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Hidden Gems: Meet Jessica Hardin of Pasadena International Film Festival

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Hardin.

Hi Jessica, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My husband and I met acting in a Theatre in Silverlake, and he was in a film that toured the festival circuit. I moved to Pasadena at the same time, and so many friends of ours were actors, filmmakers, and writers… Pasadena seemed ripe for a film festival, and we loved the idea of creating an event that was so inclusive: businesses, artists, nonprofits, actors, the general public can all take part. Film festivals have a truly magical feeling that very few types of events we have attended possess.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
So many! Creating and running a film festival is much harder than people think it is. There is an idea once you become a brand, you cease being a person, so you have to learn to take all the heat that goes with that. And we recommend getting a good lawyer.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We are proud in that we are a “filmmakers film festival” in that we don’t curate. A lot of film festivals accept submissions and their fees but then use those fees to fly around the globe seeking out the “hot” films to program. That doesn’t seem fair to us, so we do not curate. We only select what we receive via submissions. We honor and respect that without our filmmakers, we don’t have an event. So, even though we don’t get much fiscal support, we do what we can in terms of gifts to the filmmakers. We give every film two complimentary passes which include swag, a free gala, a free pass holders lounge with an open bar, and we pay for the awards ourselves. There are a lot of film festivals out there that don’t do that. We are also lucky in that we are in LA County. Our fest has fortunately garnered the reputation of class… which probably has different meanings to different people, but we are so thrilled that the filmmakers and screenwriters, all our guests, really, come away happy.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
In the era of Covid, that’s difficult to predict. They say that it isn’t the smartest who survive, nor the strongest, but those who can most easily adapt, so that’s what we are looking to do. I’m from a small town where businesses last for 20-30 years, but in LA there is a lot more turnover, or maybe it’s the times we live in. Things change very quickly. I really hope we don’t see the demise of movie theatres; and human interaction. We really love events and parties. One can only stay at home for so long…

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Image Credits:

Bryan Campos

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