Kim Knowles: Do What You Love


Entr’acte, a film directed in 1924 by René Clair, introduced Kim Knowles to experimental film. The seventeen minute film awakened an interest that she went on to avidly cultivate, leading her through first a Masters and then a PhD course in film studies.

After years enmeshed in Paris’ rich experimental film culture, she found herself dissatisfied by the comparatively meager experimental programming at film festivals she attended. She presented herself to the organizers of Edinburgh’s prestigious annual film festival with this complaint and a proposal as to how they might improve their programming – hire her. The festival told her that they couldn’t pay her but would let her advise them, which she went on to do for fee. She went on to apply for grants to establish her own experimental film festival in Edinburgh, which ran successfully for two years. The official Edinburgh film festival then hired her to program their experimental section, a position she holds today in conjunction with her work as a university professor.

Unsurprisingly for someone whose profession is grounded in her artistic passion, Ms. Knowles advised an approach to professional life that echoes the one she encouraged we adopt toward experimental film.

  1.  Follow what you feel: “It’s okay to hate a film, or to feel apathetic about it, or even to fall asleep during it.” Experiencing experimental film can be about opening to sensory and emotional responses. So can defining your career. Kim Knowles’ story shows that success follows when people pursue what they take pleasure in.
  2. Question what exists: Ms. Knowles saw a need and created her own position where one hadn’t before existed, just as experimental film questions conventional modes of production and perception.
  3. Be open to new possibilities: Ms. Knowles advised keeping an open mind not only in attending an experimental film screening, but in building a career. “You often have to do something yourself and the interest will follow.” Instead of being thwarted by the initial rejection of the Edinburgh film festival, she turned her energies toward building her own alternative.

Mahatma Gandhi professed that, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Ms. Knowles’ story is encouraging evidence that it is possible to live this maxim, an illustration that with perseverance and an open mind one can build a life that unifies personal and professional interests.

Kim Knowles, chef de programmation de la section expérimentale du festival du film d’Edimbourg, nous a raconté l’histoire d’une vie qui lui permet de combiner intérêts personnels et professionnels. Elle a su nous montrer qu’il est plus sage de définir sa carrière non pas en fonction des options qui existent déjà, mais de créer une voie propre, en fonction des intérêts et des talents de l’individu.

Par Elisabeth Cramer
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