Horrible Imaginings Film Festival Recap

I spent the weekend at Horrible Imaginings Film Festival for the premiere of my new short “The Gaze.” Including my film, I saw 42 out of the 50 shorts and 3 out of the 5 features; and I attended the 60th anniversary screening of The Tingler (with Percepto —it was SO fun)! There’s no other festival where I could sit through that many consecutive films and still want more. Their programming beats pretty much every other festival I attend because they not only care about production value and put storytelling above all, they also make inclusion and contemporary social issues a major aspect of their programming. Every single block is put together so thoughtfully. It’s truly amazing. I walk away from every block having experienced so much engagement on an emotional and physical level, and with so much to ponder. Unlike so many (male-run) genre festivals, this one doesn’t have gratuitous violence against women or mindless exploitation flicks. It’s incredibly intentionally programmed, and I just really respect how well films are selected and paired together. I attended for the first time back in 2017 and absolutely loved it. You can read me rave about the festival as a whole in that post as well. For new aspects that stood out this year, there’s the change to a more centrally located & genre-friendly venue and, given the current state of the world and the various human rights violations happening in our backyards, the programming was particularly political, which for me led to a more thought-provoking and visceral viewing experience. So many of the films are still lingering in my mind in the best way.


The thing that makes the festival really special, though, is its director Miguel Rodriguez. During his introduction of The Tingler (a moment I hope was captured and will be posted on their site) , Miguel talked about how when watching William Castle speak at the beginning of the movie, it’s so clear that you’re watching someone who passionately loves what he does and gets such joy out of it. That’s what I feel is so evident when you see Miguel speak during every single instance throughout the festival. He clearly cares so much and is very apparently having a ton of fun despite the overwhelming amount of work that goes into running such a well-executed festival. He has such a warmth to him that immediately makes people feel like family. And his ability to talk in depth about every single film, and in such a genuine way, makes a filmmaker feel truly seen and appreciated. It is such a gift to be part of the festival. I hope to attend as often as I can in future years.

As for my actual screening, it went super well! It was an incredibly powerful lineup of shorts that all explored systemic issues in some way. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the first Saturday screening at 11am, but it ended up being the most attended block because it not only included the most films in one (11 shorts), it also included at least 3 local films. So there were over 100 people in house (the other blocks seemed to range from 50 to 75). The downside though was that, because there were so many people on stage, there wasn’t time for a substantial Q&A. While all other blocks averaged 3 filmmakers in attendance and each got very personalized and specific questions before opening it to the audience, we, unfortunately, only got a general inspiration question with time for only a couple more from the audience. I didn’t get to discuss the craft the way I’d hoped, which was disappointing (not just for me and my film but I also so wanted to hear more from the other filmmakers on stage with me). I don’t blame the festival for handling it that way. It’s just an unfortunate tradeoff for the larger crowd. That said, “The Gaze” got some great (audible!) audience reactions, and many people came over after to compliment the film. Overall, it was an awesome premiere and such a fun weekend!


Local Vegan Treat:

  • Munchies Vegan Diner is delicious! I have to shoutout specifically, though, Mylk Nut’s Lavender Almond Milk drink. I was never a milk drinker pre being vegan, and as one I rarely want to drink milk alternatives outside of coffee or tea. But I tried this milk and I was legit addicted the whole time I was there. I wish it was sold outside of Southern California!

Catch the film next at:

P.S. Check out the festival’s wrap-up for shoutouts to the rest of their team that made it such a success!

BTS of New Short "Affliction"

Yesterday, we shot our newest short, "Affliction” (previously titled “Toxic Women”).  It’s kind of a chilling drama with a touch of body horror.

Logline:  Two coworkers contemplate the aftermath of an encounter.

The short was originally born out of a weekly writing group between Kelsey, Ryan and me. We try to meet up every week to either give feedback to each other on new pages of ongoing projects or practice pitches that are either inspired by our own experiences or come out of challenges we give each other in session (like from news stories or a draw of the hat type of exercise featuring genres and settings). This particular piece was a script Kelsey presented that was inspired by contemporary frustrations. Ryan and I really liked the way it played with a both timely and timeless issue and did so through a high concept portrayed through a small contained encounter. We ended up workshopping it over a few meetups and eventually Kelsey and I decided to collaborate on it together with me as director.

