In early April for 10 days New York Independent International Film Festival (NYIIFF) is in full swing. Over 300 films screened this year including several made by New Englanders. It began with a mobbed opening night gala and film market at Madison Square Garden. Rows of tables jammed with monitors, flyers, postcards, and some interesting marketing ideas lined the area in the standing room only area. As part of NYIIFF's mission, film's ranged from those of seasoned veterans to MiniDv newbies.
Films were screened from noon to midnight at The Village East Cinema off 12th Street and 2nd Avenue. The festival's juried panel gave films awards, noted in the program, prior to their screening. Panel discussions on scriptwriting, marketing, producing, and casting were on the weekends.
New England filmmakers were well represented at this festival. April 6th PERFECT RUN screened to a crowd of 40 people with Co-Producers Gregg Seibert and Carey Zolper in attendance. "We loved it. It was a big screen. It was fun to sit in a crowd we didn't know. I thought it was a positive reaction overall," Seibert said. His action adventure 53-minute narrative film follows a skier's quest to find "the slope of his dreams" in New England, where it was shot on location including Tuckerman's Ravine.
Seibert said PERFECT RUN's music score, which includes Boston's Mighty Mighty Bosstones, is a strong point. An Emerson College grad, Seibert said making ski and snowboarder films is a dream come true for him. At NYIIFF he met two distributors who expressed interest. "I enjoyed the festival but David Kleiler had told me what to expect. I came to enjoy it and not expect to land a big distribution deal," Seibert said. His next film on boarding bums is in pre-production. Seibert's Turtle Productions production company is located in Lakeville, MA.
Other New England filmmakers at NYIIFF included Emerson College Grad Student Benjamin Erlandson's DRAFT… BE CONSCIENTIOUS, a 10-minute documentary speaking out against a draft to fight the war on terrorism. Also Amherst, MA native David LaRue's film BIT MY PRETTY RED HEART IN TWO, a 20-minute romantic comedy about a broken hearted young man who unexpectedly gets romance advice from three famous deceased women poets.
With an entry fee of $300 for NYIIFF, stiff by many standards, Cambridge filmmaker Chris Engles said he did not pay additional money to have a table at the Madison Square Garden event. He said he had been to the IFP the year before so he knew better than to expect distributors clamoring to represent THIS TOWN. He said he was realistic and went to enjoy the festival and meet new people. Seibert said the parties were great. "I met Jack Conroy the cinematographer." He added, "For the money you are better off going to the IFP, which is more expensive but has more bang for the buck." Seibert said being accepted to film festivals are "a stamp of approval" because festivals act as a "filter" for all the MiniDV product coming out these days. THIS TOWN screened April 8th. It's a surreal full-length feature romantic comedy of "boy meets girl and all the hell that goes along with it." His current film is a short, NIGHT CALLER, and his project in development is a feature length script by Tony Kahn and Arnie Reisman set to begin shooting this fall.
Lewis Fotjik, Emerson College alumni and Boston filmmaker, had two of his films in NYIIFF. On April 10th his two films screened back to back: award winning documentary BID ME RUN, about a marathon runner father and his quadriplegic son's relationship, and his latest documentary DANCING IN EXILE, which introduces the ancient traditions of Chinese elderly immigrants in America. "The response at the screenings was surprisingly good. People who saw the films enjoyed them. It was a mixed group. It brought joy to people of different backgrounds. That made it worthwhile to me," Fotjik said. He said this was his first major festival and he had a table at the opening event. "Going to the NYIIFF was a learning experience for me. It was limited because I only attended the opening of the fest and my own screening. I can't judge the fest as a whole. The focus of this fest was more on networking and distribution than on the screening itself. Distributors I met told me to just send them a tape," he said.
The fresh marketing ideas at the film market were quite fun. One handed out fake plastic white roses with their film's postcard attached. Seibert and Zolper handed out over 500 Cape Cod Potato Chip sample bags to willing passersby with PERFECT RUN film screening times attached. Since the New York Music Festival was held the same week, musician Steve Marshall was walking the floor with a bevy of beautiful young women in Dallas Cowboy cheerleader type outfits to help draw attention to his band. Judging by the turning heads he got the attention of the young men in attendance. Marshall was also seen later that evening at The Bowery Bar, which hosted the after-party. His cow chicks were handcuffing men and women together and videotaping them for a new reality show called INMATES. One Boston filmmaker in the fest, we're not naming names, was seen handcuffed to a Scotsman in a kilt, Chris Freer of Glasgow, visiting New York to promote his film, his first a thriller short called REFLECTION.
Saturday night saw the fest organizers, filmmakers, and filmgoers partying till the wee hours at The China Club after-party near Times Square where NY Music Fest performers entertained the crowds in a side room. The Jade Terrace on the third floor of the large club was reserved for filmmaker networking. For more information on NYIIFF visit their website at www.nyfilmvideo.com .
Erika Hahn is a freelance writer and photographer who admits to an inordinate interest in New England Film Festival. Her latest project is a half-hour documentary on a woman with a bad facelift. Contact Erika at firstname.lastname@example.org.