No, it isn’t New York or Los Angeles, but according to Ivan Kander, 32, Washington is a great city to be a filmmaker.
The George Washington University graduate produces videos as a freelancer but also works on short films — his real passion — in his spare time. One day, the father of two hopes to write and/or shoot his own feature-length film. But for now, he says he relies on a tight-knit group of Washington filmmakers to help him complete his productions.
What kind of films do you make?
I produce videos for corporate and nonprofit clients. That’s sort of my nine to five. But I also try to make at least one narrative short film per year. Those are pretty much my passion projects, they aren’t exactly money makers.
You also help run a blog about short film. What’s “Short of the Week?”
I’ve been an editor there since 2012. I love short films, I’ve always loved short films. But they’re this weird thing where, prior to online video, nobody could really watch them unless they went to film festivals. Now we have the opposite problem. There are too many shorts to watch so what we do is sift through all the noise to find the best short films to watch, that way you’re not randomly going into Vimeo or YouTube hoping to stumble into something great.
Your work has placed at the Austin Film Festival and the DC Shorts Film Festival. What genre do you like to work in?
My taste has really evolved. My earlier stuff in college tended to be really saccharine and cheesy, but I’ve moved away from that. I went through a fan film phase to almost experiment with how far I could push stuff with a low budget. But at this point I want to make small, personal stories that are relatively affordable to make.
Most people might be surprised to hear about the D.C. film scene. What don’t they know?
There’s tons of video work with all the nonprofits and government work. But people still want to make stuff that’s more creative, and so many of my fellow collaborators are so eager to work on that kind of material as opposed to talking head interviews. It’s a blessing in a lot of ways to have that community.
Whereas if I was out in Los Angeles it’d just be like, “Oh, another guy with a camera.”
What are some of your long-term goals?
I’d love to make a feature film that gets seen by a lot of people and shorts are sort of my practice run into that. I was an English major; I never went to film school. So basically, these are my film school.
You grew up in Loudoun County. What’s kept you around all this time?
It’s home for me. I’ve spent time in L.A. and that place is so on brand. I think we live in this world now where you can go at your own pace and run your own race, and I’m a firm believer that if you work hard and are kind to people, good things are going to happen. And either way, you might as well enjoy the most important things in life which are your relationships.
It sounds like maintaining Jewish traditions when you were growing up was sometimes difficult, have you thought about that for your family?
I grew up in a Reform synagogue in Waterford, Va. It’s very rural so my sister and I were the only Jewish kids; the synagogue was 45 minutes away, so kudos to my parents, it would’ve been a lot easier not to keep us in a synagogue.
We might be joining soon because our son is about to switch from in-home day care to preschool, so we might join because of that.
I get a lot of comfort from the religion. One thing I really like is that Judaism constantly asks people to question its tenets. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, it allows for ambiguity and questions. That always seemed really progressive to me. And when you’re brought up in a certain religion, you get comfort from those traditions.
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