Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

Small town hosts big time film fest


CHATHAM—FilmColumbia 2022, the 10-day festival of “world-class films” presented at the Crandell Theatre in Chatham, opens Friday, October 21. The Crandell’s website, says the festival films represent “major studios, independents, international films, animated features, documentaries and children’s short films.”

Film Columbia’s managing director Calliope Nicholas. Photo by David Lee

The Columbia Paper conducted an email and telephone interview with Film Columbia’s managing director, Calliope Nicholas. The exchange has been edited for length.

Q. How are films chosen?

A. FilmColumbia is a curated festival through contacts in the film industry, [that] co-artistic directors & programmers Laurence Kardish and Peter Biskind [have]. Larry travels to several film festivals each year, including Sundance, Cannes & Toronto FF which gives him a chance to see what films may be of interest to our FC audience. Selection is choosing the best of those films.

Q.Are there preferred themes or categories?

A. Our theme is to bring in the best and award winning pre-released films from other film festivals, and films our community may not otherwise get a chance to see in the area. Many films go on to Oscar nominations. (Ms. Nicholas cited several examples, including Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Green Book, the 2019 Best Picture winner and Parasite, in 2020, “which made it really big.”)

Q. In what ways has the festival grown over the past 22 years?

A. [It] started in ’99 as a weekend event. There are many moving parts to organizing something as intricate at a film festival and having a well organized and smart group makes it all doable. Technology has also changed in huge ways and we’ve worked to pivot with the changes.

Q. Comparing Year 1 and now, how have numbers of paying audience grown?

A. Our audiences went from 10-20 per screening in ’99 to selling 8 thousand total tickets in 2019. The pandemic brought down those numbers, but we’re seeing renewed interest this year.

Q. Other film festivals have sprung up in the region. Does that add pressure on FilmColumbia or is the attitude the more the merrier?

A. We’ve seen film festivals grow; our attitude is there’s room for others and wish them the best. FC has a very good rep among film festivals and within the film industry. Our patrons trust us to bring an interesting array of content. Our intention has always been with the audience and community in mind, not what other film festivals are doing.

‘Our intention has always been with the audience and community in mind, not what other film festivals are doing.’

Managing Director Calliope Nicholas


Q. Any other comments or thoughts you would like to share regarding the Film Festival’s future or past?

It’s been a fascinating , long road seeing FilmColumbia evolve from 1999 to 2022. Feeling the nostalgic pull of memories renting the Crandell Theatre for a weekend to [its] acquisition and turning it into a non-profit. Now, FC is a main cultural event in Columbia County. We’re been through a lot of history with the Crandell and continue to discover ways to keep it as a viable entity on beautiful Main Street in Chatham!

Q. How long have you been managing director of Film Columbia?

A. I’ve been with FilmColumbia since its inception, as it’s festival director since 2001, [and now] with the title as managing director for a few years.

Q. Had you worked with other film festivals before?

A. No, FilmColumbia was the first foray in the the film festival world. I’ve always been involved around the arts. [I also] am co-director at Millay Arts, the international artist residency for artists, writers and composers since 2005.

Ms. Nicholas was born in Indianapolis. She left in her teenage years where education was with the Beat writers in Boulder, CO, then New York City, where she worked at Studio 54. [I] “generally fell into roles of organizing artistic friends, actors and seeking life’s adventures.”

For this year’s film schedule visit Members’ tickets are $11 for screenings before 5pm and $14 for evening screenings. General Public tickets are $13 and $17.

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