We're incredibly proud that AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. From our staff, to our volunteers, or even to members of our audience, there's a huge group of people that make AJFF a world-class cultural event. This month, we're putting the spotlight on our 2020 AJFF Festival Steering Chair, AJFF Board Member, and President and General Manager of Studio Operations at Tyler Perry Studios, Steve Mensch.
A Little Bit about Steve
Steve currently serves as the President/General Manager of Studio Operations at Tyler Perry Studios. His international studio experience includes serving as President and CEO of the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis working in Beijing, China with the Dalian Wanda Group. For a decade, Steve led the studio operations team at Turner Studios. His efforts have created billions of dollars of economic impact and placed him at the forefront of some of the most groundbreaking projects in TV/film production.
What is the most interesting challenge in improving AJFF that you get to help with?
The most interesting and welcome challenge for me will be to continue fulfilling the aspirations of those who have previously served in these roles. And while these are big shoes to fill, I will embrace this task keeping the following words from Tyler Perry in mind. He once shared that he was walking on the beach with his young son who was following him and stepping into his footprints. Tyler said to him “Son, you don’t have to step in my footprints, walk beside me and make your own.” Inspired by those who came before me, my hope is that I can be a source of encouragement to those who come after me.
Additionally, I’d like to broaden the diversity of AJFF’s audience by supporting content creators and their universal storytelling and experiences. I believe that support conjoined with my professional network, will help accomplish this.
How did you come to be involved with AJFF?
In 2010 when I was the director of studio operations for Turner Studios, Brennen Dicker, a friend and colleague asked me to help him with transcoding the film submissions into a standard format for cutting-edge digital projectors. Little did I know then that nearly a decade later, I would be serving as the Chair of the Steering Committee and sitting on the Board of Directors.
What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?
There are many, but one of my fondest memories happened at this year’s Insider Preview Party event. Writer, producer and the 2020 film evaluation co-chair Jason Evans, was interviewing his mother Gail Evans, formerly one of the highest-ranking female executives at CNN. They were discussing the breadth of her career and specifically her experience with Benjamin Netanyahu and the film King Bibi: The Life and Performances of Benjamin Netanyahu. I was awestruck by two things as I watched them interact on stage—Ms. Evans’ groundbreaking and astounding career at CNN, and the intimacy of mother and son on a stage as two professionals. It’s these moments outside of the theater that remind me of the impact of AJFF and its mission.
How has your experience outside of AJFF played into your work with the festival?
Having run movie and television studios for over fifteen years, has helped me gain perspective and respect for the immense amount of work it takes to create a film. From securing or writing the script, getting funding, casting, selecting locations, hiring crew, physical production, post and seeking distribution, the process of getting a film ready to take public is a Herculean lift. This type of dedication combined with the courage to share this body of work with the public display cannot be understated.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with AJFF?
The passion that all of the individuals involved in the festival have—audience members, volunteers, staff, sponsors, steering committee, and board of directors—is incredibly rewarding. These individuals are so inspirational and I love being surrounded by all of their positive energy. When that energy is combined with the diversity of thought and a focused mission, it becomes infectious. I have participated in many meetings with this group during which there has been diametrically opposed positions, but through trust, honesty and safe dialogue, a resolution is always reached. I cannot stress how energizing it is to collaborate with them.
Who would you cast to play you in a film?
This was the hardest question for me to answer, so I polled my colleagues at Tyler Perry Studios and they unanimously agreed (cue…blushing)—Richard Gere.
Thank you to Steve for his generosity, enthusiasm and commitment to AJFF. Stay tuned to see whom we profile next month.