IndieWorks - October Recap

Last Tuesday was the October edition of IndieWorks! And it was our annual Halloween Special, where we screen local horror shorts and celebrate the spooky season. We screened 6 films and had 40 people in house. October is always an interesting month because some of our regulars aren’t genre fans, so they don’t come out; but then we end up with some people who typically don’t attend except for at the Horror Special. So it’s always a nice crowd of new & familiar faces (a few of which join us in costume), who generally just love scary movies! The lineup was a solid reflection of the diverse ways you can approach the genre and elicit fear from an audience. It was an evening filled with gasps, screams, and laughs. Thoughtful conversations were had during the Q&A, and the night was an overall success!

We'd just like to say thank you to everyone who came out to support the filmmakers and spend the evening with us & them. We do hope you enjoyed the films and the opportunity to network with other filmmakers and film enthusiasts. We know some connections were made! AND we hope you'll join us again for our November screening on 20th! It’ll be a mix of documentaries and narratives with a strong focus on family and childhood.

See photos from the evening:

The Films of the night:

The Music Lesson (Written by Kyle I. Kelley, Directed by Kyle I. Kelley & Adam R. Brown)
A jaded music teacher turns the tables on a soul-sucking student.

Broad Paws (Written & Directed by Vinny Sacchetti)
The unlikely and irrational fears that come from living alone at night take form when a young woman has to defend herself from intruding forces, leaving her in a moral dilemma that puts natural instincts to the test.

Goodbye Old Friend (Written & Directed by Rafael De Leon Jr.)
A young woman is trapped in her apartment by her childhood imaginary friend, who has come back to haunt her. 

I Waited For You (Written & Directed by Manny Serrano)
A Brooklynite girl goes out for the night with a friend in Queens, and becomes terrified after her lost cell phone is answered by a man with a creepy and ominous voice.

Dull Hope (Written & Directed by Brian Ratigan)
Suppressed memories reach a boiling point. 
An animated tale of longing.

Beneath (Written & Directed by Lindsay Serrano)
After a naughty video is uploaded online, a girl plots revenge against her deceptive boyfriend. 

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 originalityThe 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 should they use the platform and 50% off 4MileCircus' post-production audio cleaning service for a future project. 

For the October 2018 lineup, our winning films were:
    Audience Choice Award:  "I Waited For You"
    Silver Whiskers Award:  "Goodbye Old Friend" 


Adirondack Film Festival Recap

We just wrapped up an AMAZING weekend in Glens Falls for our About a Donkey screening at the Adirondack Film Festival. It’s a newer festival in its 3rd year that I had honestly not heard of until a few months back. A filmmaker friend told me that they had a great time at the festival the year before, so I decided it was worth the low-ish submission fee to give it a shot with our feature. I’m so glad I did because it is now on my personal list of top film festivals, for sure. There are a few reasons. First, they were extremely organized & communicative leading up to the festival, and overall had a really filmmaker friendly vibe. They also stood out right away because they created a distinction between their high profile feature invitationals (which they called headliners) and the truly independent features in competition that came in via submissions; something festivals so rarely do (blog post on that coming soon). Then they offered all filmmakers one free hotel room during the festival, which is also very rare, especially for ALL filmmakers. And on top of that, they gave us a code for free Uber rides to & from the main venue. So, considering the perks and overall very open & honest approach, I had a good feeling going into the festival. However, I didn’t expect to have as phenomenal a time as we ended up having. 

For one, everyone part of the fest knew who we were right away and made an effort to make us feel included and taken care of the whole weekend. And something incredibly unique & creative is that they had local artist Anthony Richichi create pieces of art inspired by each film with a filmmaker in attendance. Anthony was happy to meet us; he told us he loved our film, and showed us the art he made - which he said was inspired by two moments in the film that really stood out to him. We feel he captured moments that definitely embody those two characters and tend to get good reactions from the audience at screenings. It’s such a cool thing he and the festival do, and it really shows how they make every individual filmmaker feel seen and appreciated. 

