Our first PEEP SHOW interview was with pornographer Madison Young. How did we fond out about Madison? Through Cinekink film festival director Lisa Vandever.
It’s always great to have your film accepted into a film festival, but when you get into one that seems like it’s made for your film, that’s even better. This is how we felt when Libidoland was accepted into Cinekink. The best part of this self-described “kinky film fest”: working with Lisa Vandever.
As co-founder and director of CineKink, Lisa Vandever curates and oversees the annual film festival as well as a touring series, both designed to promote and showcase works that encourage the positive depiction of sexuality in film. A producer and consultant with over twenty years of experience in film and television, Vandever has directed programming for a regional network of public television stations, worked as a development executive for two New York-based independent production companies, and served as an associate producer for the Sundance award-winning feature film, “Songcatcher.” Vandever holds an MFA in Film and Video from Northwestern University and a BA in Telecommunications and Film from the University of Oregon. She is currently producing and directing her own documentary, A Public Voyeur, a profile of photographer Barbara Nitke and her landmark legal challenge against the federal government’s CDA obscenity law.
Meeting Lisa is one of the best things that happened to us this year (and it’s been a really good year). We had a blast hanging out with her at Cinekink Vegas. Her deep knowledge of film and sexual politics combined with her film fest organizer’s POV makes her a perfect fit for PEEP SHOW.
KING IS A FINK: First of all, congratulations on a successful CineKink Vegas showing. We understand that CineKink is in its 7th year. Can you tell us a little bit about why and how you started CineKink?
LISA VANDEVER: Thanks so much! Vegas was a lot of fun and it was especially enjoyable to have you and a few other filmmakers along for the tour. It makes a big difference to me as an organizer, and to the audience, to have the creators in attendance for our screenings.
When CineKink came into being, I had recently stumbled into a personal involvement in S/M and was meanwhile toiling away in indie film development. I originally became involved in co-founding and helping produce a previous event, the New York S/M Film Festival, for a local S/M organization and the experience of having everything all come together and actually happen, after years of giving notes on scripts that would never see fruition, was SO incredibly exhilarating.
It was also a delight to have found a way to combine two of my primary interests film and sex. (Hmm interesting. Note that I said filmÂ first.) I noticed that the scripts I was drawn to and the films I sought out at festivals generally had a strong sexual component to them. When the name CineKink popped into my head one day, I promptly ran home and snagged the domain. I originally contemplated using it for a production company devoted to NC-17ish type film projects, though didn’t quite have the nerve to push forward with that in a tightening indie market. I also really loved the idea of an expanded festival that would cover and celebrate a wider gamut of sexuality and moved forward with that instead.
KFink: We know that running a festival isn’t easy. What are some of the behind-the-scenes tasks that you do that we might not know about?
LISA: Most of it’s not all that different from producing a film much is just figuring out who you need to contact to make such-and-such happen. Or, more often, just doing it yourself. Â There’s securing funds (or not), finding a location, sorting through and selecting content, tedious details like insurance and rentals, pulling together a crew, wondering why the hell you ever thought this was a good idea, somehow making it to the actual thing itself then surviving and hopefully celebrating.
What’s perhaps different is the marketing component. Â A great deal of effort goes into finding an audience and trying to get them into the damn seats. Â Until recently, filmmakers haven’t had to put so much thought into that part though it’s certainly apparent at a festival screening when a filmmaker has been working at engaging a potential audience beforehand.
Also possibly not apparent is how much thought and time actually goes into selecting the films for the festival. And how hard it can be declining a particular project. No matter how good it might be, there are often times when a film doesn’t match up with the themes that are coming together in one season. Or there’s something else too similar. Whatever the reason, the filmmaker is usually going to take that as a personal rejection of their work.
KFink: We saw a wide range of topics and film styles explored at CineKink Vegas. What are you looking for in terms of movies for CineKink? Are there any topics that might get a movie kicked off the list?
Lisa: Just as with any festival, we’re looking for films that tell a good story, that engage, that communicate. Our focus, though, is on celebrating and exploring sexuality be it through explicit means or not. We generally look for works that are sex-positive, with an emphasis on consenting and adults. Striving to create a space that encourages a conversation about sex, desire and pleasure, our topics have run the gamut from BDSM and fetish, to swinging, polyamory and non-monogamy, to gender-bending and just general issues of sexuality.
KFink: Obviously CineKink is a kinky film festival and, therefore, attracts certain types of entries. Do you think there’s something unique about filmmakers who make kinky movies as opposed to other types of movies?
Lisa: It’s hard to say. For many of our filmmakers, the project that ends up at CineKink is just one kinky and/or explicit endeavor of a varied portfolio. Others have made a conscious decision to focus on sexuality as their primary subject and still others, because there remains such stigma around sex and porn, have a created a separate pseudonymous identity for such projects, so they’ll exist outside of their mainstream and/or corporate work.
What is unique is the type of audience you’ll find at CineKink. One of my favorite things is the sense of community that comes together when a filmmaker is able to attend our screenings and directly connects with a smart, open-minded and generally very appreciative audience.
KFink: Can you share any humorous stories about (anonymous) entries that didn’t quite fit what you were looking for (either too “out there” or “too tame”)?
Lisa: Because not everyone grasps the consensual aspect of S/M, we’ll frequently get films that simply combine sex and violence. Our first year we received a wonderfully produced short about a man who lured a fetching young woman back to his apartment, bludgeoned her to death, then had his way with her. I was a little terrified when the filmmaker emailed, asking what we’d thought of the film but he was terribly sweet-mannered and didn’t try to murder me at all when I explained why it hadn’t been selected.
On the flip side, a good quarter of our Withoutabox submissions contain virtually no reference to sex whatsoever. Â I imagine this is just people blindly submitting to festivals, guidelines be damned. Â My favorite was the filmmaker who wrote asking for an entry waiver for an animated short for children! He would have had a nice surprise if we’d actually programmed it.
KFink: If this ever happens again, Lisa, please tell us you’ll add the film. And call us so that we can be present for the screening.
In the second half of the interview…
- One of our questions sends Lisa into “a bit of an existential tail-spin”
- Lisa shares her thoughts on what non-porn indie directors can learn from indie porn directors
- The future of Cinekink is revealed