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Stephanie RONNET


Stephanie Ronnet is a regular contributor to Filmfestivals.com, she is based in Los Angeles, Montreal and Paris.
She is an entertainment industry and studio strategist, experienced in creating, developing and executing innovative brand strategies and impactful campaigns.
As a reporter, Stephanie was first published at 15 years of age in the UNESCO Courier, and writes for Filmfestivals.com consistently.  
Over the years, Stephanie has been the Executive Director of the French American Chamber of Commerce, Senior Executive at Entertainment News Agency, Filmfestivals.com, and she ran FOX SEARCHLIGHT France releasing One Hour Photo, Dancer Upstairs and other great movies. 
Stephanie defines herself as a Swiss knife driven by her love of cinema. She focuses on the making of her first film which she wrote, and looks for great projects to produce.


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Hilary Helstein -- Director of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival in the spotlight

Stephanie RONNET:  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background?
Hilary HELSTEIN: I’m originally from New York with a background in theatre.  But my passion for theater, film and the arts quickly turned me to documentary filmmaking. My own film As Seen Through These Eyes, narrated by Maya Angelou has been screened internationally and garnered 8 awards to date. It has afforded me the wonderful opportunity to participate in many film festivals and meet hugely talented people.

SR: When and why did you decide to create the L.A Jewish Film Festival? What is so distinctive?
H.H: The movie capital of the world needed a sustainable Jewish Film Festival. Many other US cities have Jewish film festivals, but in 2006 I was hired by the JCC in the West Valley with a start up grant from the Jewish Federation to go forth and create an innovative film festival that the LA Jewish community could enjoy. What makes the festival unique is the greater involvement from beyond the Jewish community. By creating partnerships with organizations - Jewish and non-Jewish, and alliances with multiple international consulates, we promote unique and important stories by filmmakers from around the world to a multi-cultural and multi-generational audience.

SR: Can you describe the process of the L.A Jewish Film Festival?
H.H: It takes about 10 months each year. But we look for new films year round.
The requirements are not whether the films are created by Jewish people, but that the films touch on or highlight issues of Judaism, Jewish culture or some level of a Jewish perspective.

SR: How do you select the films shown at the L.A Jewish Film Festival?
H.H: We select films in several ways: I scout films at other film festivals in the USA and abroad; I contact distributors directly to find new films never before seen in Los Angeles; or submissions come directly to the festival through the filmmakers themselves.

For the films that are direct submissions, they are viewed by a screening committee of volunteers who review and discuss each film and whether it would be a good fit for the festival.

SR: How many submissions do you get?
H.H: This last year we watched between 250 - 300 submissions for only 30 slots.

SR: How many films do you see for the L.A Jewish Film Festival?
H.H: I personally watch most of the films. Unless they are ruled out unanimously by the screening committee after 4 or 5 people have seen the film, I feel its important to see as much as I can. Sometimes a film falls under the radar that turns out to fill a niche in our community. So I feel its important to know and see just about everything that comes to us.

SR: Are all films being released?
H.H: Some films are already earmarked for theatrical release like Lemon Tree, whereas others may get distribution based on the exposure they got by being premiered at the LA JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL. Our advantage is that there is more availability to agents, distributors and representation for these films and filmmakers because we’re based in Los Angeles. In the past four years we have premiered two short films that have gone on to win Academy Awards. “Toyland” was discovered and premiered in 2008 and went on to win this year’s Oscar for ‘BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT’.  So we take pride in giving filmmakers and their films an opportunity to further their careers.

SR: What kind of audience do you have?
H.H: I would say we reach all ages including teens and young adults, although we tend to skew older for most of the programs. Our programs geared for young viewers grew this year with several films aimed at that particular demographic, as well as family films that reached out to entire families.
We also reached out beyond the Jewish community to the Latino community, and this year in particular, the Slovak, Austrian and Polish communities. Ticket sales were up this year and we sold out a few shows completely
including “Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun Story”, “Broken Promise”
and “The Brothers Warner”. I would estimate that we reached about 4000
viewers this year.

SR:Most film festivals are "economically challenged", do you generate a substantial profit?
H.H: Most festivals including ours do not.  But we have certainly grown and look forward to continued growth in the years to come. We work very hard and value the funding we receive, mostly from individuals and a few corporate sponsors. We try to deliver the biggest and most exciting festival within a given budget. We dazzle our audiences with a big opening night gala and quality programming throughout the week that creates a sense of community and a meeting place so that they look forward to coming back year after year because they know they’ll get meaningful programs. 

SR: What film screened at the L.A Jewish Film Festival made you the most proud so far?
H.H: There were many wonderful films and we take pride in all our selections. As our slogan says “Our films aren’t just selected, they’re chosen.” We mean that!  What I am proud of is the fact that we worked hard to put together a schedule of films that have not been shown before to the Los Angeles community and in the movie capitol of America, that’s a difficult task to achieve. By having the world and US premiere of films like the Slovakian film “Broken Promise”, the Austrian film “Jump” or renowned filmmaker Pierre Sauvage’s, “Not Idly By: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust” sets us apart with innovative programming.     

SR: Do you have an "iconic" anecdote to share with the FilmFestivals.com and Fest21.com audience?
H.H: The choice of “Jump” starring Patrick Swayze, written and directed by Joshua Sinclair, was probably one of the more iconic choices made by The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival.  Not only for Swazye and the film’s team but because the film presented a completely unique perspective. The film tells a little known story about the iconic photographer - Phillipe Halsman, who became the genius behind the many celebrity covers of LIFE Magazine, and his persecution at the hands of an Anti-Semitic governed Austria in the late 1920’s.
The choice to premiere this film stirred the interest of the Hollywood community in addition the dedicated LAJFF audience, and it was well received.

Stephanie Ronnet

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