Deanna Gould – Executive Director of Light House Studio

Posted on November 4, 2014 by


After spending the early part of her film career in Europe, Deanna Gould was somewhat surprised to find herself settling down in Charlottesville. With an international career working for a production department in London overseeing the visual effects for films, Gould thought she would end up in New York or San Francisco upon her return to the United States.

Now, more than 10 years later, Gould’s decision to return to the home of her alma mater has certainly been a boom to the local film industry.

Showcasing her vast knowledge and international experience, Gould joined the board at Light House Studio in 2003 and helped teach young, aspiring filmmakers the ins and outs of the industry. She is now the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization.

With the students and their 12 short films taking the spotlight at this year’s Virginia Film Festival, Gould was willing to step out from behind the camera and answer some questions about her role with Light House Studio and the film festival.

deanna gouldDeanna Gould

Share your story. How did you get involved with the film industry and how did it lead to your current position?

From producing television commercials to overseeing the production department of Cinesite Europe where we created visual effects for films such as Tomb Raider, Harry Potter, and Bond, my career has taken many turns. We moved from London to the States in 2003 and I thought we would settle in New York or San Francisco. Settling in Charlottesville took some adjusting and the film industry 12 years ago was small. I heard about Light House Studio, an award-winning nonprofit organization that encourages 8 to 18-year-olds to tell their stories via film. I joined the Light House Studio board and two years later I took a staff position as the Executive Director because I saw opportunity and ways to grow the organization. Now, Charlottesville supports a thriving film industry and Light House is fortunate to have a number of skilled mentors who help us teach our classes.

What drove you to pursue a career in film? Talk about your passions and any advice you have for the next generation of film lovers.

I attended the University of Virginia and my first job out of college was in advertising with Tucker Wayne/Luckie, you probably haven’t heard of it, but at the time it was the largest agency in the Southeast. I was crunching numbers in the media department and very bored. I spoke with the Human Resource Manager and she asked me, “If you could work in any department, what would you choose?” I immediately replied “Broadcast Production.” To this day I don’t remember putting that much thought into it but I had always loved film and in particular I saw it as a powerful vehicle for sharing stories with many people and creating a film was an art form that could last forever. The skills I learned in advertising were the foundation for other positions such as Managing Director of a production company in Budapest, Hungary, and producing visual effects for feature films in London. Film as a medium continues to grow and become an important means of communication in our society.

I would tell the next generation to be open to signs that indicate opportunities. Try different things – film is being used in many different ways. I never expected to work in Budapest, but it’s one of my most memorable experiences. A position may not appear to be exactly what you want but be open, you will learn and in many cases, something unexpected can be the right thing.

How many Virginia Film Festivals have you attended/been part of?

I have attended every Virginia Film Festival since I moved back to Charlottesville in 2003.

Describe your current role with the festival.

As the Executive Director of Light House Studio, I’m involved in the many ways that our organization participates in the Virginia Film Festival. We screen our films on opening night at the Downtown Regal, our students exhibit their Experimental films as part of the Digital Media Gallery at Second Street Gallery, we will be teaching a Make-Up Effects class on Family Day and we have three teams competing in the Adrenaline competition. I also serve on the Virginia Film Festival’s Community Outreach Board.

What sets the Virginia Film Festival apart from other festivals?

The VAFF does not seek to connect filmmakers with distributors, but instead celebrates film and offers the public a number of curated choices that might otherwise be unknown to us.

Finish this sentence (be creative). Filmmaking to me is …


Which films are you most excited about seeing at the festival?

Big Stone Gap because the discussions with filmmakers and actors adds another dimension to viewing a film. I’m also looking forward to seeing Foxcatcher and Goodish.

Where do you like to go for a quick bite between screenings?

I don’t enjoy quick bites. If I can’t linger I generally go hungry…

Where do you go for a post-screening drink?


Dinner and a movie. What local eatery would you recommend for dinner?

The Alley Light