This weekend marked the end of the festival run for "Night In," and the beginning of one for "Enough;" and what a weekend it was! After last year's experience screening "Hello" at the Ax Wound Film Festival, I knew I wanted to attend again this year. I submitted "Night In" as soon as the festival opened up for 2017 submissions. The lovely festival director (and creator of Women in Horror Month), Hannah Forman, immediately watched it, loved it, and accepted the film for the new year. Then when I finished "Enough," I sent her a link asking if the festival would be down with something less horror/more of a thriller. She loved it as well and told me to submit it because they'd definitely screen it. So I submitted; and thankfully ended up getting to screen two films at the fest! Then also, because I knew Hannah was looking to expand this year's program with more workshops and panels, I offered to teach Seed&Spark's Crowdfunding class at the festival. I love getting to share what I've learned with other filmmakers and helping to empower them to build audiences for their work and make content on their own creative terms. So getting to do that specifically for a room full of bad-ass, women genre-filmmakers was a privilege. And, on top of all that, 4milecircus asked me to be part of a live podcast panel they organized for the festival. So, needless to say, it was a super fun & productive weekend indeed!
It was especially special because I asked my mom to come along with me for the weekend. We hadn't attended a festival together since SUMMIT screened in Rhode Island 2 years ago. My mom's one of my best friends (and my biggest supporter!) but not someone I get to see as much as I'd like due to my ever-increasingly busy schedule. So it was a ton of fun getting to experience such a great festival with her.
As for how the festival went, it was just as warm, welcoming and supportive as last year, but with even more thrills, gore and laughs in the lineup. Expanded to a night and a half, I was basically living and breathing the festival until we left this morning. "Night In" opened the whole festival Friday night. With just under 30 people in attendance, it was a lively group. The film got laughs in the right places and some compliments after the Q&A. The whole block was 15 films across 2 hours, which is a lot to sit through. But the films were so unique, compelling and flat out fun, that it never felt stagnant. The Q&A after was a thoughtful conversation with host Jay Kay of (Horror Happens Radio) and the audience. I loved getting to know the two women I shared the stage with, Caitlin Koller and Misty Dawn, both of whom made very different but equally impressive shorts. Caitlin, who's the director of the brilliant "Blood Sisters," which was already one of my favorites from the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, mentioned to me after the screening that she was at the Sick Chick Flicks Film Festival and the audience there LOVED "Night In." She said they exuberantly laughed and clapped through the credits. That was really awesome to hear because that was one of the fests I was especially bummed to miss.
Day 2 was jam-packed, from 10am to 11pm. My mom and I missed most of the first lineup since I was prepping (read: caffeinating) for an interview and then my Crowdfunding class at 11:30am. The class overall went well. I had to condense it into an hour, but the audience still seemed to walk away with a solid amount of helpful info. (And it was really cool having my mom see me teach because she hadn't before and was excited to get to.)
Right after was the next block of films, which included "Enough," 4milecircus's "Mare," and 12 other shorts, most of which had filmmakers in attendance. With about 40 people in the audience, it was a really eclectic and engaging lineup with some extremely effective and evocative work (all of which apparently makes me want to use adjectives that start with "e"). I was curious how "Enough" would feel amongst such dark, gory, and/or macabre films. I've only screened it once before, at our own CongestedCat Screening, and it felt intense in our more dramatic but lighthearted lineup. But paired with the real intense films of this lineup, it was super tame. The sound was a little too low during its screening, but I don't think that hurt it much. And despite it maybe feeling a tad out of place, the audience had some nice comments afterwards. I'm debating whether or not I want to submit to more of the genre fests where I screened "Night In," since it isn't quite horror but is definitely a genre film. I'll have to see how broad the other fests are with their horror label. In any case, it was nice getting to experience it with an audience; and, of course, getting to be part of the excellent Q&A after, which included 12 filmmakers and was again hosted by Jay Kay. What I love about this festival, other than getting to see such good films and meet such inspiring filmmakers (who all happen to be woman-identifying), is how much it reflects the diversity in style, tone and perspective that exists not just within in the genre but also within work by women. I feel so often like my artistic perspective is supposed to represent all women because I'm so often the only woman in a room, on a panel, or in a lineup. So it's just wonderful getting to see such original, unique, and personally specific work coming from so many different women -- and getting to just be me, not having to represent my entire gender, in the process. (I also love attending the festival and not having to fear that I'll be sitting through hours of rape porn and other violence against women, as is so often the case with male dominated horror fests. While some work by women may have violence against women, it's almost always subversive, rarely exploitative, and always framed through the woman's lens and experience.)
After that Q&A, I participated in the 4milecircus podcast (which is always a blast), watched a thought-provoking presentation on Horror in the Trumpian era, and finally watched the last block of films. All in all, I saw 40 of the 48 shorts; I loved a bunch and enjoyed or appreciated most. And, best of all, I made some talented new friends! I'd like to thank Hannah, Ashlee Blackwell, and everyone else who helps put on this amazing event for allowing me to be part of it. And, of course, my mom for ... everything. Hope to be back with new work (or just to attend) next year!
In the meantime, "Night In" premieres online TOMORROW! And "Enough" will have more festival news in the new year!
This past weekend, "Arm Bar" screened at the AMC 25 theater as part of the Urban Action Showcase. UAS is an action oriented festival in its fifth year. The festival is a two day event, the first day, oddly enough, being the awards ceremony. They held it in the Michael Fuchs theater at HBO, which is a beautiful space with a large screen. (see below)
All the content creators watched ten-second clips of their shorts, features and fan fiction before a very long awards process. My favorite part of the awards was learning about Lu Feng, a prominent actor and choreographer for Kung Fu in the 1970's. He traveled from China for the event and gave a very short and sweet acceptance speech after being honored for his achievements in the genre. There were too many nomination categories to even dream about revisiting here, but I only submitted for the shorts category. "Arm Bar" didn't win anything, but it was nice meeting all the content creators at the ceremony and learning about their specific journeys. One screenwriter, Aaron, even made it to our screening the next day! Thanks, Aaron!
The actual screening was held at the AMC 25 theater in Times Square. Christina and I arrived together and met Latresa, Victoria and Ricardo (who were all actors in the film) at the theater. The event was a very pricey $30 for general admission, and Latresa cleverly was able to get the three of them in for free by doing press for the event under her brand Millennial Renaissance Media. When Christina and I got there, they were already deep into work, interviewing people for the fest. The festival rented out the fourth floor of the AMC theater and set up a small, but interesting comic con. We wanted to get our moneys worth, so we went to see "Crippled Avengers," a classic Kung Fu flick, starring Lu Feng. It was great to see one of his films after learning about him at the awards ceremony prior. After that was our shorts block. It had one major hiccup, as we all sat through the first half hour of a feature that was supposed to be programmed later that night. It was quite painful to watch, as well. Finally, one of the coordinators came out and explained the issue and we got the show on the road. I was initially wary as to how our film would look and sound on the big screen, but was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. There weren't many people in the theater, (maybe 20... I was expecting way more for 8 shorts) but we got some laughs in the right places as well as some great reactions to other parts of the film.
All in all, it was fun to share this very different type of screening experience with some of the cast and crew and meet some new people along the way. (See pictures below!)