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Vancouver’s Queer Film Fest hires new programmer

Shana Myara says she's thrilled to return to an organization she admires

"It's wonderful to be working in and for my own community," Shana Myara says. "I can't think of a better job in this city." Credit: Shauna Lewis photo

A former Out on Screen staff member has been rehired as the festival programmer, tasked with planning the content of the 25th annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival, to be held Aug 15 to 25.

Shana Myara filled the position Jan 21. Amber Dawn, the previous director of programming, stepped down last August to pursue other projects, including her upcoming memoir.

“She’s just wonderful and smart. We are thrilled to be working with Shana,” says the festival’s executive director, Drew Dennis.

“She’s very perceptive, both professionally and personally,” Dennis says. “She’s done a lot of great work in the community. She has a very textured breadth of experience, which is very fitting for the role.”

Myara, 39, was Out on Screen’s media relations coordinator in 2003 and its director of development from 2004 to 2007. 

Asked if Myara’s past experience with the organization influenced the decision to rehire her, Dennis says, “yes and no.”

“In some ways it’s great because she has a leg up and she’s familiar with our organization and audience,” Dennis says, adding that Myara’s experience working with other community arts organizations is also a huge asset.

Myara has been involved with Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival and the Fringe Festival and has sat on the board of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival.

Most recently, she was the arts programmer at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. “We tried to engage people in the arts,” she says. “We wanted people to be more than just passive observers.”

Myara says that, like the Roundhouse, the Vancouver Queer Film Festival “does an excellent job of engaging audiences.”

Myara is also an award-winning writer and holds a master of fine arts from the University of British Columbia.

“I’ve been involved in the arts one way or another for most of my life,” she says.

At 19, Myara applied for and received a $3,000 federal business development loan so she and a friend could host their own art festival, Barefoot in the Park, in Nanaimo, BC. Myara’s late father built the festival stage in an abandoned city lot so she would have a venue for the event, Myara recalls fondly.

“That’s how I got my start,” she says.

Dennis estimates there were close to 50 applicants vying for the position of programming director. “There was a really strong response.”

In December, eight to 11 applicants were shortlisted and interviewed, Dennis says. The hiring committee consisted of Out on Screen’s director of programs and human resources, Ross Johnstone; board member Gwen Haworth; and Amber Dawn.

Myara says she is thrilled to be back working with an organization that she admires.

“It’s wonderful to be working in and for my own community,” she says. “I can’t think of a better job in this city. I’m just looking forward to an amazing year.”

She says it’s too early to announce specific plans for the 2013 festival but says she has begun preparations.

“I will be looking at implementing some of my own programming initiatives,” she says. “I definitely have some ideas for the future and have been talking with people and organizations in the community.”

“It’s early in the role, but I’m looking forward to looking back at the 25 years of Out on Screen’s history,” she says. “You can’t have a 25-year anniversary go unnoticed.”