Welcome new WSFF Director, Eric Dunn

Tell us a bit about who Eric Dunn is.

I’ve lived in Western Nevada County for about 12 years now. I first came across the area when I worked in the music industry and the band I was working with played a gig here. I am grateful that in the years since I have been able to establish roots here and call it home. I enjoy the peaceful rural nature of the area and am grateful that I can leave my house and be in Tahoe National Forest in a matter of minutes. When I have time I enjoy exploring my creative side through photography and related artistic endeavors. I especially enjoy taking advantage of our dark skies for astrophotography, as well as diving in deeper to the use of instant film. I enjoy recreating in various ways throughout the region, including skiing, backpacking and camping, canoeing, mountain biking, and soaking in hot springs.

Where were you before you joined SYRCL as the Wild & Scenic Film Festival Director?

I have been working at Wild & Scenic for the past 5 years. In that time I have been fortunate to be able to experience a number of roles within the organization. I started with WSFF as an On Tour Coordinator, working closely with our On Tour host organizations to help them put on a successful event in their communities. From there I added work on communications and social media for the festival to my duties, before then moving from the On Tour program to being Producer of the festival, with a focus on operational logistics and fundraising. After a couple of years in that role I was promoted to the role of Operations Director, continuing with a focus on festival operations. I held that position for the past year and a half before stepping into the Director role this month.

What led you to take this position with us?

My five years in various roles in the organization has given me unique insights into the scope of the program; the strengths, the weaknesses, and the opportunities that exist. When I interviewed for my initial role of On Tour Coordinator with the fest, I remember commenting on the power of film and video and how on the modern internet about 65% (and some estimates of over 80%) of internet traffic is video. This has always struck me as a powerful fact since film is the medium our festival works within. Video is how modern society consumes information, it’s how we get entertainment as well as news. The amalgam of the important stories, messages, and solutions our film selections present have always struck me as a powerful tool to increase the environmental groundswell.

What do you bring to the festival?

Aside from the aforementioned internal experience at WSFF, I bring a diverse background and unique perspectives to the Director role. In one of my former lives I was an entrepreneur, running a small business with my wife. This role gave me experience and insights into management of others, accounting and other essential functions of business ownership, as well as experience in marketing, B2B sales, and more.

In another former life I was a band manager and booking agent, bringing a freaky jazz band of Okies to high profile jazz festivals and clubs around the globe. Through these varied experiences I learned a lot about event production, project management, relationship building, sponsorship and arts funding, and everything in between. My recent roles for WSFF have allowed for the fulfilling position of bringing those experiences together to best serve the mission of SYRCL and Wild & Scenic.

What kinds of films do you enjoy most and why?

I really enjoy the medium of film in general, be it a sophomoric comedy or a deep existentialist documentary. In terms of WSFF though, I really enjoy the films we program that explore the dynamics of indigenous populations and their trials and tribulations with modern society. Be it the encroachment of their sovereign borders by cattle ranchers as seen in the 2024 Official Selection Patrol, or the power of a single woman standing up against a large multinational gold mining corporation like in the 2020 official selection Maxima. These stories have always resonated with me. The way in which these films can create dialogue and awareness around these all to prevalent dynamics is at the heart of what Wild & Scenic aims to accomplish with the medium of film.

How do you hope to inspire new audiences to attend the festival?

I look forward to continuing to expand our school program and working closely with our Education Department to get young audiences to join and engage in our programming early in their lives. I am also excited to get creative with our team to find new novel ways of presenting programing and engaging with our audiences. This includes continuing to find ways to collaborate with Sierra College like we did last year on their Nevada County campus as well as building upon successful programming, such as the 3 course dinner paired with films presented for our Dinner and a Movie night last year.

We also continue to explore ways to expand the Virtual Reality experiences we offer, as well as finding new ways to embrace the merger of film and technology. We will continue to find unique ways to collaborate with other organizations in our community in a variety of ways, be it through continued partnership with Earthjustice to bring engaging panels and workshops to the Activist Center, or through co-promotion with other regional festivals to help find intersectional opportunities with a diverse range of communities in the area.

Lastly, I look forward to working with the WSFF On Tour team to continue to grow the program and bring the inspiration and impact of WSFF to new communities and causes around the country, especially places we’ve never held an event (do you have family in the Dakota’s or Nebraska? Let them know about WSFF On Tour!).

What was your introduction to Wild & Scenic Film Festival?

My introduction to WSFF was as an attendee to the flagship event here in Nevada City and Grass Valley back in 2015. After being in the area for a few years, I remember it being one of the first times I saw the town of Nevada City come alive in such a unified and vibrant way. While our quaint foothills town has no shortage of incredible community events, I came to realize that the kinetic energy initiated through Wild & Scenic is second to none and one which stands out for its vibrant and tangible engagement and celebration.

What has been your favorite WSFF experience?

One of my favorite experiences was the Dinner and a Movie night we produced this past year actually. We worked with The Stone House in Nevada City to create a 3 course dinner paired with films. Chef Garret did a wonderful job at pairing related dishes to the films, and having filmmakers there for intimate Q&A’s after some of the films really rounded things out. The event sold out and we’re excited to do more of this sort of thing in the future. Another favorite memory was at my first WSFF in 2015 with a public art installation that prompted people to reply to the prompt “Before I die I want to…” My wife wrote “Swim with wild dolphins” as hers, which we actually got to experience in March! I also remember enjoying reading the various replies and remarking what a great community this was to have such wonderful and thoughtful responses.