George Eldred is Program Director for Aspen Film, in Aspen, Colorado, USA. He manages the selection process for Aspen Film's festivals, film series and special presentations, including Aspen Filmfest, Summerfilms, Academy Screenings and Aspen Shortsfest, one of the most highly-regarded showcases for short cinema in North America.
With over 30 years experience in the arts and in media, George has served as one of the shorts programmers for Sundance Film Festival, and has been a juror, professional panelist and guest curator at other international festivals including Cork, Toronto Worldwide and Palm Springs Shortfest. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate in Art, George worked for several years in film and video production and at the San Francisco International Film Festival before joining Aspen Film in 1996.
Connection to the British Council?
As a film curator for US festivals and film series for both features and shorts, I rely on the comprehensive services of the Film Department of the British Council to stay in touch with current British films and filmmakers, and for curatorial and logistical support in showcasing British works in my programs.
Program Director at Aspen Film - overseeing selection of programs for our festivals (Aspen Filmfest and Shortsfest) and film series (Aspen Academy Screenings, Aspen Summerfilms, etc.).
What originally turned you onto film?
The movie theatre in the small town I grew up in closed when I was a teenager. Some older friends of mine talked me into helping them start up a film club at our school. We showed 16mm prints of classics. When we showed 'Psycho' I was hooked by the power of it's storytelling and style. I watched it several times before we had to return it to the rental service and that gave me my first chance to study how a film worked.
Career high so far?
My career high has to be my current position at Aspen Film - I get to spend (almost) all my time researching and watching shorts and features from all over the world and selecting my favourites to share with audiences - a dream job for a big film fan!
First job in the film industry?
My first paying job in film was as an apprentice film editor on a low budget horror movie called 'The Video Dead.' (I also got to play the lower half of a chainsawed-in-two zombie when an extra didn't show up for the reshoot of a scene!)
If I knew then what I know now...
The 'death of cinema' has been declared several times in my lifetime - If you love movies, don't be put off from a career in filmmaking by the current 'crisis' - some form of visual media will always be alive and exciting audiences. To that end, be open to always learning. The methods of movie-making may change (all the film-editing techniques I so laboriously learned in film school and in my first editing-room jobs are as obsolete as stone-age 'flint-knapping') but human nature hasn't. We still want to be emotionally moved, intellectually stimulated, amused and entertained. Learn how to do those things with moving images and you'll never be made redundant.
Favourite British film?
This is an impossible question - there are SO many great films - both features and shorts, and your filmmakers just keep making more! From 30's Hitchcock, 40's Powell and Pressburger, 50's and 60's David Lean to Peter Greenaway, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Danny Boyle and so many others - too many to choose just one!
If you could have directed any film ever made, which one would it be?
'The Lion In Winter' - I would have failed miserably at doing a better job than the accomplished Anthony Harvey, but the chance to be on a set with such a great collection of my favorite actors - Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, and with such a classic script - too tempting!
First film you remember seeing?
I'd seen movies on TV, but the first 'big screen' movie experience I remember is the Sci-Fi tale 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' - seen from the back seat of my family's car at a drive-in theater, dressed in my pyjamas - the film both fascinated and terrified me!
Favourite line or scene from a film?
A sentimental favorite - the restaurant scene from 'Five Easy Pieces' in which the Jack Nicholson character, Bobby Dupea, manoeuvres a recalcitrant waitress into getting the lunch order that he wants, because it so brilliantly captured my generation's allergic reaction to being told 'No' by authority.
Favourite screen kiss?
My favorite screen kiss was Jimmy Stewart kissing Donna Reed in 'It's a Wonderful Life' - If an average guy like George Bailey could have such a beautiful girlfriend, then there was hope for me!
Favourite screen hero?
I suppose the young Brando of 'A Streetcar Named Desire', 'On the Waterfront', and 'The Fugitive Kind' because of his combination of physical strength and raw emotional vulnerability.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
Since Jimmy Stewart is not available, it would have to be Tom Hanks.