In just a few short years, the Indianapolis International Film Festival has ballooned from a small event with a few dozen films to a 10-day festival with nearly 140 entrants, one of the major film events on the city’s schedule. (You can see a full listing of films and schedule and buy tickets in advance at indyfilmfest.org. Also check out reviews of several of the most prominent films here.)
IIFF Director Brian Owens spoke about what it’s like to assemble such a large event over a few short years.
NUVO: What’s it like, growing so large, so fast?
Owens: This is our fifth year. Back then we didn’t know what we were doing! It was so difficult to really get in front of people’s eyes. The longer you’re around, the more familiar people become with the name, so it becomes much easier to convince people to come along and enjoy the ride. Now I think we’ve garnered a reputation so that people know what to expect. They may not like every movie, but they know that if they ask the right questions and shop around, they’re going to see some really good movies.
NUVO: How would you describe it to someone who’s never heard of it?
Owens: It’s the opportunity to see things that otherwise would never be seen in this city. Even with the larger number of screens dedicated to art house films. On the international front, foreign films aren’t getting the kind of distribution they used to get. One of the movies submitted to us in competition — In the City of Sylvia — named by indiewire.com as the second best film last year, played at Cannes and Toronto. It’s this graceful, beautiful movie, and still no U.S. distributor wants to plunk money down on it. It blows my mind. That’s the type of movie that we have the chance to show. And there’s just not the opportunity to catch these. Our focus is specifically on films that come from outside the country, 50 percent. That’s the unique thing that we offer that’s not really available any other time of the year.
NUVO: You’ve got a bigger slate of high-profile guests this year, including Famke Janssen and Dan Butler.
Owens: It’s certainly a nice 10-day session and meet with celebrities and like-minded people. We’ve had our fair share of highly respected and talented individuals, but I wouldn’t say they were full-fledged celebrities. That’s a product of aging well. The more you stick around, the more you prove you’re doing it right and the more you’re likely to draw attention from talent. That’s something that builds upon itself. Once you get it started, that ball can keep rolling.
NUVO: What would you suggest to those who can’t make every showing?
Owens: We’re always thrilled to offer the special presentations, the first chance to see films before they may or may not come back theatrically. But don’t forget the competition movies and the shorts programs. The best way to have an experience, since not everyone can get an all-access pass and take 10 days off work, [is to] try to mix it up. Don’t just go to see what’s got stars and big names. We love sharing those and they’re great movies, but don’t ignore the smaller stuff. See at least one special presentation, at least one American narrative film, at least one shorts program and at least one documentary. If you do that, I think we’ll have given you a proper sampling of what the world of cinema is like outside of what Hollywood is doing.
NUVO: With 14 entrants in the Film Indiana Hoosier Lens Award category, you’ve got a lot of Indiana-based or –connected work here.
Owens: It blows my mind that we’re still not on the map for being a place that makes a lot of cinema. If you went to California, they’d snicker at us. I think what we show proves there’s a lot of talent here, and it’s solid talent, because they have to work with a much smaller budget. We’re really thrilled that Film Indiana has come out to help us with this award and this category. We’d like to establish a prize fund that’s large enough to really assist an Indiana filmmaker with their career. That’s a five- to 10-year plan.