block of films, you need to find that balance to counteract all of those dramas. You can’t just have 90 minutes of depressing stuff. So I’m always on the lookout for more comedies. But it’s a fine line, because peoples’ sense of humors can be so far apart: there are silly comedies, there are more meaningful comedies…I think what’s nice about Bend is that there’s room for both. We have the nice late-night block, Midnight Shorts. If someone’s humor is darker or more bizarre, we can find a place for it there.


Q: What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

A: Well the thing I look forward to the most actually is something that can’t happen in Covid times: there’s always opportunities for meet and greets with other filmmakers. There’s opportunities to bump into your fellow filmmakers, fellow staff from the festival, to talk about films and exchange phone numbers. You put everybody in the room together, put a drink in them, and get people talking. It’s the part that I enjoy the most about going to festivals.


Q: And you aren’t just a filmmaker, you’re also a visual effects expert. What came first for you, filmmaking or VFX?

A: It all happened at the same time. I’m old enough that I was a young kid when the very first Star Wars came out. I was 8 years old. When I got into high school, I started to see behind-the-scenes kind of things for special effects movies. I realized, these people are building little spaceships and putting them against blue screens and photographing them. I was seeing how these things were achieved and I was like ‘You can do that? And make a living? This can be somebody’s job? That sounds cool!’ And then, coincidentally, I was in the first generation of students to have computers in the classrooms. Our school district invested in these Apple computers, before computers even had mouses or anything like that. They were teaching computer programming in my advanced math class. So I was the very first generation of computer students when I was in junior high. I had this love of movies and spaceships flying around on blue screens, and then I had this love of these new computers that were in the classroom. And it was serendipity that those two things eventually combined. When the computer world and the filmmaking world came together in the late 80s, early 90s, I was right there. 


Q: I’m curious how your expertise as a visual effects designer informs your perspective on shorts programming, and the selection process.

A: I actually have a weird backlash against special effects. It’s weird. I don’t like superhero movies. I don’t like comic book movies. I hardly ever watch them. I don’t actually care for all the fancy spinning cameras and visual effects. I’d much rather the filmmaker just leave the camera alone and shoot a great actor with a great script and a simple camera. I don’t need special effects in my movies. It’s sort of weird that what I do for a living is not what I want to see in a film.


Q: I imagine, like we talked about earlier with COVID-related films, your standard would be much higher.

A: There are still special effects movies that still grab me and wow me, but unfortunately, too many of them just don’t. I know just recently, there’s that Jungle Cruise movie with The Rock and Emily Blunt. I looked at it, and I thought ‘That’s a CGI snake. I don’t believe that one bit.’  I’m not drawn into it. I would much rather have a great script and good actors. I do like lighting, I like good lighting. But I don’t need the camera to be flying around all the time.It goes back to good writing. I love a well written screenplay the most, and unfortunately, I feel like that’s the talent that gets overlooked the most in filmmaking. Even on a short film level. When I’m reviewing, the first thing I’ll criticize is when the dialogue is just too on the nose, when people are speaking their inner monologue out loud. Good writing is peeling the onion of the character. 


Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker looking to follow your line of work? Or, more accurately, your multiple lines of work?

A: When I was growing up, there were price barriers to film. Film was expensive. The price barriers are hardly there anymore. If you want to make a film, just go out and do it! If you’re just starting out, find an idea that’s short, sweet, and simple; that you can shoot in a few days with minimal characters. Get your toe wet and get into it. I think too many people try to think big and get bogged down in the logistics. Filmmaking is just logistics. It’s like, ‘I need to get this many people gathered on this day in this location with craft services coming at this time, and I’ve got to feed people lunch….’ The more things you add to that, the harder it gets, quickly. That’s why there’s usually a producer and director—because you don’t want the director to get bogged down by the logistics. I happen to do both.


Q: Do you have a preference for being on one side or the other?

A: Oh, absolutely—I hate the logistics! I’d rather just be free to be creative and let somebody else figure out everything. But unfortunately, if I want to get it done I’ve got to do it myself. The biggest thing I ever did had, I think, 12 people involved, and I thought, ‘if one person out of 12 doesn’t show up, I’m screwed!’ So if you want to start, keep something short and sweet. And focus on the writing. 

