Jessica Christopherson heads up the Fort Worth Film Commission, which was established in 2015. Christopherson and the Film Commission team have led hundreds of projects and driven $47 million in economic impact and helped support the creation of over 4,000 jobs. As Director of Public Art for Scottsdale Arts, Kim Boganey runs Arizona’s nationally recognized public art programme. A leader in defining art in the public realm through creative place-making, signature events, exhibitions, and installations, Boganey’s work contributes to the community’s creative, cultural, and economic vitality. As the Managing Director, Europe, Middle East and Africa for Intrepid Travel—the world’s largest sustainable travel tour operator—Zina Bencheikh, has used this unprecedented time to innovate, so that in future we can fuel our wanderlust and support local people and economies even when we can’t travel in person.
Jessica Christopherson—Assistance Vice President Of Marketing, Fort Worth Film Commission
With so many people confined to their homes—we are in a bit of a film and TV renaissance – with people around the world consuming more than ever, watching older programmes perhaps they otherwise would not have had time for—does this have any bearing on the types of projects you are green-lighting? It has been a difficult year but we are optimistic after the response we are hearing from the film community and are starting to see productions pick up. Since production restarted in Texas, we’ve worked with a variety of projects including Paramount’s Yellowstone.
The last year was challenging and tumultuous for so many people, and I definitely think people are looking to films for escapism. Just before the pandemic hit, filming wrapped in Fort Worth on 12 Mighty Orphans, starring Luke Wilson, whilst also reuniting Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall for the first time since Apocalypse Now. It is based on the true story of the Fort Worth Mighty Mites, an underdog football team in 1930s Texas. It’s a nostalgic and heart-warming story.
Your role straddles the commercial side and the creative side of the business—what excites you about that? What challenges does that pose? My background is in television production and marketing, so in taking on this role I was able to bring that experience to my day-to-day. It’s really rewarding to be able to read a script and help the filmmakers bring a scene to life in locations around Fort Worth. The challenges are rooted in practicalities. It is important to make sure that a location fits all the needs of a production. Even if it visually just right, it also has to be able to fit the needs of the crew, such as parking, ample space for craft services, equipment and more.
What predictions are you making or trends are you seeing in how we will consume culture in the coming months and years? I read recently that global online content consumption has doubled in the wake of COVID-19, and I think this is likely to continue. However, the amount of content that is available on a daily basis can be overwhelming, so I think content providers of any kind are going to have to come up with creative strategies to break through the clutter to capture their target audience. I think younger audiences will continue to gravitate towards more short-form content on outlets like TikTok and Instagram Stories. That said, there is a certain magic about cinemas and watching a film with a group of strangers—it has the power to make us laugh, cry, hopeful, capture our collective imaginations and ultimately unite.
When a project comes across your desk, like Miss Juneteenth for example, what questions do you need to ask or what are the important things to take into consideration about how Fort Worth will be portrayed? We start each project as a collaborative partnership not just a transaction.
Miss Juneteenth is an important story and one our office and our community partners were very passionate about. We want to bring great productions into Fort Worth, but we also want to support local filmmakers: Channing Godfrey Peoples is a Fort Worth writer and director who is making big waves in the film industry.
Miss Juneteenth has been nominated for over a dozen awards, including Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, Gotham Independent Film Awards. Most recently, the film received four Independent Spirit Award nominations and a nomination for NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Independent Motion Picture, and Channing Godfrey Peoples was awarded Best Directorial Debut by the National Board of Review.
Kim Boganey—Director Of Public Art For Scottsdale Arts
Your role straddles the commercial side and the creative side of the business—what excites you about that? What challenges does that pose? The creative economy is an exciting space—especially now! In Scottsdale, public art is an indelible part of the city’s identity and since the 1980s, Scottsdale has commissioned over 120 different public art installations for locals and visitors to enjoy throughout the city. When the creative and commercial side comes together, it can be exhilarating.
Every November, Scottsdale hosts a temporary public art event, Canal Convergence, which attracts nearly 300,000 people to the destination. In the past four years, Canal Convergence has grown from four to 10 days and November is no longer considered a quiet month. This clearly demonstrates the commercial impact of art.
One of the challenges—and it’s a good one—is to ensure that we keep being innovative, inspiring and surprising, whilst remaining accessible to everyone.
