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Sick Chick Flicks Film Festival Recap

I just finished my weekend at Sick Chick Flicks Film Festival in Cary, North Carolina where “The Gaze” screened. This was my third year with a film in the festival but my first time attending. I’m glad I finally got to experience it. Overall, I had a nice time. There were only a handful of filmmakers in attendance, so while not watching films, I mostly experienced a quiet weekend exploring what turned out to be a really cute town.

As for the fest itself, you can tell it’s run by filmmakers because the picture and sound projection of all films were excellent. It’s also held in a beautiful venue, The Cary Theater. The festival is not as well attended as it should be. The festival staff seems to do a good job promoting it. But I think it hasn’t gotten the word of mouth it needs just yet. My screening had 35 people, and it was the most attended block as a whole. What’s nice, though, is that all but 5 people in the audience seemed to be locals not affiliated with the festival, so the films definitely reached people they probably wouldn’t otherwise. I hope that as the fest grows (it’s only in its 4th year) locals will come out to see the films.

My block had 11 shorts in it and I really appreciated that my film and the one other with filmmakers in attendance were programmed at the end so that they were fresh in the attendees’ minds for the Q&A. The Q&A itself was very brief, unfortunately, but I did get cool compliments one-on-one after. My favorite moment was 2 girls, one in high school and another in middle school, coming over after to tell me how much they enjoyed my movie and that they’re both aspiring filmmakers. It was also cool being reunited with Dycee Wildman & Jennifer Bonier in the same block with their short “Coming Alive.” Their previous film “Inside The House” was one of my favorites in 2017, which I saw at Ax Wound 2 years ago.

Other highlights:

  • getting to see festival director Christine Parker again, who I worked with at my old job I Was There Film Workshops

  • making new filmmaker friends, like Trinity Vélez-Justo, who gave a great presentation on the significance of sound & music in horror

  • watching 4 compelling pitches all by women in horror where the fest awarded one $400 from the festival’s ticket sales

  • and finally getting to meet & spend time with Megan Peterson, who drove from Wilmington to see my short and my Crowdfunding presentation. I helped launch her crowdfunding campaign for her feature Drought back in 2017, and she’s now joining my education team at Seed&Spark.

-Christina

Local Vegan Treat:

  • I didn’t really find anything great but they at least had food options that weren’t just chains!

Catch the film next at:

Fem.Cine.Anarchy Recap

Last Thursday, I attended a screening of “The Gaze” as part of Fem.Cine.Anarchy in Portland, Maine. Fem.Cine.Anarchy is a free popup screening event celebrating "diverse, intersectional, edgy, female-driven, short narrative films, directed by female-identified persons." It’s run by Kate Kaminski, the founder and festival director of the now discontinued but well-remembered and recognized Bluestocking Film Series; and it was born out of the #DirectedByWomen celebration every September. I had such a great time at Bluestocking last year (screening “Enough”), that I knew I wanted to submit “The Gaze” and attend anything affiliated with it and Kate. I was really honored to be one of only 9 selections for the event.

It’s not an official festival, really just a single night out for locals to discover and enjoy some films that they’d probably never see otherwise. None of the other filmmakers were planning to attend, so I knew it wouldn’t be the kind of screening with a Q&A or for-filmmakers feel (though Bluestocking definitely was). It’s ultimately for film-lovers in the community, which I was totally down for because, Bluestocking aside, I also really loved the vibe in Portland last year and wanted to go back. So, I figured Justin & I could just make a min-vacation out of it with the mindset of getting a break from NYC at a time that happened to coincide with this little screening. Considering that, it really exceeded my expectations. The venue, on Slab’s outdoor patio, was great. They have excellent pizza (with an amazing vegan special), which was a surprise for us New Yorkers. And the space was really well equipped for the screening. The picture quality was solid and the sound was really good upfront where we sat. And best of all, despite it being a very chilly evening, people really turned up! There were over 50 people there who stayed through the end even though it was basically freezing below 60 degrees by the end of the evening, which is a real testament to the quality of the lineup and the communal atmosphere Kate has created over the years through Bluestocking and this pop-up. Overall, in spite of a bit of shivering, we had a wonderful time. It was so lovely to see Kate and her partner Betsy again, and to get such fun reactions from the audience as a whole.

