New assistant festival director tackles first Ebertfest, joins community effort

By Claire Hettinger

Casey Ludwig is experiencing Ebertfest and its culture for the first time as the assistant festival director for the 2016 Roger Ebert’s Film Festival.

“The energy that I’ve witnessed leading up to the festival is unmatched by anything I’ve experienced before,” she said in an email. “I can’t wait to be a part of it at the festival.”

The exciting festival, which is in its 18th year, begins to come together months before the first film lights up the screen.

The job involves all aspects of the film festival, but it isn’t just Ludwig, she said. It takes numerous people to plan such a large event and she enjoys working with them.

“It takes a lot of people to make this festival happen,” she said. “But being an integral part of the team has been very exciting.”

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Her first festival is here and Ludwig said the process has kept her active in the months preceding it.

“It has been a great learning experience for me and I’ve been incredibly busy making sure all the pieces fit together in the end for a successful event.”

The assistant festival director’s job begins in the summer, when they start the search for festival sponsors and begin to plan the next year’s Ebertfest. They handle all newspaper advertisements, media connections and pass sales in the fall.

Once January hits, work begins on planning the film schedule and putting information together for festivalgoers.

The community involved with the festival has been supportive and patient with her as she has planned and finalized her first festival, she said. Her ultimate goal — simply create an event that people will enjoy.

“Everyone from Chaz and Nate to the sponsors and vendors, to the individuals purchasing passes are amazing, kind, and have been so patient and thoughtful with me during my first year,” she said.

Mary Susan Britt was the associate director of Ebertfest for the 14 previous festivals but handed the torch on to Ludwig this year after moving home to the South where she grew up.

Britt previously told The Daily Illini, “Having had the opportunity to work with Roger Ebert has been the experience of a lifetime. But just how wonderful this community is, and how the community really does get behind the festival … they believe in what we’re doing and what Roger started in 1999.”

There won’t any big changes this year, Ludwig said, Ebertfest is always well-run and successful and she did not see anything major that needed to change after Britt’s capable leadership and years of service.

“The festival is really well organized,” she said. “Mary Susan Britt did a wonderful job running the festival for the last 14 years and I did not see a need to do any major changes to the program.”

The festival culture and the people who create it excite and awe Ludwig.

“I’m learning so much and am completely immersed in the ins and outs of planning this great film festival,” she said. “I’m grateful to be a part of something so wonderful.”

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