2021 Festival Schedule Update

Dear BendFilm Family –

We are thrilled to release our full in-person and virtual Festival schedule for the 18th annual BendFilm Festival. This is truly one of the strongest programs I have seen in my eight years at BendFilm and we cannot wait to begin sharing these 40 features and 70 short films with you. These films will include the Fall’s hottest indie releases and Oscar®-contending documentaries.  This celebration of independent film arrives at a time when the world feels complex and complicated and we know that art can be the antidote to help us heal, process, and recharge.


Given our current circumstances, I would like to reinforce the safety measures we are putting in place with a few new additions. For your and our staff’s safety, and with our healthcare community in mind, guests will be required to:

  • Show digital or hardcopy proof of vaccination OR show proof of a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before the festival

  • Wear masks in Festival venues regardless of vaccination status

  • For more information on how to show your vaccine card or negative test please see our website.

After careful thought and consideration, concerns for safety and respect for our health care community, BendFilm has made the important decision to scale back our in-person events significantly:

  • Capacity at in-person screenings will be decreased to 65%.

  • Events will only be hosted in our largest venues (The Tower Theatre and Regal Cinemas) to allow guests to spread out.

  • We are also planning three locally-focused special events at Open Space Studios as well.

  • BendFilm is scaling back in-person events from 4 days to 2 days.

  • Outside concessions will not be available in theaters unless current COVID numbers and projections change significantly.

  • If you have an in-person pass and have questions about these changes please email

Tickets for the limited in-person events are now available. We hope many of you still choose to join us virtually, support these brave filmmakers, and see a film that provides you a much needed creative inspiration. Here is our ticket availability rollout schedule:

  • Members and Sponsors available now

  • All Access Passholders will receive access on Wednesday, September 22, 2021

  • Full Festival Passholders will receive access on September 23, 2021

  • Tickets will be open to all on September 24, 2021

Instructions to BendFilm Members and Sponsors have been sent via the Ticketing system that includes instructions on ordering your tickets. All non-member passholders will also receive instructions to reserve tickets right before tickets go live.

Thank you as always for your support as we navigate planning a festival under complicated circumstances. I want to thank our staff for remaining responsive, aware and nimble. I also want to thank the filmmakers, board members, and community leaders who have provided invaluable guidance. Overall, we want to especially thank our local health care community who have been keeping us safe under the most extraordinary and stressful conditions these past 18 months.

Please let us know if you have any questions.


Todd Looby

Q+A with Jiayan “Jenny” Shi

Portrait of filmmaker Jiayan Jenny Shi

Jiayan “Jenny” Shi is a Chicago-based documentary filmmaker and multimedia journalist. Last year, Shi won BendFilm Festival’s special jury award with your first feature-length documentary, Finding Yingying. We spoke with Shi about the process of creating Finding Yingying, the challenges of balancing objectivity and human interest in documentary work, as well as Shi’s inspirations and upcoming work. 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: When you began filming Finding Yingying, you were a graduate student studying journalism in Chicago. Did you always know you wanted to become a documentary filmmaker?

A: No, not at all. So it’s an interesting story. I started my journalism school in 2016, and that was the year that I arrived in the US. Also, that year was the election year. I was born and raised in China. I’ve never seen any protests in China. So, when I first arrived in the US in 2016, there were a lot of protests, and I got a chance to learn stories about different communities. Then, in journalism school, I got into visual storytelling. I took a video journalism class, and in the last quarter of my program in 2017, I took a documentary journalism class. That was my first formal introduction to documentary filmmaking. Even at that time when I was about to graduate, I never really thought I was going to do documentary filmmaking after graduation. Then, Yingying disappeared. I heard about her disappearance through alumni group chats on WeChat. That’s how I learned about her disappearance, and I started following the story.

 Q: Did you attend any protests in 2016?

A: A lot of protests. The Medill School of Journalism has a newsroom in downtown Chicago, right by the Chicago River. Trump tower is right on the river, so in that area, there were a lot of protests. Specifically, there were a lot of protests organized by immigrants, by the Latino community, and by women. So I attended many protests. Also, as a student, I covered many protests for stories about immigration in Chicago. 

Q: What made you decide to travel to Champaign to film Yingying’s case? 

