I try to keep the posts here short, snappy and to the point. I’ve been doing this long enough that not only do I not have the energy for a long preamble to set up the post, but you have no interest in it either. So, dear reader, forgive me for what may be some rambling to get to today’s point, as there’s a lot to sift through.
Truth is, I have no idea where to start this post. I haven’t written it yet because it’s still very much in progress, and also because I didn’t know how to go about it. There are so many angles I could take. So many starts, so many directions. And there’s so much to unpack, so much to share. I’ll probably write and write, then revise and revise. Re-order and rework. And then I hope I hit publish and you’re reading it, warts and all.
Do I talk about my ongoing journey to build a career in the film industry? Do I write through the thought process that found me finally happy in Chicago? Do I try to explain my own internal wiring, the ingrained impulse to never settle, to push through this life like a bull in a china shop until I’ve gotten it right?
Because really, this is a story of all those things, and more. Where I am today is the convergence of factors I couldn’t ignore if I tried, factors I’m only now realizing, and factors that have yet to occur to me.
In the end, I’ll just have to write it. I’ll have to be as honest and transparent as I can be, because that’s really the only way to understand where my head (and my heart) is in all of this. And if you’re not here to do that, then I’m not entirely sure why you’re here at all…
I’ve said before how bumpy my first year in Chicago was. Between missing New York like an ex-lover I wasn’t ready to walk away from and the effort of finding a new circle, a new rhythm here, it was just never quite clicking. By January, things were looking up, as I’d made it through the toughest portion of a very involved project at work (and earned the performance review and compensation adjustment to validate my efforts), and I was learning to embrace everything the Windy City had to offer.
Then – at work, at least – it all began to crumble. Shortly after the new year, I made an effort to express my own ambition and vision for my role at the company, and it was received with a resounding THUD. That quickly snowballed into an irreparable disconnect with leadership with which I couldn’t find a way to reconcile, strong-willed and stubborn as I am. More than that, it became undeniably clear that the leap both I and the organization had taken in having me join the team was not meant to be. We’d given it a good go, but it ultimately was not a fit.
In the midst of it all, I got a call from a friend and contact at the Chicago International Film Festival. They were looking for a marketing manager, and would I mind putting the word out? Not at all. At the time, I was fairly certain I could still make my current situation work, and it sounded like I was – to be honest – overqualified for what the festival was looking for.
I began, in earnest, to look for a new role. I looked back in NYC. I was open to the idea of moving to LA. I had amazing conversations with amazing people whom I admire and respect, their input and advice proving invaluable in the weeks that followed. Eventually, I gave my notice at my current job. They did not disagree that it wasn’t working out.
I called the festival back (actually, I sent a text) and asked if maybe I could speak with them more about the role they had open, and how I might be a fit. Thankfully, they agreed.
Several conversations later, and I accepted the Marketing & Media Relations Director role at Cinema/Chicago, the year-round arts non-profit and presenting organization of the Chicago International Film Festival.
The young woman who sat at her dining room table in Indianapolis that summer a few years ago and had a heart-to-heart with the universe about where the hell her life was headed would’ve been elated if the next place she went was CIFF. She never could’ve guessed what was in store, from Sundance to India to Manhattan and back again. She probably could’ve made that move three hours north then. She could’ve stayed in the midwest and focused on the festival world and done just fine.
But then, she wouldn’t be the woman who steps into this role today. She wouldn’t have an intimate knowledge of the working processes of the most respected film festival in the country (world?). She wouldn’t have an understanding into a film’s life beyond the festival circuit. She wouldn’t have the contacts and relationships and experiences in this industry, on each coast and in every city in between.
Part of accepting the job was processing the change in trajectory it meant for me. It meant stepping away from the hustle and rat race that is independent film distribution, removing myself from that side of this multi-faceted industry. It also meant really breaking up with NYC, understanding that I won’t be a New Yorker again anytime soon (if ever). And it meant taking another leap, joining another new team with unknown personalities and weaknesses and vulnerabilities and hoping, this time, theirs would match with mine.
Here’s the thing, though: processing all of that was a lot less traumatizing than I thought it’d be. Mainly because, I’m happy to report, the positives about this change so outweigh the perceived negatives.
For one, my weekend in New York this March has turned out to be just the fix I was jonesing for. Since returning, what was once a palpable longing has subsided, gratefully, into a comfortable appreciation. Between that magical weekend and my newest tattoo, very much visible to me often, I carry the city and NYC-me with me every day.
As for taking the new job, there are so many upsides to it I’m not sure I can recount them all here. It means returning to the work I love most in film festivals (the switch to distribution was, though welcome, never intentional), and doing so with the longest-running competitive film festival in the U.S. It means a return to the non-profit arts world, which is at its core wholly different from the private companies I’ve been with the last few years, from the staff who choose to work there to the overall goals and objectives. It means a return to the festival cycle, to a calendar year centered around one major push where you can actually see all your hard work paying off right in front of your eyes. It means focusing on a local community, cultivating an audience of neighbors and friends, elevating this particular offering of a city already steeped in so much art and culture.
Four years ago, I threw myself a combined birthday/going away party as I geared up to head out on the adventures to come. All of my dearest friends came to wish me well, and it remains one of my best memories of my many years in Indianapolis. One friend (who I sadly have not stayed in great touch with…hey friend! Hope you’re well!) presented me with a very thoughtful gift that night: a framed mini-poster from the Chicago festival’s 16th edition (you can spy it in the pic below). In all the moves of the last several years, it remains one I always find room for on a wall or shelf. Not only is it a great piece, but it reminds me of home, of that night and of the thoughtfulness of friends.
Neither he nor I could’ve known then how on point that gift would prove to be. Like it has since I got it, it hangs in my apartment now. And as of this week, I’ve added a reason to love it: that I get to be a part of what it represents.