Palm Springs film society artistic director Lili Rodriguez shares her plans for keeping the festival audience connected
The Coachella Valley native talked to MEAWW about succeeding Michael Lerman, her new role at the film society and her fascination with films among other things.
"Lili lives for film. She is extremely intelligent and talented and going to be a superstar in the festival world," Palm Springs Festival chairman Harold Matzner had said at the time of Lili Rodriguez taking over as Artistic Director of the festival.
On March 28, the Palm Springs International Film Society announced the promotion of Lili Rodriguez to Artistic Director, a role that will have her oversee programming, developing and operating the Palm Springs Film Festival (PSIFF) and Palm Springs ShortFest. Taking over from Michael Lerman, Rodriguez will also be overseeing the film society's membership and community outreach programs throughout the year.
Rodriguez, a Coachella Valley native, worked as a film projectionist before joining the festival in 2013. By 2016, she became the year-round Program Manager at the Palm Springs Fim Society and was programming films for PSIFF and ShortFest. Two years ago in 2017, she moved on to become Director of Programming at PSIFF and Festival Director at ShortFest.
In an exclusive interview with MEA Worldwide (MEAWW), Rodriguez tells us more about how she plans to take her role forward as the new artistic director. "I've been involved with the organization on a year-round basis for a few years now we have an excellent team who's been doing it for a while as well. I would like to bring in more crossovers between the festivals and our year-round work, strengthening the festival's mission of bringing premiere filmmaking to the Desert not just during festivals but in our year-round programming," she says.
Rodriguez's fascination with films goes back to her childhood. "I spent a lot of time indoors and in front of a screen. My parents were pretty lenient in what we could watch so I would pretty much watch anything and I've been watching things since." And since then, she is only ever attracted to a good story. "My friends will tell you that I like everything. The films that really linger with me and get me thinking, however, tend to be edgy and often challenging. That's not to say it's the only thing I enjoy. I also get wrapped up in comedies and heartfelt movies. If there's a good story there, I'm in."
While the nature of her work, she says, is similar to the Festival Director at ShortFest, it is the scale that is "much, much bigger". However, she doesn't have extravagant plans for the festival in her kitty at the moment. "I've inherited a successful festival that already provides a great movie-going experience, so I don't know that we need to be doing things very differently, at least not in the immediate future," she says.
Before joining the film festival world, Rodriguez was a film projectionist. "I'd worked at movie theaters before and I volunteered at my college's Cinematheque. Eventually, I wanted to learn how to project but it never quite worked out so when I finished school and came back home, it was just something I wanted to learn. I started projecting at the tail-end of the film exhibition, we had one digital projector but the rest were 35mm so it was a great experience."
In her role, Rodriguez aims to keep the connection with the festival's audiences intact. "The program is dictated by what's out there so I can't speak to genres. There are genres that I love that don't really make sense for our audience here. I wouldn't start programming a ton of horror films, for example. We know what Palm Springs likes and the plan is to keep showing the films we feel our audience will have a connection with."