And then there’s the audience! For such a new festival, it has some serious community support. So often, especially with a feature, it’s a struggle filling a screening. It requires a lot of networking with the other filmmakers at the fest, hoping that they’ll choose to see your film instead of whatever other films or blocks conflict with it, and promising you’ll do the same for theirs. It can be good for film-community building, but it can also feel salesy and competitive. We’re all film fans, as well as film makers; but I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I don’t want the only people at my screenings to be the other filmmakers with work screening at the festival. I love the ways we can support each other, but festivals should be a way to also reach non-filmmakers in their hometowns. Getting one’s work in front of general audiences will always be the dream, but so few festivals actually create that access & engagement. This festival, though, somehow manages to do it! The locals were genuinely excited about the festival’s existence in their town, and they really came out to discover new films and filmmakers. Of course, we did network and make new filmmaker friends too, but the festival didn’t have that pressure of selling your screenings to each other in the way others do. We all just got to pick what interested us most, and show up where we could, when we could.

So, having witnessed the high local turnout at opening night, we were very eager to see what ours would be like. We were a bit skeptical of our 2pm on Friday timeslot, but the 12pm feature screening before us had over 50 people in attendance; and the vast majority seemed to be locals, completely unfamiliar with the film or filmmaker. That got us excited for our own turnout! And it only got more exciting when we saw the staff needing to add more chairs for all the new people coming in for our film! We ended up with a full house of 77 strangers in attendance. There was one filmmaker friend who came to support, but all the others were not only locals to Glens Falls, but seemingly not filmmakers at all. They were exactly the kind of people we wanted to reach, individuals outside our network or usual reach who appreciate independent art but probably wouldn’t seek it out on the kinds of indie platforms our work would later be distributed on. As for the screening itself, the venue was beautiful and the film looked incredible in the space. The film got a lot of laughs. However, there was one negative aspect of the experience; there’s a moment in the film where two women are on the verge of a romantic (but not sexual) moment, and an older woman in the audience got up and walked out with her two young grandsons. And then a kiss happens in the film between those two characters, and another elderly woman shot up out of her seat and walked out at that exact moment. We were definitely disappointed by those two reactions. It put a bit of a downer on the experience for us; but only for a moment because, as soon as the credits rolled, we had people surrounding us with compliments. A woman shouted, “what a beautiful little film” as she exited, and others told us they loved it and that they would vote for us for audience choice. An elderly man, who’s a demographic we thought least likely to identify with our film, chatted with us the longest, asking us questions about the filmmaking process and complimenting us on how strongly the story came together and touched the audience. We were riding high after that, and enjoyed the rest of the day, taking in more screenings (all of which were extremely well attended by locals), and enjoying the filmmaker party that evening. 

On Saturday, we watched a bunch more of the excellent content (programmed by the lovely Programming Director Jessica Levandoski), including films by existing filmmaker friends in attendance. One of my favorite things about the festival, too, is that the thematic shorts blocks were heavily curated and very short. None went over 70 minutes, which I think is perfect. So often, shorts blocks go on for so long without a break, and films don’t get their deserved processing time. I think the scheduling of the festival was really efficient. My only complaint is that they don’t do Q&As. On one hand, I get it & appreciate it for the fact that more films could be screened and people could get from one venue to the next (all 5 were in walking distance) without missing the beginning or end of films. But as a filmmaker, I think a lot of the satisfaction of discussing your work with an engaged audience is lost when there’s no designated Q&A time. We had some great conversations with people who had time to stick around, but I do think we would’ve been able to get more feedback and build relationships with people who’d take an interest in future work if we had the platform to discuss the film in an allotted amount of time immediately after our screenings. That said, I think the festival did an excellent job of facilitating conversations with the local attendees at the evening parties. I’d love to see more balance there in the future, maybe even just 5 minute Q&As for the single screening feature blocks.

