Carrie Richer

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Carrie Richer. I am the Director of Film Festivals at the Roxy Theater including the International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF), the Montana Film Festival, and Kiddomatic children’s film festival.

I love everything about supporting artists, in this case, filmmakers, and connecting them to audiences. I feel lucky to have the job that I do and to work within such a creative community. Sidenote: In my personal life, I am a dance filmmaker/ artist and mother which both inform my work.

What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?

The lesson I come back to over and over is to Keep Things Simple. When I learned this long ago, my dad taught me by using the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid.)

On March 13, 2020 – it became clear that the full-blown IWFF that we had been planning would not be possible due to COVID-19. In one day – we canceled our printed program, our physical event, notified filmmakers of the changes in our approach and pivoted to a Virtual Festival. By April 18th we had put together what was one of the very first virtual film festivals produced as a consequence of the Corona virus pandemic. As I look back just 6 months from then, the entire industry has changed. The approach and language around virtual festivals, platforms, and best practices have become very sophisticated from where we had found ourselves in March. Yet our solution worked. In this instance: the need for simplicity was huge.

The Virtual IWFF managed to stay relevant, produce a successful festival with more viewers, and passes sold than ever before and showed new creative work from filmmakers who wouldn’t be able to show their films for the coming year or longer. Our success was due to our simple but graceful approach. Audiences felt connected to our program and it helped that they were thirsty for content. We didn’t get bogged down by streaming platforms, high-cost tickets, or fancy diversions. We played our films on youtube and made the passes $5 or pay-what-you-can and everyone responded with enthusiasm and generosity including our supporting sponsors.

To wrap it up- staying above the fray, keeping things simple, and maintaining the larger picture has continuously helped me to do good work and trust that the work will speak for itself. The KISS strategy can also be calming when details (or the entire world) become so overwhelming or when pivots that you never could have expected become necessary.

What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.

My greatest mistake professionally has been to not delegate work. I am a person who is used to doing all the jobs – nothing is too small and nothing is too large. However, I do get very caught up in my enthusiasm for wanting to do it all. I often over-commit and often manage to accomplish ‘all the things’ despite my over-committed state.
However, sometimes it is too much for me to handle especially while trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance which is a greater priority of mine since having my daughter (now a 5-year-old). When faced with an overwhelming feeling of ‘I can’t do it all’ – the obvious solution is to delegate. At The Roxy, you can only imagine the army of capable and dynamic employees around. I have recently become much better at pausing before I get to an overwhelmed state, and finding excellently suited people to parse portions of the work off.
It is always true that two (or more) heads are better than one. If you delegate early and intentionally – the result will always be better. Learning to do this not as reactionary response but sooner and better has served me well.

Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?

In film festival land – in only 6 months – the entire landscape is different. I believe physical theaters will come back though I think it will look different than ever before. The studio industry structure is being upturned. The need for a screening in a theater and protected rights to the films is disappearing as everything goes straight to streaming. Tickets, concessions, distribution deals, festival passes, and parties all look different. This is big.
I do think places like The Roxy Theater that is about community and curated films will still be a real thing. I think post-pandemic, there will be a massive community desire to sit in a room and enjoy a film again. But it will change and the money behind it all will likely be reshuffled. I do have faith in The Roxy.
On a few other fronts, I will also say that I think virtual film festivals are here to stay. I will likely always include a virtual aspect within a festival moving forward. Finally, I think that the pandemic might have truly affected the climate crisis and travel culture in a meaningful way. I do hope that we are able to make large, robust, creative strides to protect the Earth. I see that as part of what IWFF will follow and attempt to capture through film as time inevitably keeps flying by.

What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Often in the film world – people suggest going to LA or New York to land a job on a large film shoot. This does present networking possibilities and a booming industry and lots of shots to learn craft. Not that this is particularly bad advice but I think there is much to say about staying local, working hard, and learning in a smaller community. I think this teaches a different kind of resourcefulness that can prepare you just as well. Often being a big fish in a small pond can offer more valuable experiences if you apply yourself than being added to the LA grind.

In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?

I moved to Missoula from Jackson, Wyoming at the end of 2018. Part of the result of sliding into a new town is that I am simply not asked to be a part of as many projects because I am new. Therefore, I don’t have to be as discerning as I was previously. This new outlook has given me a chance to find new organizations, collaborators, partners, and interests than I had formed in the 11 years I worked in the Jackson Arts Community. Every endeavor and project for me right now means new ideas and approaches are established as nothing has been predetermined by past experiences. I am intentional about the new projects I take on here in Missoula and approach everything with an open mind having not had known the history of organizations, events, projects or such before. This has fueled me. I like leaving things more open and I like how the move for me turned things upside down. In conflict with this actual question – I would say in the past two years, I have learned to say Yes and be open more than usual because you never know what will emerge.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

The truth is that I rarely read right now between juggling work and taking care of/ schooling and playing with my daughter – I haven’t found the time. I do read with my daughter though and she is just learning to read which is magical. We read books over and over and there are so many from childhood that have become her favorites. In particular is the book Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. I love the way that sound and rhythm is conjured through the text. I also love the sense of adventure the book encourages and the feeling that after all the mixups or odd encounters – it will all end well enough.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

Find people you like to work with and commit to working hard, learning and listen a lot. Put an emphasis on forming some real working relationships – doesn’t matter what the ‘focus’ is of the job or if it is what you want to do forever. Good working relationships will teach you everything you need to know to be impactful once you find what it is that you TRULY want to do. Don’t worry about knowing that right away. You will learn things at every job that will inform who you are and it is all valuable input that will eventually all come together.

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

In this more professional instance – I immediately think of:
“He used to tell me, ‘Do what you like to do. It’ll probably turn out to be what you do best.”
― Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety