The Inspiring Women Who Brought Hollywood Glamor To Greenwich | Wendy Stapleton, Ginger Stickel, and Colleen deVeer
Greenwich International Film Festival (GIFF) will kick off its sixth year in 2020. Originating from a team of three passionate ladies, the idea for the Greenwich International Film Festival was conceived during a dinner party when a group of friends were discussing film.
The GIFF live events were originally planned to take place from April 30 to May 3, 2020, however, due to social distancing mandates related to the pandemic in connection with COVID-19, the GIFF is now presenting its first-ever Virtual Film Festival from May 1 to May 3, 2020, when audiences can watch the selected groundbreaking documentary and exciting feature films as well as Connecticut short films safely from the comfort of their homes.
With the backdrop of the stunning Betteridge Jewelry store, a major sponsor of the GIFF and the location for our photoshoot, which took place in November 2019, before the outbreak of the coronavirus, we sat down with Wendy, Ginger, and Colleen for an in-depth discussion of what it takes to run this festival successfully.
“Having been born in Greenwich but having spent nearly a decade in Los Angeles, I recognized there was untapped capital here that was interested in film, as well as a community that was hungry for a greater arts presence. Film is an incredible platform to educate and inspire people, and Greenwich is a community full of influential people who have the access and ability to make a change on a global scale. With that inspiration the Greenwich Film Festival began to take shape,” explains GIFF Chairwoman Wendy Stapleton, who sits on the board of multiple non-profit organizations.
Founding a film festival is no small task, Executive Director Ginger Stickel enlightens us. Before joining GIFF, she had started and successfully run the Greenwich Youth Film Festival for high school students.
“There is something incredibly exciting about launching a business,” she says. “When we started, we spent a lot of time researching what type of festival would be best for this area. We were asking people to believe in us and trust our vision. If we’d known then what we know now, I’m not sure we would have had the passion and perseverance needed to get GIFF off the ground. We faced a lot of adversity in the beginning, and we needed unbridled enthusiasm to make GIFF succeed. We are proud of what we’ve built in a short period of time.”
They spent most of their time selling the idea of the festival to a wide range of audiences—the town of Greenwich, the state of Connecticut, local businesses, influencers, Hollywood, the film industry, media outlets, and the community. Every rejection motivated them to work harder.
“We flew out to Los Angeles and set up meetings with some of the top Hollywood studios, agencies, and media outlets,” Ginger recalls. “In summary, I think the journey of building the festival was just as important as the success it has experienced over the years.”
The GIFF team travels to major film festivals in search of films to screen at in Greenwich, according to Director of Programming Colleen deVeer, who holds a Masters of Fine Arts and spent fifteen years as an actress and dancer.
“It is incredibly important to choose films that will appeal to our demographic,” she says, explaining the process of film selections. “We consider ourselves a social impact festival that celebrates innovative filmmakers and storytellers who send a message of hope to our audience about real-world issues that face us all on a global level.”
“The sixth annual GIFF will deliver our strongest content to date and echo our 2020 theme, ‘Knowledge Is Power,’” Ginger adds. The list of films being presented as well as passes for the Virtual Film Festival is available via the GIFF website.
The Greenwich International Film Festival is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that runs an inspiring and empowering annual film festival in Greenwich, CT. The many ways GIFF gives back include charitable donations, the filmmaker cash awards, and the social impact of the program.