Though lacking the fanfare of a major motion picture release, a recent announcement in the Pittsburgh cinematic community has shined a light on an organization until now thought of as primarily a Jewish institution. The organization formerly known as JFilm is now Film Pittsburgh.
The change preserves the integrity of current programs while ensuring future film festival successes, explained Iris Samson, Film Pittsburgh’s president.
“We determined that from a branding perspective and a fundraising perspective it was important to have a name that reflects all of the work that we do,” said Kathryn Spitz Cohan, Film Pittsburgh’s executive director.
In recent years, the organization’s offerings have grown from the Jewish Film Festival, Robinson International Short Film Competition and Teen Screen to including the ReelAbilities Film Festival (a showcase of stories intended to promote appreciation of those living with different abilities) and the Three Rivers Film Festival (a partnership between Film Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts).
“We felt that it was important to have a name under which all of these other programs that we run could live, hence the name ‘Film Pittsburgh,’” said Spitz Cohan.
Another idea also prompted the alteration. “In addition to thinking that changing the name would be good for all of these programs to live and breathe and have their own branding and exist under a big name, there was the idea that we could have cross pollination between the different programs that we run,” she said.
For example, within the Three Rivers Film Festival, which welcomed nearly 3,000 participants between Nov. 16 and 20, there were three films of interest to the Jewish community. The ReelAbilities Film Festival featured another film of Jewish appeal, explained Spitz Cohan.
Basically, switching the sobriquet “gives us access to a revenue stream and a wider audience,” noted Samson.
But as some have wondered, do these changes signal the curtain closing on JFilm, the Jewish Film Festival?
Absolutely not, the festival will go on, said Spitz Cohan. “JFilm still exists, it’s just part of Film Pittsburgh.”
“In fact this allows JFilm to maintain its own identity under the new umbrella,” added Samson.
Those wishing to donate specifically to JFilm are still able to, said Spitz Cohan. “Each program has its own funders.”
“Our audience is very loyal to us and happy to share their thoughts with us, and that’s something we treasure,” Samson said of JFilm. “We feel confident that the change of the name doesn’t mean that their input will be lessened in the least.”
But even with all of the explanations, Spitz Cohan knows that in a crowd like JFilm’s there will always be a fair share of those fretting about the festival’s future.
“I don’t want people to worry,” she said. “JFilm is the rock of this organization, it’s not going anywhere, it’s strong and a wonderful community event. We’re very proud of it, I’m very proud of it.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.