June 9, 2021

Aspen Film Executive + Artistic Director Susan Wrubel on Film Production and the Future of Film Festivals

Susan Wrubel is an executive producer on films such as Maggie’s Plan (starring Julianne Moore, Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawk, Bill Hader, and Maya Rudolph) and Still Alice (also starring Julianne Moore, who took home the Oscar® that year for the role, and Alec Baldwin). Susan is currently the Executive + Artistic Director of Aspen Film, which organizes three annual film festivals, including the Oscar®-qualifying Aspen Shortsfest.


What you will learn:

  • Susan shares what her 4th year as the Executive + Artistic director for Aspen Film entails, and breaks down the details of the three film festivals they put on each year. She also discusses how they had to pivot quickly after the pandemic began to make their festivals “virtual.” [0:00-10:58]
  • The importance of short films for audiences, actors, creators, and film in general. The sense of community fostered in the Aspen festivals and how inspiring it is to see the raw talent of thousands of filmmakers every year. [10:58-21:46]
  • Susan weighs in on the fairness of having big name actors (like Will Ferrell) or directors (like Zach Woods) attached to independent film festival contenders when they are competing for limited slots with lesser known actors and filmmakers. The balance Aspen Film tries to create in selecting a diverse range of films, and what the selection process is like going from 3,000 submissions to 80 chosen films in the Shortsfest. [21:46-26:45]
  • Going back to the start of her career, Susan recounts how she steadily worked her way to the top, starting at a PR department in Manhattan, to moving print copies, then moving to LA to work for Paramount, and then working with a London-based company, until she eventually found her way back to NY working as a producer. [26:45-36:40]
  • The relevance of the Alliance Film Series Aspen put on in 2018, and other films that deal with heavy, topical issues. The difference between a producer vs. an executive producer in the film industry. [36:40-42:52]
  • How Susan’s formal education did (and didn’t) prepare her for work in the film industry and the skills that can really only be learned with experience. What Susan hopes film festivals will look like in 2022. [42:52-51:20]
  • Why some shorts are difficult to find streaming online, and why Aspen Film can’t typically keep the films online after festivals conclude. Susan also provides resources where many shorts can be found and discusses the opportunities that accessible platforms like YouTube can provide. [51:20-56:50]


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