Matt Mays didn"t plan to have the Emmys this soon. Let alone in Indianapolis. Actually, none of it went according to plan.
I first met Mays back at Ball State a few years ago, when he was directing a feature-length student film (an ambitious stunt even today, let alone in 1998, when digital video and editing was barely in its infancy). He was one of several driven students who planned to complete their film, The Way Out, and use it as a sort of calling card to get jobs at the bottom of the ladder in Hollywood. That was the kind of plan I heard from young filmmakers a lot back then. Make a film; use it to go to Hollywood; get a job as a bottom-rung production assistant; work up. Mays would probably be a step or two ahead of PA status today if he"d gone to Hollywood three years ago. He gave it a shot; visited the city for a while, then decided it wasn"t for him. He stuck around in Indianapolis, getting work with Pathway Productions. In Indianapolis he"s got producer credits and a couple of gold Emmy statues with his name inscribed on them, as part of the group working on ESPN2"s SportsCentury series. Nice start. Short film. Calling card. Go to Hollywood. It"s been YEARS since I heard anybody say that. The producers and directors and would-be filmmakers I talk to don"t have starry-eyed visions of Making It Big under the giant white letters in California. They talk about Making It Big right here. They talk about making "right here" get big. I"m struck by the sheer breadth of local film in Indianapolis: surrealist, slice-of-life, crime thrillers, wacky comedies, horror, and a lot more. Digital filmmaking changed everything. For a fraction of the massive cost of film stock anybody can produce near film-quality work on DVD. For all we know, at this very moment, some kid in Elkhart is setting up the first shot in a project that"s going to burn off our retinas with sheer creativity and show us how it"s really done. Or maybe not. The point is it COULD happen. So much is going on in the local film scene that new projects are screening almost weekly. Indianapolis is more than living up to the promise shown when Movie Maker magazine declared it an honorable mention in their "Best Cities For Filmmaking" issue last year. The centerpiece of local film screening is Ron Keedy"s Local Filmmaker"s Showcase every other Tuesday at Key Cinemas (www.keycinemas.com), where he opens his screen to new films, shorts, works-in-progress, film, DVD, VHS, pretty much anything. It"s one of the most reliable and consistent venues for new film in the last year and shows no sign of slowing down. Shari Lynn Himes and others sponsor The Screening Room every month at Birdy"s (members.aol.com/thescreeningrm), focusing on innovative festival-quality work from around the nation. Though most of the work isn"t local, it is open to local filmmakers, and the national-level shorts being screened are always excellent examples of the form. Starting Oct. 7, Indie Scene TV will run for 13 half-hour episodes on WRTV, each spotlighting a different local filmmaker. This promises to be the most prominent showcase yet for local film and could well be the start of a new ongoing series. Look for more on that in future issues of NUVO. At the core of this maelstrom of activity is the increased cooperation between local filmmakers forming alliances to create something entirely new. The Film Commune (www.thefilmcommune.com), which sponsors the Indianapolis Underground Film Festival Dec. 5-8 this year, has rocketed Indianapolis" profile to the national level. One of the oldest and largest amateur film organizations in the state, Bunk Films (www.bunkfilms.com), brings together dozens of members to produce short films, features, a comedy sketch series and numerous online downloads. Bunk Films member Crystal Brooks reached the final round of the Sundance feature film competition with her screenplay Black Alice. The Indiana Filmmaker"s Network (www.ifnweb.org) also continues to network and meet each month to provide support, camaraderie and opportunities for each other, meeting at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Net Heads, 1011 E. Westfield Blvd. And always involved somewhere in Indiana filmmaking are Jane Rulon and the Indiana Film Commission (www.in.gov/film), which provide location opportunities and smooth over roadways for filmmakers within and without Indiana. In addition, they produce the massive Hoosierwood Production Sourcebook listing hundreds of talented professional crew and resources in the state. It"s the proverbial brave new world for Indiana filmmaking: right here, right now.