NATO’s Young Filmmaker Program Connects the Blockbuster Directors of Tomorrow with the Cinemas of Today

At the April 2022 edition of CinemaCon, amidst studio presentations and screenings, NATO introduced their Young Filmmaker Program—designed to support up-and-coming filmmakers, engage them in the world of exhibition, and overall foster a love and appreciation for the magic of the movies. The Program launches with three short films, all on some facet of the moviegoing experience: the sights, the sounds, the sense of togetherness, the overall cinema environment. Considered together, the trio of films delivers one message: OK, you’ve sat on your sofa long enough. Remember how you love going to the movies?

This week on the Boxoffice Podcast, Deputy Editor Rebecca Pahle speaks with the directors behind two of the NATO Filmmaker Program shorts–Punch Card Film’s Katie Staab and Ed Hellman, of There’s Nothing Like It, and Kelly Schiesswohl and Noah Sterling of Oddly Satisfying Cinema—as well as Aviva Kleiner and Bill Lathorp, who lead the program. (The third film, Sincerely, Management, was written and directed by Ameer Kazmi.)

The Young Filmmaker Program, says Kleiner, is “all about supporting the industry, but it’s also about supporting up-and-coming filmmakers…These are the filmmakers who are going to be making the blockbusters of tomorrow.”

And this set of filmmakers, at least, conclude their time with the program with a new sense of appreciation for the cinema industry and the passionate group of professionals who keep it going through good times and bad. “I think really what this opportunity has extended to us is this recognition that we need those who are behind the scenes who are building these opportunities for us,” says There’s Nothing Like It‘s Staab. “As much as they need the content and the work and creative—if it were not for these people in this industry, there would be no opportunity to share our work and the work of others with a greater audience. There’s a camaraderie now, a support system that we didn’t really even recognize was there, necessarily, because we immediately associate [the cinema industry] with business. And that’s not the case. We’ve seen passion. We might be on opposite sides of the film industry, but that passion is there no matter who you are and the role that you play.”

But a film—as exhibitors well know—can’t reach its full potential without people seeing it… which is why the Young Filmmakers Program is encouraging exhibitors, vendors, and anyone in the film community, individuals or companies, to share the shorts on social media or, with the DCP links provided, on the big-screen as part of a cinema pre-show. To that end, those behind the NATO Filmmaker Program have prepped a toolkit that makes it easy and seamless to share the shorts either on the small or the big screen.

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