A Chat with Jason Carney, Director of the Phoenix Film Festival

Speaking with Jason Carney is always a treat. If you catch him running around the theater during the festival, he’ll be too busy to talk, but he’ll always appreciate a hello or a thumbs up.


Be sure to let him know what a special festival the Phoenix Film Festival really is to you.



Shari: Have you seen a festival movie this year that you could say is a favorite or is that a no-no question?
Jason: I’ve seen a handful and I’m super excited for people to see “Judy Blume: Forever.” Her impact on young people from fifth grade and up for the last 50 years is an amazing feat. She’s also just a great person and I was completely charmed by her and this doc.


Shari: What’s new about this festival from others in the past?
Jason: We’ve added a handful of special screening events that we’re pretty proud of this year.

First up is “An Evening with Academy Award Winner, Ben Proudfoot.” Ben won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short in 2022 and we’ll be screening a batch of his short films and having a discussion with him after. Ben won Best Feature Documentary with Rwanda and Juliet.



Our very own Matthew Robinson and Monte Yazzie have put together an awesome set of trailers for our “The Art of the Trailer.” It’s one of the cooler original concepts we’ve developed over the last few years. MattyRob and Monte took on this challenge with great gusto.



Another event is “Raising Ukrainian Awareness” where we’ll be screening a documentary called “Displaced” about a family who was fortunate to escape Ukraine. We’ll also be hosting a conversation with that family and the film’s direction.


Additionally, we’ll also have a discussion with a young couple who left Ukraine for Phoenix as a result of the war. It will be a powerful and emotional evening about a critical topic.


Shari: Will you be selling merchandise at the theater and is there PLENTY of it??? Have any images you can share with me?
Jason: You know we will. Our design team created five new shirts, a couple of new hats, and a few stickers, and we just ordered hoodies. Most of the items are based on the poster art developed for this year’s photos.

I don’t quite yet have photos to share yet, unfortunately.


Shari: Will the festival always be held at 101 or will you consider another venue someday soon?
Jason: We will be at our home at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 for the foreseeable future or until Dan Harkins kicks us out. Ha.

We’re very proud to host one of the few arts events in our zip code. Plus the theatre is perfect, there’s room for our Party Pavilion, and there are 20 different restaurant options for our guests if they somehow get tired of eating popcorn. It’s also the home of our year-round office. Harkins Theatres and YAM Properties take great care of us and I couldn’t be happier with them.



Shari: What is it you do that you consider sets your festival apart from the rest?
Jason: Oddly enough it’s tied to question number four and that’s our location. Most festivals our size take place in multiple locations for their screenings, parties, events, and headquarters. We give our filmmakers and filmgoers the ability to enjoy everything all in one location and they don’t have to spend time hopping from place to place. It gives us the opportunity to create this amazing eleven-day community of film where new friendships are developed each year.


Shari: How do you pick the opening and closing night films? That can’t be easy!
Jason: It is not easy at all but I think we really hit it out of the park this year. There are just certain types of films that fit in either of these spots. For Opening Night we want to have a film that strikes a tone for the entire festival. And with the Closing Night Film, it’s the last film the Phoenix Film Festival audience will see from us until the next year so you want it to be memorable.



I start with a wish list as I approach the studios for films. We determine which films are going to be available to us to determine the potential combinations. We also have to determine how they fall into our overall schedule of Centerpiece Films. It’s a big puzzle and requires a lot of patience as we wait to hear back from studios. We never expect to get our first choices but sometimes it works out nicely. In the end, our reputation, relationships, and flexibility are integral to having success in finding the right films.


This year with Ray Romano’s “Somewhere in Queens” we get to see a comic drama that gives us sincere performances and a film that our audience will really enjoy. And by closing out the festival with the comedy horror film, “Renfield” starring Nicolas Cage, we’re going out with a bang that our audiences won’t forget.
tmc.io contributor: ShariK.Green tmc
I'm the Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager for tmc.io. I write, direct and produce short films with my production company, Good Stew Productions. Though it's difficult to answer this question when asked, I'd say my favorite movie is “The Big Chill.” I enjoy photography, poetry, and hiking and I adore animals, especially elephants. I live in Arizona and feel it's an outstanding and inspirational place to live.

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