A: At first, I was someone who cared about her, like any other Chinese international student. We were sharing her information on social media, and everyone was hoping we would find her soon. Her family came to the US about a week after her disappearance, and I read a lot of stories about her family’s arrival. At the time, there were already volunteers in the Urbana-Champaign area who were helping the family. I made my trip down to Champaign for multiple reasons. For one, as a journalism student, I was curious about what was going on. On the other hand, I was just thinking about how I could help the family. I knew volunteers were visiting the family daily, just to spend time with them. Also, I was in the documentary class, working on my final project. So, I was thinking that potentially, I could tell my story about Chinese international students. These were some initial thoughts when I made my way down to Urbana-Champaign, but at that point, I didn’t think it would be a feature-length film and didn’t think I would get access to the family. But that’s how everything started.

Q: Something striking about Finding Yingying was how intimately involved you became in the Zhang family. What did you learn from your experience not just telling, but living in, their story?

A: I think there were multiple layers. One is really about storytelling and the filmmaker-subject relationship. For me, it was very important to make sure that the family was comfortable with me being there filming them. Documentary ethics were a big thing in the entire filmmaking process. One of the biggest things I learned from this experience was never to take anything for granted, and always appreciate the opportunities your subjects give you. I think that while we were filming, the priority was always the family. That wasn’t something I learned during journalism school, but something I learned during filming Finding Yingying.

Another thing was learning about my role in the whole process. When I was in school, I learned that a journalist needs to be objective. You don’t get involved too much with your interviewees. But for documentary filmmaking, I spent much more time with my subjects compared to other stories I did. I got to know Yingying’s family, and we developed a relationship beyond the filmmaker-subject. I think this is something that makes the film unique and gave me more creative choices in post-production to tell the story. I got involved more with the family, and in the final product, I was part of the film as well. For a long time, I was struggling with my role because, talking about documentary ethics again, sometimes I want to capture a great moment, from a filmmaking perspective. Those moments would include raw emotion. From the perspective of someone who cared about the family’s feelings, I thought, I should probably stop recording. I was constantly debating with myself to make ethical decisions: when to keep filming, and when to stop.  

Also, one note is about the mental health of filmmakers. In staying with the family—and I lived with them when I was in Champaign—it was very difficult to process the emotions, even though it was the family who lost their daughter. I was someone who had nothing to do with the case, but being with them, you could feel the sorrow and grief every day. Sometimes, I tried to comfort the family, but I didn’t know what to say. That was something I was struggling with, but on the other hand, I tried to keep moving the project forward and see things as a filmmaker. 

Q: What makes an excellent documentary?

A: You need to be honest, genuine, and transparent. I feel like a good documentary is always about humans, and I love documentaries with human interest. When I first started Finding Yingying, I didn’t really have a goal or a clear idea of what the final project would look like. I didn’t plan out the storyline. I just let the footage tell the story. 

Q: What is a piece of creative work that has inspired you this year? 

A: I always want to talk about one film that was created a decade ago, but I got inspiration from it: The Last Train Home. In China, there are a lot of people from rural areas, the countryside, but they work in big cities. In the springtime, for the Chinese new year, they travel back to their hometown. Last Train Home is about a migrant worker couple. The story follows the couple for several years, for several trips back to their hometown. It also follows their children, who were left behind in the countryside. It gives you an inside look into China’s economy as China is becoming a global superpower. The inspiration I got from this film is using lyrical, thematic language to tell a story. For Finding Yingying, at first, I was trying to make a film like Last Train Home. Because in the middle of the film, I went back to China to film with the family in their hometown. I was trying to make it look like Last Train Home. It was one of the films that I started the idea for the visual style of Finding Yingying. It was one of the documentaries that first introduced me to documentary filmmaking.

Q: What new projects of yours can we look forward to?

A: One project is in the development stage, a feature-length documentary about the Chinese-American experience. I’ve already started capturing initial footage of the main subjects. Other than that, I field-produced two documentary projects last year and this year. I worked on a COVID documentary about the global effort to combat the pandemic. It’s actually directed by the director of Last Train Home. 

I also worked on a docuseries as a field producer for Discovery Channel about the pandemic. I don’t know the full scope of the docuseries, but it’s more about the scientific side of the pandemic. The story I worked on in Chicago is about COVID long-haulers: the people who got COVID and recovered, but still experience several symptoms.

To take a closer look at Jenny Shi’s upcoming and past projects, head to her portfolio site. Then, don’t forget to purchase your passes to the upcoming 18th Annual BendFilm Festival, where Shi will serve as a juror on the Documentary Shorts panel!