North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Recap

Saturday was our North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival screening of About a Donkey and it was such an amazing experience. I honestly can't fully put into words how much I enjoyed it and am so grateful to have had the film programmed at the festival.

I arrived Friday afternoon and immediately got excited about the festival when a super sweet box office clerk named Key told me she thought that that movie looked fun & interesting and she was thinking of going to see it when I asked to reserve my ticket for the About a Donkey screening. When I told her she definitely should see it and that it's my movie, she got excited and promised she would. I then met the Women's Programming Co-Chair, Piper, who, when I thanked her for programming our film, told me the whole programming committee loved it and that it was such an easy one - "just an immediate yes." That really made my day. As we're hearing back from festivals, averaging a 20% acceptance rate, it's easy to start to question whether or not we'll really have a shot at reaching an audience outside our existing circle and if anyone objective will really get & appreciate what we're going for. So, to hear that the film resonated with the programming team and it wasn't even a debate ... well, I was just overjoyed. The VIP reception that evening was a nice event for mingling with other filmmakers in attendance & sponsors of the festival. Everyone was really lovely and welcoming.

At Saturday morning's filmmaker luncheon, Matt arrived and we got a chance to meet a few other talented filmmakers (who funny enough were all also New York based) and chat with more of the programming team, including Piper, her Co-Chair & wife Monique, and a teacher who was programming with the festival for the first time this year, Layla. I have to say, I really love this team of women (I'm sure the guys are great too but I only had a chance to engage with the women). They're so lovely and clearly care about the festival and the filmmakers so much. Just meeting them alone would make me want to return again & again. But that's not the only reason! Before I get to our screening though, one of my favorite comments from the luncheon was by Layla, who said that not only were we her favorite feature that she reviewed, but also she felt it had an inviting quality where she could show it to her homophobic mom and maybe see a little shift in perspective. That was so incredible to hear because engaging people who don't typically seek out inclusive content and trying to get a dialogue going with them is a big mission of ours with the film. 

After the luncheon, we caught a block of 8 shorts. I wish I had a chance to watch more because, based on the quality (both in story and production value), I think I would have really discovered dozens of new favorite films & artists - which isn't often how I feel coming out of shorts blocks at most fests. I really enjoyed what I was able to see at this one. Then we met another programmer, Marilyn, who was going to be our Q&A moderator. She told me that she and two other programmers fought over who would get to do our Q&A because they all loved our film so much (one of whom, Laurie, I only met very briefly but who also emphasized how much she loved our film and told us she couldn't wait to watch it again at the screening). That was so awesome to hear from Marilyn, who went on to explain that they get so much of the same kind of story (as an LGBTQ festival), and so it was so exciting for them to receive a film that was inclusive enough to meet their standards but wasn't specifically about being gay. They felt that it being about a family was so relatable and felt authentic, and just "so fun, and funny, and moving." I was moved to hear her talk about it with such enthusiasm. And, having recently been rejected by the 3 other LGBTQ+ fests we submitted to, it was especially nice to hear that our approach and mission were  appreciated by the community at this festival. 

Our screening was in the beautiful Fletcher Hall at the Carolina Theatre, which seats over 1,000 people. To our happy surprise, we ended up with over 100 people at our screening. The box office said we sold 101 tickets, which didn't include the programming team or volunteers that sat in to watch (again)! I can tell you, from traveling for my Seed&Spark job and seeing indie features at a variety of festivals, that is a GOOD turnout. This is especially so when you factor in our complete lack of names, connections to North Carolina, or marketing funds. Outside of one twitter connection who came out to support me (thanks Jim!), the audience mainly came out of interest from the festival's efforts. That's really something! So often, the audience is just the filmmakers in attendance. And with a feature, that can be a really tiny crowd. So, I'm truly grateful and impressed with the way this festival hooks people! As for during the screening, the image looked great (I was worried because I couldn't afford a DCP, so sent a blu-ray - but was pleasantly surprised by how solid it looked) and the film got a lot of laughs. I think that maybe some were expecting the central storyline to be more prominently queer, but I don't think that that stopped them from enjoying it. We heard some positive comments afterwords. And the Q&A was very engaged. We had 10 minutes, and they had to cut off the questions to get us out in time. (Watch below.)

