Christina Campagnola is an agent in the Independent Film Group at the Agency for the Performing Arts where she helps to package and sell independent films in the festival circuit. She also represents screenwriters and directors and consults for independent productions and film funds. Prior to joining the APA, Christina worked in production on various independent films and major television shows. She started her career in distribution at Screen Media, where she managed their SVOD platform. Campagnola also serves on the advisory board for the IFP, as well as on the Dean’s Council of the Florida State University Film School and as a mentor at the Ghetto Film School in the Bronx.
On how she fell in love with film:
Film was everything growing up. I thought life was a movie! As a little girl, I would spent hours making movies on my dad’s video camera. I'd film my dog, my toys, my hermit crabs, anything really. Then I fell in love with editing. It all started with this program called MovieShaker where you'd upload your clips and the program would jumble them up into a nonsensical movie.
I became more serious about film in my junior year of high school when I attended my first local film festival, Tallgrass. I remember going to a screening in a hip art space and seeing an amazing film about Icelandic music called Screaming Masterpieces. I felt like I’d stumbled into a secret world…. When I left Kansas to study film in Florida, people must have thought I was nuts. That wasn't a thing people studied.
On making the transition from filmmaker to agent:
I loved editing, but decided I didn't want to be locked up in a dark room for a living. I was a social creature and I’d always had an interest in the business side of filmmaking and in being the voice for the creatives who weren’t in the position to self-promote. Many of my classmates and friends were incredibly talented and I wanted to help boost them up and help make their visions a reality. That’s what agents, managers, lawyers, and producers do—we are business partners to creative people. It only helps if you have an understanding of the creative process and have been in your client’s shoes. I feel their pain and gains… maybe too much.
After graduation, my mentors advised me that if I really wanted to learn the business side of filmmaking, I should work at an agency. I didn't have connections to anyone at an agency but I sent that goal into the universe. I was working on a television show that wasn't renewed for a second season, and everyone was freaking out about their next move, as freelancers do. I decided to go to Sundance for the first time and I had no expectations. And as luck would haveit, on my last night in Park City, I met two agents at a bar who helped me get a job at their agency.
Her advice to women in film:
For female filmmakers, I advise that you do everything you can to share your story—it’s important! Crowdfund, ask for favors, and hustle to make your film…. Surround yourself with the people that believe in you and don’t stop fighting until the film is made. Create a network of strong female artists whom you advocate for and whom will advocate for you. And male allies in the industry: step up and recommend female directors you’ve worked with before. You are part of the solution. Be open to female artists in your life about what you’re being paid, so that they have comparisons [to reference] when they get offered a bad deal. It takes a little bit of bravery from a whole lot of people to make change.
On what stands out to her in scripts:
Ever since the election, I've been much more of a tough critic. If a project doesn't inspire me, help me to see a new perspective, or stir up an old emotion I’d been storing, then I don't want to be a part of it. I recently read an article by producer Mike S. Ryan titled “Happiness is Overrated” from the 2016 Fall issue of Filmmaker magazine that really spoke to me. He asks some important questions, such as, “When did American indie film become the distraction medium rather than the disruption medium? When did American indie audiences become averse to challenging cinema?” I’m going to start asking those questions when I read scripts. I think it's our responsibility as filmmakers to help change the conversation and bring the world closer together through empathy.
On what’s ahead for her in 2017:
Entering 2017, I feel empowered. I’ve never seen so many people organizing and coming together to discuss how we can make change within our communities and fields of work. I want to continue working with filmmakers that inspire me and that have unique perspectives on life. Film is a tool for empathy, and we need to use it. As a result of the election, it couldn’t be clearer that we have failed to reach many people in the U.S. I want to find universal stories that appeal to the flyover states and to the Midwest, where I grew up. Showing people the experiences of those they never encounter in real life can help to remove prejudices. Telling a true story and turning the mirror inward could call someone to action. ★