For the 16th year in a row, The Ampersand International Arts Festival is officially back in Williamsburg! If you didn’t already know, Ampersand is an all-encompassing arts festival, showcasing creative events from film screenings to author panels–and all things amazing in between. This year, Ampersand is hosting its first FULL week of festivities, uniting William & Mary creatives with other passionate attendees throughout the area. If you plan on pursuing a creative career, have a movie on your Letterboxd watchlist, or simply love festival-going, there is a guaranteed event for you! Here are ROCKET’s top 5 recommendations:
W/ OMAR KAMARA ‘15
Just because Williamsburg isn’t LA doesn’t mean you can’t set your sights on the shooting stars of Hollywood. Director Omar Kamara is living proof! A graduate of William & Mary, Kamara later went on to win the Grand Prize at the Director’s Guild of America Student Film Awards with his short film MASS AVE, and was named a Finalist in HBO’s Short Film Competition at ABFF. The film was licensed by HBO and is currently streaming on HBO Max. Kamara’s films have played at numerous Oscar-Qualifying film festivals–but it wasn’t easy, and he’ll be sharing his story on Thursday afternoon. If you’ve ever wondered how to make it in the entertainment industry, this is a great opportunity to hear a firsthand perspective from 1. An amazing filmmaker, and 2. An amazing filmmaker who ALSO used to go here.
W/ GREG BESON ‘11
If you haven’t considered making a podcast at least once in your life, then what are you doing? Quarantine’s favorite pastime has a rich history, and as of 2023, it’s blossomed into a full blown industrial gardenia. This Friday, come meet with alum Greg Beson to talk all things podcasting. Beson writes and produces “World Reimagined” with Nasdaq, “Testing… 1,2,3” with NI and “Back Bar” with HRN. He’ll offer both practical and fun tips for making your podcast stand out, growing your audience, and attracting the attention of the “folks who write checks”!
- AFTERSUN (2022, DIR. WELLS)
This film features Irish heartthrob Paul Mescal: The former Normal People star and current Best Actor nominee at the 95th Academy Awards. It is a stellar movie directed by Charlotte Wells, revolving around Sophie (played phenomenally by Frankie Corio) and her father-daughter recollections of childhood. Great for both first-time viewers and faithful rewatch-ers, Aftersun is a sweet trip of nostalgia wrapped in sunlight and poignancy. Get in line for an emotional rollercoaster!
W/ KEVIN SMITH, VISITING ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF FILM & MEDIA STUDIES
Creativity…a tricky human trait. It sounds deceptively easy on paper, but how many times has your brain hit a brick wall in an attempt to come up with a catchy title for that 12-page report? Or your newest playlist? Your dog? All of it (from unique names to pitching an idea for a screenplay) traces back to creativity. Assistant Prof. Kevin Smith gets to the root of things on Saturday morning, where you’ll learn about the many techniques for unlocking the creativity buried inside you. Go get enlightened!
- THE ROOM (2003, DIR. WISEAU)
FOLLOWED BY Q&A W/ ACTOR GREG SESTERO
Notorious for being “the greatest bad movie ever made,” The Room celebrates its 20th anniversary with a Sunday night screening. The plot revolves around successful banker Johnny, whose fiancée Lisa abruptly decides to start seducing his best friend–things are never the same after. If that description doesn’t pique your interest enough, maybe the subsequent Q&A with star Greg Sestero (aforementioned best friend AND recipient of the iconic “Oh, hi Mark!”) will entice. As the grand finale to the festival, this one will certainly not disappoint.
Albeit short, hopefully this list has sparked some inspiration to incorporate a panel or two into your plans. These are only a small handful of the 20+ events left this week, so don’t limit yourself! To view the full schedule, go to ampersandfestival.com. Happy festival-ing!