Anyway, at 6pm, we had our second screening (another perk of the festival was that all films screened at least twice), where we were put in a smaller venue at the hotel (still looked & sounded excellent) with 40 seats. We had 36 people in attendance. Four were filmmaker friends but all others were locals. It seemed that the Saturday screenings overall were less attended than Friday, and ours was considered one of the bigger crowds of that day. But even so, I didn’t see a single screening with less than 20 people (which was such a refreshing change from our last festival experience). Not to mention, every screening had 4 other screenings happening at the same time. The fact that all were decently attended is seriously impressive. (Trust me, I attend a lot of festivals for work. It’s legit amazing. Only matched, in my experience, by NCGLFF.) Our film, again, got great laughs. And no one walked out this time! Afterwards, many people told us they loved it as they exited. One woman was on the verge of tears and said “thank you for making me feel so good,” which nearly made us cry. Our filmmaker friends complimented how we created “such vivid characters … and so many, in such a short amount of time,” and how much “the family felt like a family,” and they appreciated how well we “built up the sexual tension in the main romance so that it all really paid off.” All lovely comments. An older woman came over to us and said “now, I have to say, as someone over twice your age, you really showed me your world … and it’s not my world, but it’s yours … and all of that is so normal, and that’s just great … and I loved it. Thank you for sharing it with me. And I’m so glad girls made one of the best ones!” It was such an unexpected and sweet comment. We had to decipher it a bit, but we assume she was trying to make a positive statement about the way we presented our queer and interracial relationships in the film as just existing without any drama or needing to label them. And it’s cool that she deemed our film as one of the best she had seen! Also, again, an older man who we wouldn’t expect to come over to express feelings about the film came over and asked what inspired such a creative story, and then told us we did a great job and he really enjoyed it. It was so wonderful having people come up to us with curiosity and appreciation. So few festivals manage to create and capture that kind of engagement (especially when there’s no Q&A or pressure on them to say anything to us at all).

The Adirondack Film Festival is really special and will definitely be a staple on my submission lists moving forward. I recommend you check them out next year; even if you don’t have a film screening - it’s in a sweet & scenic town with beautiful Fall foliage, and the festival has overall very worthwhile programming!


Local Vegan Treat:

Catch the film next at:

  • YoFiFest, November 3rd at 12pm.

  • We have a January screening in Montana & a February screening in California, but we can’t announce those festivals yet. Stay tuned!

P.S. As I was typing this, I received a super sweet message through my website. See below <3

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Buffalo International Film Festival Recap

Last Sunday was our Buffalo International Film Festival screening of About a Donkey; and my wonderfully supportive mom Marlene drove Kelsey & me up to spend the weekend experiencing the festival together.


We arrived Friday evening and were able to catch 2/3 of an Episodic Comedy block before settling into our hotel. We spent Saturday exploring the area, including the lovely Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and catching as many screenings at the festival as we could. I’ll be honest, I was surprised by the low turnout for all the screenings. Other than a shorts block of many local films, the average screening had 15 people. A high profile invitational at the main theater had 30ish people, which was low but ok; however, two other feature innovationals from Tribeca and SXSW had only 10 or 11 people. One was even the Saturday night feature! And a shorts block of 7 films late Saturday night had just 7 people in attendance. It was seriously surprising. For a festival in its 12th year, and the main festival of a City with not too much going on that weekend (except maybe football), I expected more local turnout. The festival seemed well advertised around town with posters everywhere, but I noticed the festival director was vocal about his disappointment with their local press not fully coming through on their promotion. And I think another issue was venue distances. The bigger name screenings or local screenings got featured in the beautiful North Park Theater, which is where badges were picked up, as was where the step & repeat was with red carpet coverage. I think the average local attendee assumed most, if not all, of the festival took place at that venue - so they just stuck around there. But there was also Hallwells, a nice but small event space across town. It was a 17-minute drive away and definitely not the flashiest of venues. Many of the screenings we attended were there because our NYC-based friends were programmed there (as were we), but I think most non-filmmaker attendees never stepped foot in there unless there was something very specific they wanted to see. Even we wanted to catch more screenings at North Park, but the timing between screenings and the time it took to get between venues rarely made it possible. So, I assume most locals didn’t bother going the extra mile to catch the content at the secondary venue even if they knew about it.

