Melanie Addington has been involved with the Oxford Film Festival for nearly 20 years and has decided it is time to pass the baton. While holding the title of Executive Director of the festival, Addington has enhanced the national reputation of the film festival and transformed it into a signature event for Lafayette County.
From a young age, Addington knew she had a deep love for film, but never thought that her life would revolve around the making of movies. According to Addington, the entire trajectory of her life has been changed by Oxford, MS. She graduated from California State University, San Marcos with a bachelor’s in literature and writing with a minor in film. In her search for journalism programs, Addington discovered the University of Mississippi.
After less than a semester in the program, Addignton shifted career paths and pursued a degree in higher education. Though journalism led her to Oxford, a love for the town implanted roots here.
“It’s just a magical place. Everyone who has been here knows that,” says Addington, “Oxford really gave me the opportunity to sort of grow as a person.”
Addington has been involved with the Oxford Film Festival since the first year of its establishment. She first got involved with the festival in 2003 as an attendee. The next year she volunteered as a screener. In 2008, Addington became the co-director of the festival and in 2015 was hired as executive director.
Addington said she has enjoyed helping grow filmmaking as a way to tell a personal story. She never imagined she would one day be running a film festival, but says it is the perfect job for her. For Addington, the festival has been a beautiful way of building a community and adding something new to Oxford.
“I think with any creative arts, hearing people telling stories, with independent film festivals especially, there’s such a wide breadth of voices,” says Addington, “it’s not filtered down by corporate interests.”
In her time with the Oxford Film Festival, she has helped establish the festival on a national scale and developed multiple opportunities for the community to get involved with film. These opportunities include the local drive-in, a kid filmmaking camp and film equipment that can be rented by students and the community.
Though she is leaving the Oxford Film Fest, she will be continuing her passion for film as the executive director of the Tall Grass Film Festival in Wichita, Kan. Addington says that she was not initially looking for a new job, but decided to go out on a whim and apply for the position. She loves the city and the festival, so when Addington was given the opportunity, she knew she had to take it.
“I’ve always felt that the Oxford Film Festival needs to stand on its own legs and not be tied to me because I’ve been involved for so long,” Addington said.
Oxford Film Festival Publicist, John Wildman says that Addington has always made everyone that comes to Oxford feel welcome and included. He describes her stamina and dedication to what she does as unmatched. Wildman says that she is the glue of the festival and that her shoes will be difficult to fill once she is gone.
“People talk about a person saying they are the heart of something,” says Wildman, “well, she has been the heart of the film festival, and the brains of the film festival. And every other body part you can imagine of the festival.”
Wildman has been involved with the festival for the last six years, watching Addington build it into the statement it has become. He says that Addington is always thinking of a new, better way of doing things and is constantly wanting to give more to the community.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oxford Film Fest had to go virtual.
Addington wanted to give film lovers the chance to enjoy year-round programming, so she helped create an online platform for streaming movies. She went the extra mile and created a television-like network through the Oxford Film Festival website, for viewers to interact with . She extended the festival from a week to a couple of months and established the pop-up drive-ins for the community to enjoy. Wildman says she always has a plan, no matter the circumstances.
“Melanie has definitely brought creativity and relentlessness to the Oxford Film Fest. Those are both essential,” Wildman said, “she has a very good sense of what people would love to do and what they’re interested in. She has really helped build up the filmmaking community.”
Addington says that leaving Oxford will be difficult because of her love for the town and the film festival. Though she is leaving, Addington intends to visit often for some of her favorite events, including – of course -, the Oxford Film Fest. She recognizes Oxford as the place where she discovered what she is truly passionate about.
“I have had a wonderful experience with this community. I love so many people here,” Addington said, “I really hope the community embraces the next executive director as much as they have me, and really show them why Oxford is so special.”