Distinguished Alumni profile: Brenda Lieberman

June 1, 2018

Arts and Cultural Management alum helps build independent film scene

DA_Image_BrendaLiebermanWhen Brenda Lieberman first enrolled in MacEwan University’s Arts and Cultural Management program she wasn’t sure where it would take her – or where she wanted it to take her. “I had no idea what to expect from the program,” she recalls. “I had no set goals or direction, and didn’t know what stream I would end up in. But I did know I wanted to work in the arts and make a career of it, somehow.”

Years later, Brenda is a force in the Alberta film community. After graduating from MacEwan, she moved to Calgary where she noticed a lack of independent film programming and festivals. She decided to fill the void. She spent a few years independently programming local film events, then took a major leap in 2003, co-founding the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF). In the 15 years since, it has grown from a small, four-day festival into a week-long event with nearly 7,000 attendees, its own documentary festival and a series of off-season special events.

The journey from undecided student to key industry player might seem like a difficult one, but according to Brenda, the cure for her initial uncertainty was unexpectedly simple – she just needed to jump in and see the possibilities. “Everything changed for me when I started applying for jobs,” she says. “Seeing the opportunities gave me that ‘a-ha!’ moment. I decided what I wanted to do, set my goal and worked toward it. Now I’m doing exactly what I set out to do at that time!”

Brenda now has an international reputation for her work, and is widely regarded as Calgary’s go-to person for film programming. In addition to running CUFF, she is the lead features programmer at the Calgary International Film Festival. She also regularly curates off-season events and screenings, participates in industry juries and panels, and has lent her expertise to several start-up festivals. In addition to her film festival work, Brenda has sat on the board of directors for the Alberta Media Arts Alliance and Jewish Family Service Calgary.

Brenda believes that whether your goal is set in stone or you’re still feeling things out, it’s a willingness to work hard that creates opportunities. “Everything you do is a display of your abilities, even if you’re volunteering or in an entry-level position,” she says. “It’s all going to count when a better position becomes available. Working in the arts is incredible – we get to mix our hobbies and passion with our work. Love that, and work for it – it will pay off!”

Though her MacEwan days are behind her, Brenda sees education as a valuable and ongoing part of her career development. “Never stop learning. Don’t think you know it all already,” she says. “You always have to prove yourself, be willing to learn more, and work as hard and smart as you can.”

Brenda is being recognized as a Distinguished Alumna during MacEwan’s 2018 Spring Convocation.

Know a MacEwan alumnus who is making a difference in their community or profession? Nominate them for a Distinguished Alumni Award.


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