Our short time in Portland after the screening was also a treat. Our one full day there had great weather (it’s a little unfortunate that the evening before wasn’t as warm - but at least it didn’t rain), so we were able to walk around a ton. Some highlights were seeing the local passion for progress and change during the Climate Strike at Portland’s City Hall, grabbing delicious donuts at The Holy Donut (they’re made from potatoes yet so light and fluffy), spending some time by the water, and happening across an unexpected concert in the little park outside our hotel where a community dance class showed off their skills. It was a fun trip. I definitely recommend checking out Fem.Cine.Anarchy next year if you’re in the mood for a breather by the water in a cool little city with a night out featuring an entertaining and thoughtful selection of shorts. 

-Christina

Local Vegan Treat:

Catch the film next at:


Horrible Imaginings Film Festival Recap

I spent the weekend at Horrible Imaginings Film Festival for the premiere of my new short “The Gaze.” Including my film, I saw 42 out of the 50 shorts and 3 out of the 5 features; and I attended the 60th anniversary screening of The Tingler (with Percepto —it was SO fun)! There’s no other festival where I could sit through that many consecutive films and still want more. Their programming beats pretty much every other festival I attend because they not only care about production value and put storytelling above all, they also make inclusion and contemporary social issues a major aspect of their programming. Every single block is put together so thoughtfully. It’s truly amazing. I walk away from every block having experienced so much engagement on an emotional and physical level, and with so much to ponder. Unlike so many (male-run) genre festivals, this one doesn’t have gratuitous violence against women or mindless exploitation flicks. It’s incredibly intentionally programmed, and I just really respect how well films are selected and paired together. I attended for the first time back in 2017 and absolutely loved it. You can read me rave about the festival as a whole in that post as well. For new aspects that stood out this year, there’s the change to a more centrally located & genre-friendly venue and, given the current state of the world and the various human rights violations happening in our backyards, the programming was particularly political, which for me led to a more thought-provoking and visceral viewing experience. So many of the films are still lingering in my mind in the best way.

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The thing that makes the festival really special, though, is its director Miguel Rodriguez. During his introduction of The Tingler (a moment I hope was captured and will be posted on their site) , Miguel talked about how when watching William Castle speak at the beginning of the movie, it’s so clear that you’re watching someone who passionately loves what he does and gets such joy out of it. That’s what I feel is so evident when you see Miguel speak during every single instance throughout the festival. He clearly cares so much and is very apparently having a ton of fun despite the overwhelming amount of work that goes into running such a well-executed festival. He has such a warmth to him that immediately makes people feel like family. And his ability to talk in depth about every single film, and in such a genuine way, makes a filmmaker feel truly seen and appreciated. It is such a gift to be part of the festival. I hope to attend as often as I can in future years.

As for my actual screening, it went super well! It was an incredibly powerful lineup of shorts that all explored systemic issues in some way. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the first Saturday screening at 11am, but it ended up being the most attended block because it not only included the most films in one (11 shorts), it also included at least 3 local films. So there were over 100 people in house (the other blocks seemed to range from 50 to 75). The downside though was that, because there were so many people on stage, there wasn’t time for a substantial Q&A. While all other blocks averaged 3 filmmakers in attendance and each got very personalized and specific questions before opening it to the audience, we, unfortunately, only got a general inspiration question with time for only a couple more from the audience. I didn’t get to discuss the craft the way I’d hoped, which was disappointing (not just for me and my film but I also so wanted to hear more from the other filmmakers on stage with me). I don’t blame the festival for handling it that way. It’s just an unfortunate tradeoff for the larger crowd. That said, “The Gaze” got some great (audible!) audience reactions, and many people came over after to compliment the film. Overall, it was an awesome premiere and such a fun weekend!

