25 Years of the Provincetown International Film Festival
Expect some exciting new work from around the world at this year’s International Film Festival in Provincetown. “Last year we returned to a fully in-person festival,” says executive director Anne Hubbard. “This year we’re doing the same and hope audiences will return in even bigger numbers than last year. We’re using the same venues, and offering great classical programming, the John Waters Filmmaker on the Edge award as well as Next Wave and acting awards,” she says.
What many visitors don’t realize is that the film festival itself is only part of a larger and more comprehensive organization. The Provincetown Film Society owns and operates the Water’s Edge Cinema in Whaler’s Wharf, offering exciting new work from around the world as well as independent art house screenings. The society as a whole is an advocate for gender, racial, and LGBTQIA+ representation in film, providing year-round programming and platforms that allow voices of all kinds to be heard. Locally, PFS’s work positively impacts the cultural and economic vitality of Provincetown. Nationally, its work helps shape industry discussions around parity in film.
This is Hubbard’s first full year as executive director. “I’d been visiting Ptown for a long time,” she says. “I was working for Kodak, which was a sponsor of the film festival, and for years I participated in the Filmmaker’s Lounge. Then 10 years ago I produced a film called Gayby that was shown at the festival, and then I started Tangerine Entertainment, which sponsored an award for a first-time woman director.”
Hubbard’s Tangerine Entertainment is a film production company focusing on commercially viable, critically acclaimed stories with an emphasis on female filmmakers and strong roles for women. Tangerine has a clear and specific agenda aimed at increasing the presence of smart, complex women both behind and in front of the camera.
“I love Ptown—who doesn’t?” asks Hubbard rhetorically. “Gabby Hanna and I became friends and when she was running the film society during the pandemic she asked me to come on board. That was just over a year ago. I learned a lot about the town and the organization, about the seasonality of the place, all sorts of things… it became my knowledge base to make 2023 a great year for us.”
While the festival is the one big, splashy event sponsored by the film society, there’s also a lot going on—even in the off-season. “We’re here year-round,” affirms Hubbard. “We run filmmaker programs. We’ve been adding to the first-run movies at Water’s Edge Cinema, and we’ve been doing a fun program, Two Queens and a Movie, in conjunction with the Crown and Anchor.”
Liza Lott came up with the idea; if you remember Mystery Science Theater (in which making fun of cheesy movies was elevated to high-art levels), this is similar. She chooses a film, brings along another drag queen, and they comment. There are themed cocktails and “it’s nice to get people out in the doldrums of winter,” says Hubbard. In addition, the cinema offers Townie Thursdays with all shows costing five dollars. “We want to get people out but also to make it accessible to everyone.”
In addition, there’s a monthly meetup for local filmmakers. “It’s super rewarding!” exclaims Hubbard. “Outer Cape filmmakers meet at the theater or via Zoom and discuss the things they’re working on, what support they need. They show works in progress and the room gives feedback and provides resources. It’s done what I was hoping it would do—community building. Leaning into Ptown is important to me. We’re making films much more a part of the full arts tapestry in Provincetown.”
She has been thoughtful in her approach. “Because I’m a filmmaker, I come at this from that perspective. What would I want in this town? Who are my peers? Who can I get involved with? Adding to that has been rewarding. In May we have a Wednesday series of local Outer-Cape films leading up to the film festival, and not just for new works. I want to make sure artists are having enough opportunities to have their work seen. It can be hard for audiences to find you, and not everyone’s work is streaming. The cinema we have is a place we can offer that.”
There are plans for another strong Women’s Week in October as well. “We raised our game with the Women’s Week movies this past year,” acknowledges Hubbard. “I was surprised—we swung for the fences, and we had really fantastic titles. We had several Fellows in residence during Women’s Week, and some innovative programming, including music and works-in-progress sidebars. It was such a great opportunity to show works and discuss them with the audience, to really lift the curtain on how movies get made. It’s rare for filmmakers to get the opportunity to engage with a general audience. It’s really inspired me to both bring more artists in to Ptown and let the world know about Ptown artists.”
Something new and exciting this year is that the film festival has earned accreditation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so future shorts winners will qualify for an Oscar nomination. “That’s a game-changer,” admits Hubbard. “A lot more shorts are coming in because of the accreditation. It’s beneficial for everyone.”
“We’re looking to inject new energy into both the festival and the film society,” Hubbard concludes. “We have programming throughout the year now, and we’re weaving ourselves in more tightly to the town’s artistic fabric. That’s my main goal.”