Once we decided to shoot it, we reached out to our usual crew and everyone was really excited about it. Having worked with Nabil Vinas in About a Donkey, I was eager to work with him again and knew he’d bring so much to this project. We offered him the role, and thankfully he accepted! Briana Swann was a recommendation from our frequent team member Ricardo Manigat. Having never worked with her before, I can now say I’m very excited to do so again because she not only had so much nuance within her performance, she was also really lovely to have on set. Everyone truly was, and we’re so grateful to all who helped bring the film together! (Shout-outs below.) Other than our original sound person ending up in a car accident at the top of the day (thankfully she’s ok!), and losing a couple hours to a quest to replace her, the day was super smooth. We got everything needed and managed to finish within 12 hours. I’m really looking forward to jumping into the edit with Matt next week!

See behind the scenes:

Check out a couple stills from our footage:

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Thank you to:

  • Kelsey, for writing such a powerful script.

  • My mom, Marlene, for catering & driving everyone to set.

  • Extended family Joan & Larry and their generous coworker Georgia for letting us shoot in their office.

  • My stepdad Jay for helping with pickups and drop-offs.

  • Peter Westervelt, for being the best cinematographer & collaborator.

  • Matt Gershowitz, our always reliable AD on set & excellent Editor in post.

  • Ryan, for advising on the script early on & for taking such thorough & thoughtful notes as script supervisor.

  • Sean Mannion, who jumped in for location sound last minute on a Sunday AND loaned his gear.

  • Henry Hodges, for making double duty as gaffer & grip look easy.

  • Diana Molina Sosa, 1st AC, who always pulls focus like nobody’s business.

  • Shivanna Sooknanan, our Art Director (and my cousin), who has a great eye and really brought the look of our set together throughout the day.

  • Mike Dimitroulakos, who killed it in creating a certain makeup effect.

  • Kimberly Drew Whiten, who not only worked as a great 2nd AC but also shuttled people to & from Long Island.

  • And, of course, our absolutely phenomenal cast: Nabil Vinas & Briana Swann.

Couldn’t have done it without any of them!


IndieWorks' New Home!

After deciding to leave our IndieWorks venue of 3 years back in May, we spent the last 3 months testing out different spaces. The historic Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the Lower East Side was a nice experience at our July screening, but ultimately not suitable for our longterm needs. The biggest factor being that we'd have a hard out of 9:15pm, which would mean rushing through our evenings and limiting the time we spend on the thing that makes us us, our thoughtful and thorough Q&A approach. It's possible we'll continue a collaboration with the venue in the future; but for IndieWorks’ monthly screenings, the one true home moving forward will be Sanger Hall in Sunnyside. We tested it out this month and the screening was a success!

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We were initially hesitant to go deeper into Queens beyond LIC, since that was already a big move out of originally being in the Lower East Side for 3 years at The People Lounge. But collaborating with this new space feels like the right move. After searching all over Manhattan, we came across this venue in our own backyard kind of by accident. When we reached out to the owners about what we do at IndieWorks, they said that they’ve been wanting to reach & support filmmakers with their space and offer something movie-oriented to their patrons but they hadn't been able to get something going regularly. It was like kismet! And the space is really what we’ve been looking for. We'll have the privacy and control over the room that we were lacking in the past, while still having a bar (with food now) and our non-traditional viewing space that encourages conversational Q&As and allows attendees to mingle & make connections throughout the night. It’s not as large as past spaces but it seats 60 comfortably and up to 85 with standing room, which works well for our programming each month (we’ll have a separate venue for our annual Best of Fest screenings). Also, it feels quite fitting considering most of the team behind our series now lives in Queens and, actually, our very first trial run screening back in June 2013 was at a little hole in the wall spot in Woodside. So it's kind of like we're finally coming back home!

