interview + photo JORGE PEREZCHICA
In 2017 Lilian Rodriguez was promoted to festival director of the Palm Springs International ShortFest. For the last three years she had been festival manager working closely with festival directors and works year-round on the Palm Springs International Film Festival. She sat down with us to talk about everything from starting as a projectionist to aspiring film critic and creating energy to take ShortFest to the next level.
Can you tell us about your educational and work background?
I grew up in Coachella. I graduated from Coachella Valley High School and then I went to college. I did some film studies at UC Irvine, we had some very good professors and mostly learning about genre of filmmaking. I graduated in 2008 which is like right when the recession was at its low. So like everyone who got out of school at that time there was nothing to do really, you couldn’t really find a job especially in film. So I had to come back home. I worked at different places. I was a substitute teacher for a while. I was also a projectionist at the Cinémas Palme D’Or for about five years. I loved that place. I was there when they were doing actual film, I had to thread the film and I loved it. And I think if we’d kept film forever we’d be still doing it. But then you go to DCP and it’s all digital and they don’t need a projectionist anymore. So than I had to find another job.
Did you always want to be involved in the film industry?
I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do in film but I know I’ve always liked watching movies. I thought I wanted to be a film critic at some point. I knew that if there’s a job where I can watch movies — and it turns out there is, we can watch movies for a living. That’s why I studied film, because I wanted to do something with it, because it’s been a part of my life since I was little. And it’s the one constant in my life. Other things come and go but I always want to have movies.
What’s the most important thing you learned as festival director?
For me the most important thing is listening to what other departments need, and that was the first thing that I did when I became the festival director. Listening to their needs and understanding what we have to do. That’s the most important thing that you could do if you’re ever in a position where you have to lead, listen to people and try to work corroboratively.
What’s do you enjoy most about your work?
Every year is different because you get a new group of filmmakers and people coming, but it’s just the energy of it. Year after year, that it kind of gives you life to keep going. And that’s really the best part for me, that energy that you feed off.