HOTSEAT- Focused: Festival a snap for Jessica Nagle
Several years ago, at a dinner hosted by her dad, a UVA surgeon, filmmaker Nicole Kassell met Jessica Nagle. Two years later, she called Nagle and told her she remembered her as a blue-collar girl from Philly– and she offered the New York-born, Berkeley-educated Nagle that role in her critically acclaimed 2004 film, The Woodsman. In her one and only movie, Nagle plays Kevin Bacon's sister and Benjamin Bratt's wife. "Pretty good for a first role," she laughs.
Nagle is involved in film again– this time still photography– as she gears up for Charlottesville's second Festival of the Photograph. In the command center on the Downtown Mall one week before the three-day festival's June 12 start, Nagle announces that tickets will sell out that day, especially since the Washington Post and People magazine have picked up the fledgling event.
An invitation from her White Hall neighbor, National Geographic photographer Nick Nichols, to drop in for a hot dog led to her co-executive directorship of the festival. "About 500 people camped out in his yard for a slideshow," she recalls. "Some were really good, some bad, but I left happy."
A few months later, Nichols and local photographer Will Kerner approached Nagle about a photography festival, and "Will and I approached National Geographic and Apple," she explains. "This is one of the only such events Apple supports."
She adds that the Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville is the only noncommercial one in North America, unlike others where sponsors want to sell cameras.
In the $500,000 budget, one of the biggest expenses is equipment like the projectors needed to display giant images each night on the Downtown Mall. "Nick is very particular to use top-of-the-line equipment to show work in the best light," she says.
Pressed to recommend three must-see events, Nagle picks Mary Ellen Mark, Joel-Peter Witkin, and James Nachtwey, each of whom will speak at the Paramount. Alas, those are ticketed events that will likely sell out.
When she's not organizing a photography festival, Nagle organizes special projects at SNL Financial, which she co-founded with former husband Reid Nagle. After earning biology and sociology degrees at UC-Berkeley, she returned to New York to work on Wall Street during the 1980s. "I lent money to Ivan Boesky," she says, referring to the convicted insider trader for whom her future husband worked. "That's how I met Reid."
They moved what would become the financial information powerhouse to Charlottesville in 1989. The company, now with locations all over the world, celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.
She ties her interest in photography to her passion for environmental conservation. "I'm on the board of the Amazon Conservation Society in Peru," she says. "That was how it got started." And neighbor Nichols' photos of the Congo and Gabon also moved her.
As for her own picture making? "I'm the great appreciator," she demurs. "Santa Claus brought me a camera. I haven't used it yet."
She doesn't rule out another role on screen. "I've teased [Kassell] about being her Alfred Hitchcock, with a walk-on in every film," she says.
But for right now, Nagle's a director.
Why here? I moved here from New York, against my will, but now I truly love it here.
What's worst about living here? Lack of salt water
Favorite hangout? Okay, my farm. But anywhere outside– Torrey Ridge on the Parkway, Crabtree Falls, Sugar Hollow
Most overrated virtue? Temperance
People would be surprised to know: I have miniature cows (as pets)– and a really nice pig, too.
What would you change about yourself? I suppose I'd like to be 5'8" for a few days.
Proudest accomplishment? I'd have to say creating the Look3 Festival of the Photograph. I love the energy it brings to Charlottesville. And the photographers– I have so much respect for their dedication to their craft and to the causes/art they feel inspired about.
People find most annoying about you: Ask the Festival team. I think everything and anything can be accomplished.
Whom do you admire? Nick Nichols, my co-executive director of the Festival. Not only is he a great photographer, but he's also a great mentor, and I've seen how he can really motivate people.
Favorite book? The Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Subject that causes you to rant? Economic development that's careless about our natural environment. Please, let's take care of Charlottesville/Albemarle!
Biggest 21st-century thrill? Finally, some sensitivity about how we're treating our planet
Biggest 21st-century creep out? What's happening in China
What do you drive? A Land Cruiser (often filled with two kids and three dogs)
In your car CD player right now: Ryan Adams
Next journey? Zambia
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? Driving (quickly) away from police through the middle of UC Berkeley's campus with several people riding on the "outside of my motor vehicle." I think that's what the judge was most upset about!
Regret: Gosh, none! Happy that I can answer that way.
Favorite comfort food: Homemade chicken soup
Always in your refrigerator: Thai Hot Chili Sauce
Must-see TV: I'm at the whim of my 12-year-old daughter.
Describe a perfect day. A hike or canoe ride down the river with a great lunch of farmer's market (or Feast's) goat and sheep cheeses, bread, and a great Burgundy
Walter Mitty fantasy: Being Isak Dinesen (a.k.a. Karen Blixen)
Who'd play you in the movie? Shouldn't you answer this?
Most embarrassing moment? Let's just say it happened in anatomy class at Berkeley.
Best advice you ever got? Live life to the point of tears– a friend turned me on to this quote from Camus.
Favorite bumper sticker? Be nice to your kids– they'll choose your nursing home.