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27th Annual Academy Screenings Preview: Q&A With Aspen Film Executive Director and Artistic Director Susan Wrubel

The 27th Annual Aspen Film Academy Screenings return to town  December 26-30, 2018.

We sat down with Aspen Film Executive and Artistic Director Susan Wrubel to get the inside scoop on the history of the Academy Screenings, her top picks for this year's festival, and tips on the best way to enjoy the event.

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ACRA: Take us through the process of selecting films for Academy Screenings? How early do you start screening and what film festivals did you attend to do so?

SW: The process of planning Academy Screenings essentially begins at the end of the summer with the announcement of the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festival lineups. These are the three festivals, which are essentially launchpads for the forthcoming awards season contenders. We also look at a lot of what came out of Sundance that was released later in the year. Essentially we screen Sundance films at the festival or catch films that received accolades afterwards; we also attend Tribeca and Toronto every year, and if timing isn't too crazy before Aspen Filmfest in September, will also try to hit Telluride as well. Cannes is also another festival we watch carefully, and try to see some of the buzzier titles over the summer. It's a bit of a chess game in the sense that we know what we want to curate, but distributors do not always want to give us films in advance or so close to theatrical openings, so there is a lot of lobbying and negotiating that goes on behind the scenes. Ultimately, Academy Screenings is viewed as one of the essential elements of year-end Oscar campaigns within the industry.

ACRA: How did the Academy Screenings tradition first start?

SW: Basically Academy Screenings first started in the early ‘90s heyday of celebrities and Hollywood industry-types who escaped to Aspen on holiday for the season. This was long before films were screened via online link, DVD, or physical NYC/LA screenings, as it’s done today, so Aspen Film provided an official opportunity for voting members of AMPAS, BAFTA, DGA, PGA, SAG-AFTRA, WGA and other entertainment guilds to help get some awards season screening done while enjoying the holidays. It opened up to the public as a festival a few years later, and has since grown into a holiday week tradition featuring buzzy, big-name features, highly acclaimed foreign features and fresh independent voices. 

ACRA: What film(s) are you personally most excited about? And/or the top 3 generating the most Oscar-buzz / what categories?

SW: I am truly excited about all 15 of our films screening this year. In particular, WOMAN AT WAR, NEVER LOOK AWAY and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, which are probably not already on most people's radar, but are all unique and phenomenal in their own way. The buzziest that are likely vying for an Oscar are THE FAVOURITE, ROMA and VICE.

ACRA: What makes Academy Screenings in Aspen unique/why someone should attend?

SW: This is a deliberate curation of some of the most accoladed and accomplished films of the year, all presented in an intimate, festive setting. Academy Screenings brings the thrill of the Oscar race to mountains for a showcase of awards season contenders. It’s a rare opportunity to see 15 films, many of which have not made their way around the country yet, or which may not have otherwise come to their attention. Every film is in its own right is a winner and the festival as a whole brings a fresh perspective and incredible storytelling that is sure to inspire.

ACRA: What is the best way to experience Academy Screenings? 

SW: Seeing these acclaimed films is always best when presented on the big screen! We provide voting members of entertainment guilds with a complimentary Industry Pass (to obtain, send your name and affiliation via email to [email protected]) along with a variety of pass options to the general public. As the Roaring Fork Valley’s only year-round, nonprofit film society, Aspen Film members are privy to VIP and Priority Pass options, which include advance ticket purchasing, reserved seating, early admission and more. New this year, we are offering a Flex Pass ($350), which is valid for 10 ticket vouchers of your choice during any Aspen Film festival (Academy Screenings, Shortsfest and Filmfest) and also includes a year-round Director Level membership. For young professionals (35 & under) a Super Screener Pass ($150) includes single ticket admission to all Academy Screenings presentations and also includes a year-round Director Level membership.

For the full program and pass purchases, visit aspenfilm.org and for single tickets (starting at $20), visit aspenshowtix.com.

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