Thanks to high-speed internet and Netflix, iTunes, and other streaming options, it’s easier than ever to find new and interesting short and feature films without even leaving the house. However, it’s not so easy to have face-to-face interactions with the filmmakers, nor is it easy to figure out which films are worth watching. Take it from a film festival screening committee member: sometimes you’ll wish you could get that time back.
However, the board of directors of the all-volunteer Indy Film Fest have made it part of their mission to not only “champion movies that entertain, challenge and expand perspectives in Indianapolis and beyond,” but also to bring filmmakers to those audiences, says Executive Director Craig Mince. In fact, the festival’s Kickstarter, which raised $8,885 from 75 backers, is dedicated to providing travel expenses to filmmakers, says Mince who adds that this year, a record 35 people with ties to these films, including directors, editors, producers, cinematographers and actors, have been or will be attending the festival that started July 16 and continues through July 25.
Filmmakers will or have been interacting directly with filmgoers at the screenings, on panels, at parties, and even in more informal settings such as the café and hallways at the festival’s venues, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Downtown IMAX theater. In fact, many of the films this weekend had Q&As that continued as long as the filmmakers had the free time to talk.
In addition to the Kickstarter campaign, festival sponsors have helped bring filmmakers to Indy. For instance, Magnet Films of Indianapolis helped bring Tangerine to the festival, as well as one of the film’s producers, Darren Dean. The film already has received national attention: it was featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and other shows a week before the Indianapolis premiere. Dean boiled down the plot to a “buddy comedy” that just happens to be about two transgender prostitutes who are best friends and dealing with their own everyday dilemmas—one wants to sing in a club and become a big star, the other is dealing with the rumor of a cheating boyfriend/pimp—and it all takes place on Christmas Eve in an unofficial red light district of Los Angeles. The film was shot at a handful of locations mostly in the same few blocks and centers around a donut shop that the filmmakers rented out. In fact, one of the actresses, the donut shop employee, is an associate producer who would serve real customers while they were filming there.
In addition to these behind the scenes gems, Dean said that because the movie was shot using three iPhones, they were able to get closer to the actors and actresses than had they used a conventional digital camera, which gives the film an intimate feel with the characters. He also said the filmmakers had access to prototype equipment for recording on the iPhones, such as new lenses, but that they still used old fashioned methods to record sound. He also described the process of writing the script, which included workshopping the scenes with the performers. Audience members also asked more technical questions, including what they did for the lighting (they used natural light). After the Q&A, Dean invited audience members to continue the conversation outside of the theater.
Dean also directed a film that premiered at the festival, Unspeakable, which stars local actors Eddie Curry and Beverly Roche, and was produced and edited by David Yosha of Magnet Films. That movie is part of the Hoosier Reels shorts program. He also discussed filmmaking on a panel on Saturday. While Tangerine was only on the festival schedule for July 17, Dean said he hoped to bring it back to Indianapolis down the road. However, you can catch Unspeakable at the IMA on Thursday at 9 p.m. at the DeBoest Theater at the IMA.
Another film that had the filmmakers in attendance was Almost There on Saturday afternoon. That movie is a documentary about 82-year-old outsider artist, Peter Anton, who is from East Chicago, Ind., and still lives in the region.
The film itself includes behind-the-scenes stories that include the filmmakers, including directors Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden’s interactions with Anton even when they are filming but not necessarily interviewing him about his life story. For instance, when Anton invites them to his home, they discover he is living in the basement of a dilapidated house he’s lived in since he and his parents moved there in 1941. Following this discovery, they state that they feared for his safety, and wanted to help him get into better living conditions. However, they learned over the eight years of making the film that not only does Anton not want to leave behind his artwork or his cats while his pipes burst and even his toilet water freezes, but also that he has a number of other “helpers” he has accumulated over the last few decades who do what they can.
In the film, Rybicky also shares the story of his own brother and mother’s relationship, and how that parallels with the relationship Anton had with his mother before she passed away in 1981. The filmmakers also go to great lengths to explain how they dealt with a secret from Anton’s past that Anton did not disclose up front.
After the Saturday screening, Rybicky and Wickenden spoke with audience members about the origins of the film, which started as an idea to do a show of Anton’s work at Intuit, an art gallery in Chicago. The original reason they filmed him, they said, was to have footage of the artist for the show. They also answered audience questions about where Anton is now (living in a nursing home and teaching art classes once a week), what Anton thought of the film (he was the first to see it and told them not to change a thing), and how the filmmakers were able to stick with the subject for eight years while working at other full time jobs (Rybicky said that working with Wickenden as a collaborator kept him going).
Although Rybicky and Wickenden will not be there, Almost There will be screened again on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Toby Theater at the IMA.
A full list of upcoming films, including which films will have filmmakers in attendance, is on the festival’s website.