-Christina

Local Vegan Treat:

  • Munchies Vegan Diner is delicious! I have to shoutout specifically, though, Mylk Nut’s Lavender Almond Milk drink. I was never a milk drinker pre being vegan, and as one I rarely want to drink milk alternatives outside of coffee or tea. But I tried this milk and I was legit addicted the whole time I was there. I wish it was sold outside of Southern California!

Catch the film next at:

P.S. Check out the festival’s wrap-up for shoutouts to the rest of their team that made it such a success!

BTS of New Short "Affliction"

Yesterday, we shot our newest short, "Affliction” (previously titled “Toxic Women”).  It’s kind of a chilling drama with a touch of body horror.

Logline:  Two coworkers contemplate the aftermath of an encounter.

The short was originally born out of a weekly writing group between Kelsey, Ryan and me. We try to meet up every week to either give feedback to each other on new pages of ongoing projects or practice pitches that are either inspired by our own experiences or come out of challenges we give each other in session (like from news stories or a draw of the hat type of exercise featuring genres and settings). This particular piece was a script Kelsey presented that was inspired by contemporary frustrations. Ryan and I really liked the way it played with a both timely and timeless issue and did so through a high concept portrayed through a small contained encounter. We ended up workshopping it over a few meetups and eventually Kelsey and I decided to collaborate on it together with me as director.

Once we decided to shoot it, we reached out to our usual crew and everyone was really excited about it. Having worked with Nabil Vinas in About a Donkey, I was eager to work with him again and knew he’d bring so much to this project. We offered him the role, and thankfully he accepted! Briana Swann was a recommendation from our frequent team member Ricardo Manigat. Having never worked with her before, I can now say I’m very excited to do so again because she not only had so much nuance within her performance, she was also really lovely to have on set. Everyone truly was, and we’re so grateful to all who helped bring the film together! (Shout-outs below.) Other than our original sound person ending up in a car accident at the top of the day (thankfully she’s ok!), and losing a couple hours to a quest to replace her, the day was super smooth. We got everything needed and managed to finish within 12 hours. I’m really looking forward to jumping into the edit with Matt next week!

See behind the scenes:

Check out a couple stills from our footage:

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Thank you to:

  • Kelsey, for writing such a powerful script.

  • My mom, Marlene, for catering & driving everyone to set.

  • Extended family Joan & Larry and their generous coworker Georgia for letting us shoot in their office.

  • My stepdad Jay for helping with pickups and drop-offs.

  • Peter Westervelt, for being the best cinematographer & collaborator.

  • Matt Gershowitz, our always reliable AD on set & excellent Editor in post.

  • Ryan, for advising on the script early on & for taking such thorough & thoughtful notes as script supervisor.

  • Sean Mannion, who jumped in for location sound last minute on a Sunday AND loaned his gear.

  • Henry Hodges, for making double duty as gaffer & grip look easy.

  • Diana Molina Sosa, 1st AC, who always pulls focus like nobody’s business.

  • Shivanna Sooknanan, our Art Director (and my cousin), who has a great eye and really brought the look of our set together throughout the day.

  • Mike Dimitroulakos, who killed it in creating a certain makeup effect.

  • Kimberly Drew Whiten, who not only worked as a great 2nd AC but also shuttled people to & from Long Island.

  • And, of course, our absolutely phenomenal cast: Nabil Vinas & Briana Swann.

Couldn’t have done it without any of them!

-Christina

IndieWorks - a new year, a new home!

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Happy New Year! It may be long past acceptable to say that for 2019, but we’re starting our 7th Year at IndieWorks next month, so … Happy New Year! And with a new year starting, it feels like the right time to hit refresh on our screening series. So here we are with an announcement; starting with our next lineup on Tuesday, June 25th, we'll be moving to a new venue! We haven’t committed to a permanent new home just yet, but we will be spending the first few months of our new year testing out options and eventually decide on the best fit for our series.

