OWA Profile: Jordan Brown, Programmer and Director of Submissions

Where are you from and what brought you to Austin?

I’m a transplant from Minnesota.  I actually moved down here last September for an apprenticeship with Bears at Austin Film Festival.  I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface of things to experience here!  Luckily, since I’m still shy of my one-year anniversary in Austin, I’ve been able to play the “I’m new” card as an excuse for not having done something yet.  However, I’m painfully aware that soon the fact that I’ve never drank Topo Chico or gone to the Greenbelt will cease to be cute and instead make people wonder how someone living here has avoided such Austin staples.  So the pressure is on. 

What is your background in film?

I have a degree in film studies and have worked with various film and television organizations throughout the country for about seven years now.  I’m there behind the curtain helping events and screenings run smoothly. Festival-wise, I’ve worked up from a volunteer usher to a programmer to my current position as Director of Submissions with OWA. 

How long have you been a cinephile?

“Since I can remember” is the popular answer, but film watching didn’t become an obsession for me until my middle school years.  Maybe escapism through movies was my way of coping during those awkward preteen years.  In fact, I’m sure that was the main reason.  Anyway, I started putting a lot of hours into the local cineplex (shout out to Mom and Dad for constantly shuttling my friends and I to and fro).  And you know those picture ads for films in the newspaper next to the movie times?  I definitely cut those out and put them on my wall.  They were little badges of honor (look at all the films I’ve seen!).  Eventually trips to the theatre turned into trips to the video store, and my horizons expanded from there. 

What appeals to you most about science fiction?

I enjoy the constant presence of the unknown.  It’s true that as technology progresses, it’s easier to fact-check things like believable movements in Zero Gravity or the proper procedure of carrying out a lab experiment.  But there’s a certain freedom to be had in creating a sci-fi story.  Can you prove that giant squirrel aliens don’t exist out there somewhere?  I mean really prove it?  Our understanding and knowledge is constantly changing and expanding.   

Did any particular film or TV show have an early influence on you?

Disney’s Beauty & The Beast was my first movie theatre experience.  The opening shot that tracks through the forest to the castle?  So striking and magical.  Go re-watch it if you don’t remember. 

I caught the ending of Se7en when I was about 12, talk about memorable.  It definitely gave me a love for plot twists and Kevin Spacey (which go hand in hand pretty often, hmm…)

The Adam West Batman movie is comic gold.  If it was on TV, we were watching it and praying that we hadn’t missed the shark ladder part already.  That movie has aged beautifully, though maybe not in the way that the filmmakers intended.  But who’s to say?

What do you consider to be the Golden Age of sci-fi?

The 1960s are an interesting decade to me concerning sci-fi films.  There were some really dumb ones made, ones whose basic premise could probably have been discredited by science even back then.  Some were silly but self-aware, like Barbarella. But the 60s also gave us 2001: A Space Odyssey, so you could say the decade ran the gamut from bad to campy to masterpiece.  

What’s your experience with film festivals (as a filmgoer and from the festival side)?

I started attending and volunteering at festivals while in college.  There’s been such an explosion of festivals lately, and because of this there are some refreshingly creative organizers out there.  A festival has got to have its “thing,” its draw.  For example, there’s a festival in northern Minnesota that screens its films in a barn!

My positions with the big names like Sundance and Tribeca have opened my eyes to the fast-paced distribution race, but there’s still that underlying camaraderie among attendees.  They all go because they love the movies.  It’s a certain kind of person that travels to Utah or NYC for two weeks, only to watch movies and then sit around and discuss them.       

What do you like about being a programmer and Director of Submissions for OAW?

As Director of Submissions, I’m often the first point of contact for filmmakers interested in OWA.  When the festival rolls around, it’s so great to be able to put a face to the names of people I’ve been emailing and genuinely gush to them about how much I love their film.  

With this festival in particular, there’s been such a great public reaction.  Science fiction fans are really excited to have an event dedicated entirely to the genre.  And that’s exactly why we put OWA together. 

What do you like to do when you’re not watching films?

Talk about films.  Just kidding (sort of).  I explore my surroundings.  I try to go someplace new once a week.  I like to read, go to concerts, take walks, and spend time with people that I love.  

Is there anything else people should know about you?

Velvet makes my skin crawl, there’s not a lot I wouldn’t do for some chocolate, and monkeys make me nervous. 

Oh, and I’ve never seen Star Trek, shhhhhhh…..