About a month ago, I was invited to be a Panelist for 2 Panels, "Directing" and "Redefining Indie," at the New Haven International Film Festival on March 29th. I was honored and excited to participate. A couple weeks later, the co-runner at the festival Georgina Capristso-Gajdosik mentioned wanting to add a Screenwriting Panel but needed Screenwriters. I suggested that Kelsey Rauber & I be part of the Panel. That's how Kelsey ended up being able to join me as a Panelist & how I ended up doing 3 Panels at the Festival. We had to take a 2 hour train ride at 8am to New Haven. It wasn't bad though because Kelsey & I got to talk and plan out new projects. It was a lot of fun. When we got there, I was supposed to be available to Mentor anyone who came in looking for advice about anything related to film. It was me and a handful of other Mentors but no one coming in to be a Mentee.
However, about 10 minutes into the mentoring sessions, as we were all about to introduce ourselves to each other, my name was suddenly called and I felt like I was in high school being called to the Principal's office. Turns out that a nice older gentleman named Gene came to the Mentoring Session specifically to speak to me. He had looked me up and seen that I had had a successful crowdfunding campaign and seemed to be knowledgeable about the process and various platforms. He was hoping I could walk him through the general need-to-know points. I did just that and ended up chatting with him for over an hour. It was a wonderful feeling getting to help someone as well as talk about something that interests me and which I feel I have valid experience with and opinions on. Fifteen minutes later, the Panels began. First I did 'Screenwriting' with Kelsey, Georgina Capristso-Gajdosik and Marty Lang. Then 'Directing' with Matthew Bonifacio, Don Downie and Alex Calvo, along with Jenn Mello of Film Interchange as the Moderator. Lastly was 'Redefining Indie' with Georgina as Moderator and including Jenn Mello, Erica Anderson & Amanda Trokan of Seed&Spark, Don Downie & Stacy Capone (Actress), Molly McGaughey of the Not So Starving Artist NYC, Jennifer Peralta-Ajemia (Casting Director), and Michael Alden.
The day ended at 6pm (with another 2 hours of commuting afterwards) and I ended up with only 15 minutes between every single panel. I was so exhausted by the end of the day but had such a great time. I wish there were recordings of the panels because the discussions truly were insightful and informative. I talked a lot about my approach to modern filmmaking and my belief in audience building and making what I want to make, not necessarily what's marketable or what the top Festivals and/or Hollywood are looking for. I also talked a lot about my belief in building a sustainable Middle Class of Indie Filmmakers where we form a community and help each other grow and find our individual pockets of audience members rather than trying to step on each other to be the one chosen one who makes it to the Million dollar club and mass, mindless audiences. I didn't quite say that or say it that way, but I suppose that summarizes where I'm coming from (which anyone who has attended IndieWorks can gather). I've often been called idealistic, and maybe some would say naive, but I care more about the work that I do and the people I reach than about the money or accolades; and because of that, I don't have to wait for anyone to give me permission to produce what I feel compelled to create. I find a way to do it on my own or through an audience that's looking for the content I want to deliver. Some panelists disagreed with my approach in favor of a more traditional and capitalistic ideology, and it was great to have that discussion and explore different points of view. However, many panelists agreed with me and even mentioned that they aspire to be able to pursue a career in the industry the way I do, which was incredibly humbling, as was the experience of getting to be on Panels with such talented and successful individuals, especially on the Directing Panel. What was so amazing was that a lot of audience members came over to me after the Panels wanting to shake my hand and tell me what an inspiration I am. Hearing that just made my day. I don't necessarily set out to be an inspiration to others. I just enjoy voicing my opinion and helping people where I can; and to know that I was able to do both at the same time was pretty damn cool.
I can't speak for Kelsey but I definitely had a blast that day. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to talk, especially about all things related to filmmaking and movies. I would absolutely love the opportunity to continue speaking on panels, and I believe I'll be back next year to do the New Haven International Film Festival again. Maybe I'll even be screening a film there as well.
I also had fun simply because I spent the day with Kelsey and she's one of my favorite people to spend a day with. All in all, it was a great experience for us both. If you met us at the festival or have been following "Kelsey," you'll be happy to know that we'll be releasing a video in a few weeks talking about the future of the series and what else we're working on. So check back at this blog soon for that and other updates about our work.
Thanks for reading,