On a bustling Friday morning in East Hampton, Anne Chaisson entered Babette’s wearing a magenta dress, blond hair damp from the shower, with that casual yet put-together look so many try to master for when their downtime here mixes with official business or serious fund-raising. In her case, she has had many years of experience of both to get it just right.
Ms. Chaisson has been director of the Hamptons International Film Festival since November, but she has been associated with the organization for more than a decade. She was a founding advisory board member and a co-chair of the festival from 2003 to 2012 and was its full-time director of development from 2006 to 2009.
Her connection with the South Fork is even longer, including a number of share houses and rentals in her past and present. She is now settled in Northwest Woods, in a perfect location to get her easily to and from East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Southampton, as well as in and out of the city.
Moving easily between the villages of the South Fork has become more important in the past few months as she and the festival seek to build new partnerships with new and existing arts organizations from Montauk to Westhampton Beach.
Southampton will be increasingly important to the balancing act of her new position, as she has been working with the recently formed Southampton Center, an interdisciplinary arts organization which will operate out of the Southampton Village-owned property on Job’s Lane occupied until last fall by the Parrish Art Museum. Film@Southampton Center, a summer series of outdoor and indoor screenings selected in partnership with the festival will begin on Friday, July 12, with “Chasing Ice,” a cooling documentary by Jeff Orlowski that follows a National Geographic photographer on a multi-year expedition to document the changes in the Arctic’s glaciers.
The outdoor component of the series will mix current documentaries and independent narrative features with classics and children’s entertainment. Other titles this summer will be “Running Wild,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Safety Last,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” “Jaws,” and “Step Into Liquid.” They will screen on Friday nights around 8:30.
There will be an indoor component on Saturday evenings at 7:30 as well. These screenings will feature independent films fresh from the festival circuit and before they are released in theaters. That series begins on July 20 with “Blue Caprice,” a film by Alexandre Moors based on the D.C. Beltway sniper attacks of 2002, and shown at Sundance and New Directors/New Films at the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The other films will be “Prince Avalanche,” “Drinking Buddies,” and “Short Term.”
In addition to the screenings she would like to bring the filmmaking classes she has developed at Guild Hall for children ages 8 to 11 and 12 to 15 to the new center to serve the Southampton audience. “We know that those audiences are quite distinct.” The classes at Guild Hall have been very popular and are filled with about 80 percent year-round children. “One family, the Wainwrights, have sent their kids there for five years,” she said.
So she is getting to know the backroads, despite a few missteps and getting lost on her bike at least once in Northwest. And she will continue to need to find new ways to navigate the South Fork as the festival’s current successful programs continue and new ones are added.
Tomorrow, for example, “Gasland Part II,” a documentary on the effects of the hydraulic fracturing method of harvesting natural gas, also known more familiarly as fracking, will be shown at Guild Hall as part of the festival’s SummerDocs series at 8 p.m. On hand for a discussion after the film will be Josh Fox, the director, Andrew Revkin, an environmental writer and blogger for The New York Times, Alec Baldwin, who presents the series, Karl Grossman, a local writer specializing in environmental concerns, David Nugent, the festival’s artistic director, and Ms. Chaisson. She said the festival will announce the final selections for the series soon.
This year’s main event in October will build on the festival’s regular programs and the reputation it has established as a “destination on the march to the Oscars. We are in the timeframe of the Oscar push. There is a huge Oscar voting community in the Hamptons with all of the writers, producers, directors, actors, composers, etc. It is a good spot to get that kind of exposure.”
Although the buying season has expanded to include smaller festivals like the Hamptons and films are purchased there for distribution, “that’s not our identity,” she said. “We feel the signature programs we have brought to the East End that no other festivals do, such as Conflict and Resolution, should be the main focus.”
This year, the festival is offering reduced-price Founders Passes for $1,250 until Labor Day, after which they increase to $1,500. They are also offering Companion Packages that give early access to tickets, and are available through the festival Web site.
Ms. Chaisson is originally from Louisiana and her relaxed Southern-inflected approach to things appears to make her well-suited for this position with its outsize ambitions and limited budgets and staff. She came to New York City after college as a brand marketer for companies such as MasterCard. She became interested in film and began producing a feature around the time when the company she had been working for moved out of the city. “I took the package and changed my career” and started her own production company.
She then got an offer from Kodak to be its East Coast marketing representative for the moving image, which meant hitting the film festival circuit, including the Hamptons International Film Festival, which is how she came to know and become involved in it, eventually bringing a feature she produced, “Roger Dodger” with Jesse Eisenberg, Campbell Scott, and Isabella Rossellini to several festivals, including the Hamptons. She also served on the jury for the festival one year. Around the same time, she started the advisory board, and a few years later began as director of development.
She has produced five films with her company, started a film school, and has raised money for film festivals and the Film Society at Lincoln Center. “I caught the film festival bug. It felt like producing an independent film. They are small, seasonal, and have small budgets, which are doable, but there are a lot of complicated logistics.”
With her experience in fund-raising, production, education, film festivals, and even awards show production, “I like to say I’m the Swiss Army knife of independent film, but it is the exact niche for me.” For her, the film festival is “like a new marriage, a new role. I feel like I’ve come home.”