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Herrick brings varied talents to role at Austin Film Society

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

Holly Herrick has taken a liking to a Richard Linklater line she once heard paraphrased by filmmaker and former Austinite Kyle Henry.

It goes something like this: People go to New York to win; they go to L.A. to reinvent themselves; and they come to Austin to do whatever it is that they really want to do.

The quote ascribed to a founder of the Austin Film Society has parallels to Herrick's own journey to the Lone Star State.

The Maryland native served as a film programmer at the Hamptons International Film Festival in New York and Sarasota Film Festival in Florida. In her spare time, Herrick consulted filmmaker friends on matters of production and distribution. But the Brooklyn resident wanted a way to combine the multiple aspects of her passion for film outside of the industry's traditional roles.

She found her solution in Austin as the new associate artistic director for Austin Film Society, where she started in June.

The position, which expands on the duties of recently departed Bryan Poyser, combines both artist services and film exhibition, a hybrid role Herrick sees as a natural fit.

Herrick hopes to expand the audience for repertory screenings in Austin, while giving local filmmakers the tools and information they need to succeed. She believes it makes logical and artistic sense to house services and programming under one roof where Austin Film Society can cultivate community which also supporting filmmakers.

"AFS I see as a kind of community center, a place where a lot of parts of the film world combine in a nexus of a lot of different areas of filmmaking and film watching and film appreciation that are happening in Austin," Herrick said. "And I think that at the center of any really vibrant film community is exhibition, because I think that is the life source that keeps the dialogue going about film, where people can decide what they care about and why they want to make cinema."

Though her career has kept her on the East Coast, Herrick has long had an appreciation for the unique voices coming out of Austin, from David Lowery (now in Dallas) to brothers David and Nathan Zellner ("Kid-Thing"). She recognized that the Film Society had a large hand in helping to launch the careers of many local names who have created buzz on the national scene.

"I've always looked at Austin and thought what a great scene is going on here and thought it must be so neat to be a Texas filmmaker," Herrick said. "I always saw the Film Society as an example of the kind of support that was happening in other countries — you go to Sweden and there's the Swedish film institute, and they provide resources just to support film made in that country. I feel like AFS has taken on this really interesting and unique role for filmmakers in Texas, which is not like any other state. I think that's very special."

As part of her initial duties for Austin Film Society, Herrick curated the latest installment of the Essential Cinema Series, which kicks off Tuesday at the Alamo South. The program of contemporary films ranges from the United States (James Gray's "We Own the Night") to Hong Kong ("Infernal Affairs," the precursor to Martin Scorsese's "The Departed"), with stops in France ("Polisse") and Turkey ("Once Upon a Time in Anatolia").

The films all share themes common to the police procedural genre and explore shifting moral landscapes. They also give a sense of Herrick's programming sensibility. She says audiences can expect more screenings of Gray's films, a director she calls "criminally underseen," and more contemporary international filmmakers.

Having programmed for fairly homogenous audiences in Florida, Herrick says, she is excited to get to program for audiences that represent a broader demographic while expanding the Film Society's repertory reach beyond typical South by Southwest attendees.

As she becomes more acquainted with Austin audiences and the wealth of filmmaking talent in town, Herrick sees an opportunity to develop her two-pronged approach to cultivating programming aimed both at audiences and the filmmakers who entertain them.

"AFS is an organization that I know is a model for what I'd like to see more of — which is film societies that support their original filmmaking community," Herrick said. "I think all those things came together for me," with the new position at the Film Society. "It's a very special and unique way to create and support community and filmmaking."

Contact Matthew Odam at 912-5986. Twitter: @Odam

AFS Essential Cinema presents ‘Polisse'