The festival apologized to me multiple times for the "bad time slot," 5pm on a Saturday; which I didn't realize was considered bad until I understood that we played before two centerpieces, the winning Women's feature Freelancers Anonymous at 7pm (which was delightful) and the Paul Rudd/Steve Coogan-starring Ideal Home at 9pm. I suppose non-filmmakers are unlikely to watch more than one feature per day, and definitely not 3 right in a row. So, considering that, I guess we were given a not-great slot. However, that fact just makes me even more impressed with the festival and the crowd we got. Not to mention, we were also programmed against 2 other screenings happening at the same time! So, that really says something about the crowd this festival draws! I'm so thankful to the people who chose to come to our screening - including and especially Key, the box office clerk who not only raved about the film afterwords but also encouraged other people to see our movie when they asked for recommendations, and even asked me to sign her ticket stub after the screening! It was just such a wonderful experience overall. The only downside was that Kelsey couldn't make it. But that's even more incentive to return in the future with another film!

-Christina

Local Vegan Treat:

  • The Parlour makes handmade ice cream and always has 2 sorbets, a vegan chocolate, and a revolving vegan soft serve option every day. I lucked out in that Friday had almond joy mocha as the soft serve option. It was SO good! It's rare finding vegan soft serve anywhere. Definitely a must try if you're ever in Durham. (I also had the pineapple mango soft serve on Sunday, which was great, but more sorbet-ish than legit ice cream.)

Catch the film next at:

About a Donkey at Buffalo International Film Festival

We're so excited that our feature About a Donkey is an official selection of Buffalo International Film Festival, which runs October 4th - 8th! It's our 5th festival acceptance and will be the 4th public screening, happening between Austin Revolution in September & Adirondack in mid-October. Details to come.

38936175_10155682488547919_4737182755203317760_n.jpg

Bluestocking Film Series Recap

Last weekend was the Bluestocking Film Series, and it was truly amazing! It's now one of my favorite film festivals. On the first night, 8 films were screened in a nice college-campus theater to an audience of 115 people. Then on day 2, I spent much of my day teaching (one of the perks of my job with Seed&Spark is offering to teach about crowdfunding at festivals where my work gets in, in order to have some expenses covered - it's a great way to experience a fest as a filmmaker & get to help other filmmakers while I'm there). Then I was on a really thoughtful panel titled "The Director's Craft & Female Representation," with the other attending filmmakers and representatives from Cinfemme & Tanji. And then my film "Enough" screened with 6 others to another crowd of over 145 people! The audience was really engaged, both during the film and the Q&A; and many came over after the screening to tell me how much they loved the ending!

The women who run the festival are just so supportive. You can feel the care put into organizing every detail. And the festival made it a point to get the community & filmmakers connected by having free afterparties each night at warm & welcoming local spots. The programming was simply excellent. It's wonderful as a filmmaker and fan getting to see such diverse works by women. I often feel like I'm supposed to represent my entire gender at most (typically male-dominated) festivals. At this one, I got to just be me, and appreciate the many perspectives and styles of women directors out there. And I don't think I've ever attended a festival with as much inclusion, not just in terms of gender, but also in race, class, age, and sexual identity across the entire lineup. The films were memorable & moving. It's a prime example of how meritocracy and diversity are not separate aspirations, and when you commit to the latter, nothing needs to be sacrificed with the former. It was truly beautiful to witness. The conversations both on and off stage were motivating & insightful. And I walked away with new friends and potential collaborators. There was a lot of positivity and inspiration packed into two days. I found it completely rejuvenating & hope to attend next year, even if I don't have a film screening. 

Anyone who reads my festival recaps knows that I'm very candid about my experiences and don't recommend all festivals that I attend. This is one I definitely recommend submitting to if you have a film that meets the qualifications. And even if you don't but happen to be near Portland, Maine, you must make the trip to experience the festival & people behind it as an audience member, at least! 

Local Vegan Treat:

  • The delicious vegan Cinnamon Sugar donut at The Holy Donut has inspired me to start adding any local vegan treats I come across in all the festival traveling I do now. These donuts are made from mashed potatoes & they're super fluffy. A must try. 

Catch the film next at:

-Christina

P.S. Film Inquiry reviewed the whole fest, and our little review within the piece was positive! Read it HERE.

Christina Featured in the Queens Tribune

The Queens Tribune has released a cool series on Queens-based artists and I was chosen as the resident Filmmaker! Check it out, where I discuss my filmmaking career and our latest projects! I'm grateful for the write-up, but please note that, while there are also a few minor misquotes about the context of my childhood, a major error is that they cited me as the writer of About a Donkey instead of director. Kelsey Rauber is the writer! I'm still hoping they'll respond to my correction request for the online version.