Meet AJFF: Film Programming Manager, Shellie Schmals


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We're incredibly proud that AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. We rely heavily on this village to make AJFF what it is, and we're going to introduce you to some of the people who make up that village. From our staff, to our volunteers, or even to members of our audience, there's a huge group of people that make AJFF a world-class cultural event.

This month, we're putting the spotlight on a member of AJFF’s staff, Film Programming Manager, Shellie Schmals, currently recruiting members for our Film Evaluation Committee.

A Little Bit About Shellie 

It feels like yesterday, but it’s been nearly 20 years since I moved to Atlanta from my hometown of Buffalo, New York! I’ve enjoyed a professional journey working for many of our community non-profits including the Marcus Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Hillels of Georgia and prior to my start of AJFF, I was the Director of Development and Public Relations at Art Papers.

Along the way, I found myself becoming immersed in Atlanta’s creative community and began to take on independent projects producing and performing in comedy shows, and curating art shows to benefit local charities.

It seems like all my experiences ultimately led to a perfect job at AJFF where I can combine my love for community with passion for the cultural arts!

How did you come to be involved with AJFF?

I started out as a movie goer! Back in 2003, I was on the ACCESS Steering Committee of AJC and attended ACCESS Movie Night.

What is the most interesting challenge, in improving AJFF, that you get to help with? 

The challenge for me is closely tied to my role. With the Film Evaluation Committee (WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD BE APPLYING FOR BEFORE THE DEADLINE!!) I find that in both the curation of films that the committee views and in the cultivating of the members of the committee themselves, AJFF finds itself in a unique position to broaden our scope of what a Jewish film is and what that audience for our films looks like. My role, as Film Programming Manager, ties me to both in a way that lets me connect with the filmmaking industry and tie it back the world of AJFF. It's an incredibly rewarding balancing act, though a constant and fun challenge!

What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?

It’s actually a very personal one! In 2008, I moderated a post-screening Q&A for the documentary Making Trouble. The film’s topic centered around six of the most iconic Jewish female comedians of the 20th century. One of the contemporary comedians featured in the film was Jessica Kirson. Jessica was in town as a festival guest and as it turns out – we’re long lost cousins!

How has your experience outside of AJFF played into your work with the festival?

It’s two-fold. As a creative soul who loves to see ideas implemented, I have great respect and admiration for the filmmakers we present every year. The sweat equity and emotional investment it takes to bring a story to life is incredible, and I appreciate the joy that our film makers feel upon acceptance into AJFF.

I also like being a connector for people, it comes naturally to me and I find it extremely rewarding when I’m able to introduce AJFF to someone and engage them through the Film Evaluation Committee.

What's your favorite AJFF film, and why? 

It’s a narrative feature from the 2015 AJFF line-up, Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong. The chemistry between real-life couple, Bryan Greenberg and Jamie King, is pure electricity on screen and cinematography is beautiful!

Who would you cast to play you in a film?

Tricky answer: Soleil Moon Frye, but as an adult Punky Brewster.

Thank you to Shellie for her time this month. AJFF would not be the same without her and her tireless efforts. Stay tuned to see who we profile next month.