Going into the screening (2pm on Sunday), I was feeling a bit disappointed for two reasons. One, the low turnout I’d been seeing overall throughout the last 36 hours we’d been at the fest. And two, the film had been marketed by the festival as a drama. I think the film is definitely a dramedy, but definitely not a straight drama. The festival had changed our synopsis and specifically called it a drama in all their promo despite our labeling it a comedy. I figured that’s how they see it, but it was a bit odd for us because it’s not how we see it. The film is heartwarming & sweet, not particularly edgy, but there’s an intentionally offbeat quality to the film. It has an inherent quirkiness that I think either an audience wants or they don’t. We delve into some serious & sometimes dark subjects, but always in a heightened, humorous way. We try to be clear that it’s not slapstick or Hollywood blockbuster kind of comedy, but it’s definitely intended to be funny with a lot of dry wit meant to make you smile, if not straight up LOL. So, I think, anyone walking in to a screening expecting a drama would be a bit turned off when they find that the dialogue’s kind of constant banter and the plot never gets particularly dramatic.

And so, as expected, we ended up with 9 people in attendance (not including the 3 of us). Three of them were filmmaker friends with films in the festival, but the other 6 were locals and presumably non-filmmakers. That aspect was cool; and at the end of the day, I’m grateful when anyone shows up. So that was definitely a treat — to have 6 total strangers take an interest in our movie. But it was a bit uncomfortable; as Kelsey & I had been spoiled by nonstop laughs at our past 3 screenings and hearing rave programmer reviews in North Carolina or lovely comments from fellow writers about how well we pulled off smart comedy in Austin. This screening had a few chuckles here & there, but otherwise it was crickets. I also think, because this festival chose to downplay the LGBT inclusion of our film (not sure why because they’re definitely queer friendly overall), I think the non-filmmakers in the audience (who were mostly on the older side) were a bit taken aback by the inclusive nature of the film. Overall, I think they didn’t know what they were walking in to in various ways. So, it was interesting to say the least. That said, they all stuck around and were really nice to us afterwards. And one woman, who I believe chose our screening because of our facebook ad targeting, seemed to have really enjoyed the film as a whole and even signed up for our newsletter. So that felt like a triumph alone. 

Watch our Q&A video:

Overall, the picture and sound quality of the screening space were solid, and the festival director and staff were all really supportive and truly nice people. But I found the festival venues too spread out to really have a strong community feel amongst filmmakers; and the lack of local turnout was just disappointing. I’d be curious to hear how past years went for filmmakers. Maybe it was just an off year? In any case, I’m grateful to have had the film programmed, especially in a lineup of so many prestigious invitationals. (I appreciate that they do program from their submissions somewhat instead of inviting ALL features like so many other festivals out there (blog post about that coming soon)).

At the end of the day, it was really fun spending time with Kelsey & my mom, exploring a new City, and meeting a few other filmmakers at the festival. I’m glad we made the trip. Plus, we got our first official review (that we know of) out of the screening, via The Film Stage. It spoils pretty much the entire plot, so read at your own risk. I’d say it’s overall favorable. Interestingly enough, our B- rating from the writer was actually a compliment because most others he reviewed at the festival got the same or lower, and only one got a B (the highest he gave). So, for such a tough critic, I’m pretty happy with his assessment of the film. And I’m, of course, grateful that he even made the time to watch and engage with it so thoughtfully.


Local Vegan Treat:

  • I was disappointed that Fry Baby Donuts was closed all weekend. They’re apparently all vegan and amazing. But I tried a piece of vegan biscotti at, horror-themed & meat-free, Grindhaus Cafe. It was good!

Catch the film next at: