THE FESTIVAL BEGAN when the founder, Sara McDermott, who had been a working screenwriter for years, had her son in 2014. As a new mother, she quickly realized she would not be able to keep pace with her writing schedule, and so began to search for other ways to be involved in the world of film with a newborn on her lap. She put out a call for film submissions just to see if there'd be interest - and wound up getting 83 on the first go. Sara independently watched all of them in that first year (almost going crazy in the process), developed the festival schedule, and lined up venues. With her baby in his stroller, she went door to door to every business in downtown Princeton, seeking sponsors. The first PRINDIE: Princeton Independent Film Festival took place in Fall 2015, shortly after her son turned one. Sara pulled off another PRINDIE in 2016, but it became clear that she would not be able to grow the festival as a one-woman show.
For the 2017 festival, Ryan McDonald came on board to head up the Programming side of things, and his wife, Claire Elaine, stepped up to create a new website and set the brand guidelines for the festival, eventually being named Creative Director. With Ryan’s acumen for film, the programming for the festival in 2017 completely changed and went on to include international winners and nominees in the Academy Awards, Cannes, and Sundance just to name a few. He also aligned the festival with leading international distribution companies to bring awareness to the festival.
Still, as a small, three-person team, there was a lot of overlap in responsibilities and Claire’s role evolved from Creative Director in 2017 to becoming the Executive Director in 2018. She led the growing collaboration in another successful year to include guest speakers from the Grist 50 fixers, along with Sundance nominated and Cannes Cinefondation Fellow, Myrsini Aristidou. From 2017 to 2018, PRINDIE was able to increase sponsorship by over 1000%, films submissions by 75% and attendance by 120%. In 2019, we worked with the director of the Princeton University Center for Human Values, Erika Kiss, who partnered with us to host the fest at the Princeton University Art Museum which saw attendance grow by another 100% year over year. This growth is a testament to the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm that the team emanates. Needless to say, since its inception, PRINDIE has grown by leaps and bounds and will continue to do so in the years and decades to come.
We look forward to you being a part of that journey.