Jacqueline Dupuis is the executive director of the Vancouver International Film Festival, also known as VIFF. Since joining the organization over six years ago, she has played a major role in transforming the event into an internationally recognized celebration of screen-based and immersive storytelling that acts as a catalyst for creators’ development. Prior to leading VIFF, Jacqueline served as the executive of director of the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF), where she headed up its first-ever strategic planning initiative, resulting in the financial turnaround of the organization — unsurprising, given Jacqueline’s own education in economics. Learn more about her career journey.
My first job ever was… Surprisingly, as a currency trader, putting my education in economics to work. I quickly realized that being behind a Reuters screen all day was not my jam and moved into sales in the tech sector, then promptly into management. I enjoyed learning business from the inside out and could never have known I would later receive my on-the-ground MBA when, by happy accident, I would end up running the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) after a number of years serving on the board of directors.
I chose my career path because… I immediately fell in love my work at CIFF. It was a turnaround situation in which the organization was insolvent. It was a challenge, but having an opportunity to work in service of my passion (film and the arts), in the redevelopment of a small organization brought me a sense of belonging and contribution to the greater good of a community. Each day and season was a thrill, never knowing where my focus would be needed, be it marketing, fundraising, administration or programming.
My proudest accomplishment is… demonstrating the importance of what I call “the business of the arts” by bringing CIFF back from insolvency. This has been the foundation of my work to date. I’m often heard underscoring how a healthy bottom line not only ensures the long-term sustainability of arts organizations through economic and demographic shifts, but also (over)achievement of artistic mandates.
My boldest move to date was… flipping the script on the traditional film festival model. Bottom line: people love their devices. There is more great content than ever before, accessible at our fingertips. However, one thing remains true: everyone yearns for connection and shared experience. So we developed the Films+ model, which focuses on creating one-of-a-kind interactive events, from creator talks to live performances, that people cannot find in their living rooms.
I surprise people when I tell them… I’m an introvert.
My best advice to people starting their career is… don’t be afraid to fail. It’s part of the journey and each lesson learned will lead you to where you are meant to be.
My best advice from a mentor was… be yourself.
I would tell my 20-year old self… to relax. Seriously. Chill. It’s all gonna work out.
My biggest setback was… when CIFF became insolvent once again due to the business practices of a partner. In order to stabilize the company we needed to make drastic cost cutting measures including laying off our senior leadership team. We were a family and had turned the organization around together. Even though I knew it was the only way to save the organization, letting them go was the hardest moment of my career, one that haunts me to this day.
I overcame it by… always remaining in service of the organization. I was hell bent to turn it around quickly while maintaining its artistic integrity.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I’d spend it… mentoring. One of the greatest joys and privileges I’ve had as a leader is to be asked by young professionals to be their mentor. Though my inner monologue asks “What can I possibly contribute?” when I listen with my heart I see so clearly their true beauty and talent and am inspired to offer whatever I can to help them be the best versions of themselves they can be. All too often my advice is simply: “Get out of your own way.”
The last book I read was… Eckhardt Tolle’s Power of Now. I have it on audiobook and listen to it over and over. It keeps me grounded and my heart open.
I stay inspired by… recognizing that inspiration is all around me. Sometimes it’s in my yoga, sometimes it’s in the talent of my team, sometimes it’s a place I travel or something I read about business or spirituality. Of course, oftentimes, it’s the artists. Being so connected to stories and storytellers leaves me in awe. I’m grateful to bear witness to the creation of art and the impact it has on the hearts and mind of humans.
The future excites me because… it’s unknown. Just like our programming slate every year, we have a blank canvas and create a collage of stories with which to fill it. I think life is that way too… we need to take a beat, reflect, get inspired, then be ready for a new story and a new chapter unfold.
My next step is… championing the untapped potential in screen-based story telling with the consumption habits of current culture. I want a world where everyone has access to content that inspires them, in whatever form it may be. A small dose of inspiration can change lives — it certainly did mine.