What predictions are you making or trends are you seeing in how we will consume culture in the coming months and years? And what trends are you seeing in how people are engaging with visual art now? Arts and culture are the soul of any city—it creates a sense of community and belonging. It sparks ideas and conversation. After almost a year of collective lockdown, social distancing and deprivation of arts and culture, there is a huge need to be intellectually and visually simulated again (beyond Netflix and Amazon Prime!) I predict that once it is safe to do so, people will flock to galleries and museums. The real challenge will be to make sure artists and arts organizations have adequate support and the necessary resources to bounce back to the levels of engagement we used to see.
Tell me about some of the local artists who are exciting you at the moment We are incredibly lucky as Scottsdale has always attracted creative minds. I am excited about the work of artist Beverly McIver. She has been painting for over 25 years, yet only now is getting the recognition that she deserves. McIver is also the subject of a powerful Emmy-nominated documentary called Raising Renee, a story about how her promise to care for her sister when their mother dies impacts her career and the transformative power of art. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art will debut a survey of her paintings in 2022, which will then travel to museums in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Another artist I have my eye on is Antoinette Cauley. Originally from Phoenix, she is emerging as a dynamic artist and her work is heavily influenced by rap music and hip hop culture with a focus on social issues and her own internal conflicts.
It has been a challenging period for visual artists and art institutions, what makes you hopeful and what are some of your predictions for the industry’s future? History has shown us from Boccacio’s The Decameron to Taylor Swift’s Folklore that art, music and literature flourish in and after pandemics. For artists truly committed to their work, they will continue to persevere and create even in this tumultuous period of adversity. Art has always had the power to inspire, transform and heal. This will continue and is particularly important as we cautiously emerge into a new world. I am hopeful that the art to come will bring us together to not only grieve the losses of the past year but also be optimistic about the future.
Zina Bencheikh—Managing Director, Europe, Middle East, And Africa For Intrepid Travel
What is a sustainable tour operator? At Intrepid, we are committed to sustaining local communities and support grassroots projects around the world through our non-profit The Intrepid Foundation. We have been a carbon-neutral business since 2010. Last year, we became the first global tour operator to commit to verified science-based carbon reduction targets. We’re also committed to promoting gender equality by increasing employment opportunities for women in the travel industry. We set a goal to double our number of female leaders by 2020. This was especially challenging in traditional countries like my home country of Morocco, where being a tour leader was not seen as an “acceptable” job for a woman. I’m proud to say we’ve achieved this goal: nearly 30 percent of all our tour leaders are female.
We have led the industry on animal welfare by being the first global tour operator to end elephant rides. We’ve also taken a leadership position on child protection by removing orphanage visits from our itineraries.
What are the biggest challenges for misconceptions you hear and face when it comes to sustainable travel? Sustainable travel is a complex topic. Sustainable travel can often be linked to high-end eco-travel. People think it means far-flung, expensive holidays, but the reality is that travelling responsibly does not mean breaking the bank.
Sustainable travel is about choosing to respect and benefit the local people, cultures and the environment in your destination. It might mean using public transport, staying in locally owned accommodation and being careful not to visit venues where animals are exploited.
It’s also about ensuring that your trip benefits the communities you are visiting. I am a big believer in the power of tourism, when distributed fairly, to empower communities, particularly minorities and women.
What are some of the trends you are seeing in the sustainable travel market? Tourism doesn’t always benefit the people who need it most. We’re seeing the growth of community tourism—activities that allow travellers to connect with local people, gain an insight into local life, while contributing to the local economy. This has become more important as so many communities have been impacted by the pandemic. While travel is off the table, we’ve also focused on using virtual travel experiences to benefit local guides and artisans who have lost their livelihoods. For example, we have been working with start-up Local Purse to offer live virtual shopping experiences in places like the souks of Marrakech. Customers can browse and choose items as they explore the markets with a local guide. Our day-tour-brand Urban Adventures is also giving customers the chance to do virtual experiences with local guides, such as a Frieda Kahlo painting class from Mexico City, or cooking Indian meals with a chef in Delhi.
Where are some of the destinations you recommend and why? When travel resumes, I would always recommend my home country of Morocco. Most people know Marrakech, but there is far more to the country. The High Atlas Mountains are home to beautiful walks and scenery, and the chance to learn about Berber life.
What makes you hopeful for the sustainable travel industry? One positive outcome from the pandemic is that the travel shutdown has shone a light on the impact of mass tourism. For example, the transformation of Venice’s canals and sea turtles thriving in Thailand. People have seen that and want to make sure their future travel decisions are responsible and do not bring any harm to the places they’re visiting.