Now, we do understand that this may be a bit of a longer commute for some of our regulars in other boroughs. We hope and believe that the ways we'll be able to enhance the evening will make up for it. For the commute though, here are some details to make note of: it's a 2 minute walk from the 7 train at 46th St (15 minutes from Grand Central), it's 2 stops away from G & E transfers at Court Square, and 3 stops away from W & Q transfers at Queensboro Plaza. Plus, the Q32 and Q61 buses are right around the corner (with all the transfers your heart could desire at the Jackson Heights hub a few stops deeper into Queens). So, while not as centrally located for the City as a whole as our last 2 homes were, it's not a bad ride into a great neighborhood -- with the perks of a cute cafe (with vegan-friendly desserts) next door, convenient shops on the block, and the ability for us to make IndieWorks stronger moving forward!

IndieWorks - August Recap

Tuesday evening was our third screening in our 7th year of IndieWorks and, coming off the heels of a decision to test venues for the new annual season, it was our first time trying out Sanger Hall. Other than a few minor hiccups from using a new tech system in a new space, the night went extremely well and the venue really suited the needs of our series. It has the warm vibes that we’ve been searching for in a new home. We had 30 people in house for our five moving and thoughtful films of the evening. A slightly smaller crowd than usual, but we anticipate getting back to our typical attendance now that we’ll be sticking with a permanent venue again moving forward. That said, the audience was very engaged and had great questions throughout our conversational Q&As. The first half of the lineup featured powerful documentaries that were very specific to New York City but in a larger sense explored identity and contemporary America. The second half featured poignant and heartwarming narrative pieces about love and loss, and the communities that embrace us. All 5 pieces left us feeling and contemplating long after we initially watched them, and we believe the audience had a similar experience. We'd like to say thank you to the filmmakers and the audience for coming out to spend the evening with us. We hope all enjoyed the films, as well as the opportunity to network with other filmmakers and film enthusiasts. We know some connections were made!

We hope to see YOU at our September screening on the 17th, again at Sanger Hall in Sunnyside, for a narrative mix featuring a couple comedies about every day struggles and a couple dramas about family and self-discovery.

See photos from the evening:

The Films of the night:

¡Hola Kitty! (Directed by Daniel Burity)
The film addresses the challenging issues of Latino illegal immigrants in the US. The main subject is a Latino immigrant who works in New York City in a Hello Kitty costume; a popular Japanese fictional character.

Reflections at 29 (Directed by Tanmaya Shekhar)
Tanmaya looks back on his life on the eve of his 29th birthday.

Neighborhood (Directed by Ben Garchar)
The lives of three strangers—a pigeon keeper, a webcam model, and a man haunted by ghosts—intertwine mysteriously amidst the backdrop of a rapidly gentrifying Bushwick.

As One (Written & Produced by Tawny Sorensen, Directed by David Spaltro)
Jill must put one foot in front of the other to move through her grief, and with connection she discovers that every mile has a story. 

Closet Supes (Written & Directed by Kesav Wable)
Two East-Indian step-brothers, one straight and the other queer, host a podcast where they discuss queer innuendo in their favorite comics growing up. When a mysterious listener confronts one of them after an episode covering Hindu religious comics that were popular in 1980s India, the duo are taken on an unexpected journey. 

Watch our Q&A Recap. *Please know there are some film spoilers - feel free to look for an opportunity to catch the films at a festival or computer screen near you & then come back to watch!

The awards go to...

At the end of the evening, we announced our winning filmmakers for both Audience Choice Award & Silver Whiskers Award. The Audience Choice Award is voted upon by all those in attendance, and the Silver Whiskers Award is judged by the CongestedCat Team based on a rating system of 8 categories:   StoryDialogue/WritingDirectionActingCinematographySoundEditing, and Production Value, along with a nuanced discussion focused on inclusion and originality. The Silver Whiskers winner goes on to screen again at our end of year Best of Fest screening next April. 


The Silver Whiskers winner also receives $50 towards a crowdfunding campaign on SeedandSpark.com should they use the platform and 50% off 4MileCircus' post-production audio cleaning service for a future project. 

The August 2019 winning films were:
    Audience Choice Award:  As One
    Silver Whiskers Award:  Neighborhood

Join us for our September edition on the 17th!