SUMMIT at Rhode Island International (Vortex) Film Festival Recap

Last Saturday, Summit screened the Rhode Island International Film Festival's Vortex Sci-fi, Fantasy & Horror Film Festival (the genre sidebar of their main festival), and I was invited to participate in a panel the day before. So, my mom & I decided to drive there early on Friday and make a weekend of it. It was a ton of fun! This was largely because I got to spend the weekend with my mom, which is pretty rare lately, but also because Rhode Island is beautiful (I had never been before) and the festival organizers were so warm and welcoming. 

The panel (Behind the Camera Lens) on Friday was curated by RIFF programmer Shawn Quirk and moderated by Rhode Island Film & TV Office Executive Director Steven Feinberg. My fellow panelist was Rhode Island based genre filmmaker Tommy DeNucci, who just released his third feature, Almost Mercy. The panel was for a class of film students at Roger Williams University. I enjoyed speaking on the panel and getting to know Tommy & Steven. We talked a bit about our inspirations and approaches to filmmaking, but the panel had a main focus on filmmaking in the Ocean State. Steven Feinberg seemed to single handedly bring film industry to Rhode Island five years ago and it has been flourishing ever since. It seems like the state works with independent filmmakers to make low budget filmmaking possible while also following the rules and increasing production value. Locations and permits are a lot easier & cheaper to come by than in NY (or LA) if you go through the Film & TV office. It feels very much like they really care about film and filmmakers, not just about making a buck anywhere and everywhere; and I was definitely convinced to try to shoot my next feature in Rhode Island. 

My mom couldn't resist recording the panel (at least each time I spoke), so here are some clips thanks to her: 

Tommy DeNucci's film can be watched on Netflix. (I have not watched it yet.)

As for the Summit screening, well there was a smaller turnout than I or the festival expected. However, despite being small, the crowd was great. There were 17 people in the audience, plus the two of us, the projectionist and some festival staff. The space was nice, a local chapel theater, and the picture quality was excellent. The day before, I had heard festival director George T. Marshall mention swapping out a projector at one of the locations because he cares about how the films look. This is something I really appreciate, particularly after our Manhattan Film Festival experience. The sound was really great, as well (by that I mean the space and speakers; anyone who has seen the film or our budget knows/can assume the audio is a little rough around the edges at times.) I was really satisfied with the screening on a technical level. 

I've seen the film so many times now that I have a hard time reading the room. I'm so immersed in my own boredom, that I half expect someone to stand up rolling their eyes & walk out. But, thankfully, that never happened. In fact, the audience was very engaged during the Q&A. They asked a lot of questions, mostly related to where I found the actors and how I worked with them, how we got our location (and where & when we shot), and the budget. My favorite question regarded the typical use of the killer's POV in slasher films and how that was lacking (or was it?) in Summit (cannot elaborate - spoilers). A lot of people asked for my card, more so than at other festivals, which was cool.

And on top of a successful screening, I was awarded Best Director!!! Out of 80 films (7 of which were features), I was given Best Director. I'm still so blown away and grateful! Having seen a few of the films at the festival, I have to say, I'm truly honored because Summit was in impressive company! (Full list of winners HERE.) A huge part of directing is recognizing talent in others, so I must thank my cast & crew because I won due to their talent and dedication. I cannot thank them enough.

After the screening & awards ceremony, we said our goodbyes and hit the road. I hope to be able to visit again next summer because with my win came an all-access pass to the main festival in August! 

Click through photos from the weekend:

They should release their hi res photos from the festival soon. 

Our next & final screening of Summit will be in January at the Macabre Faire Film Festival (more details soon), followed by the film's VOD release!