As much as we appreciate The Local & their staff for allowing us to call the space home for the last 3 years, we've decided it's time to part ways with the venue. After a problematic incident at our November screening, where a rowdy bar patron screamed misogynistic expletives throughout the night, we found ourselves heavily weighing the pros & cons of the venue and seriously longing for our original home at the People Lounge where the owner allowed us to use the entire space for our screenings and was very hands on in maintaining a safe space for everyone. After some careful thought & discussion as a team about changing venues, we decided to express our concerns to the venue and stick it out through the rest of our 6th year before making a decision. But after another rowdy night at our Best of Fest last month, we came to the conclusion that, despite the venue checking off a lot of our necessary boxes (being warm & comfortable, offering an open space that can accommodate our generally large crowds with projection of the films on a huge screen), we’ve found ourselves making sacrifices each month that were starting to take a toll on our sense of responsibility to the creators we showcase. Keeping the series free & open to the public is important to us, so we loved that The Local offered us a deal that allowed their guests to come over and discover local films & filmmakers, while our guests could give the venue bar business and brand awareness. However, more and more over the last year, there would be bar patrons that’d nearly ruin the night by being loud & disrespectful towards our event and guests. We understand why The Local has the restrictions it has in terms of requiring the space remain open and multi-purpose at all times; but as filmmakers ourselves, it pained us not having any control over the environment surrounding the screening area (not even being allowed to put up dividers or sound blankets to create some noise barriers). Over the last few months, we’ve found ourselves repeatedly apologizing for behaviors beyond our control while having no agency within the venue to course correct for future screenings. We don’t mean to disrespect the people who run The Local. We are so grateful to them and we love their space for so many reasons. (And we loved the bartenders & being able to bring them business on slow evenings.) It’s truly excellent for networking & mingling, events where noise isn’t a factor. But despite our best efforts, it’s just not really a screening space. As their business continued to grow and their bar became more busy on weeknights over the last year, we’ve been happy for them & their success but frustrated with feeling like we’re not honoring the fully inviting, respectful, and immersive experience we'd come to be known for in our first few years. The inability to create a consistent (positive) experience for our attendees every month was making us feel like failures. As a filmmaker, I (Christina) try to be super transparent about my poor experiences at festivals on this blog; and I recently started feeling like I’d write negatively about our series on the filmmaker side if my only experience with it was during one of our noisier nights. IndieWorks was originally created as a filmmaker focused & friendly alternative to a lot of the bad business I’d seen in the festival world. So, it’s extremely important to me and to us as a team that we deliver on our ideals and what we set out to do each month.

So we’ve decided to spend the first few months of our new season testing out different venues. We did this once before back in 2016, after the People Lounge shut down; we scouted & tested multiple bars & back rooms, and found that most venues (and screens) were too small to fit our audience size and/or had way too much bar noise to fit our vibe. And because we're committed to keeping screenings accessible for all, being able to rent a private space has always been a struggle (not to mention that most rentable screening spaces in the city are cold & impersonal theaters with rules against food & drinks, so wouldn’t fit our vibe anyway). Discovering The Local was a great find at the time, so part of me is sad to say goodbye. But it’s the right move to ensure the atmosphere we aspire to create every single month. Last time around, before settling on The Local, we tested Stone Creek Lounge (which is a solid space and our go-to backup, just a bit too small for our needs most months), Subject NYC (not bad but too loud), and Arlene’s Grocery (too small but a great venue for music). This time around, we’re going to start June out at Stone Creek Lounge as a buffer to explore other venues for future months. We’re really excited to test out Nuyorican Poets Cafe in July, with potential later opportunities in the works at The Creek & the Cave and Artefix NYC. We’ve reached out to others and we’ll see what comes along. If you have suggestions, please send them our way and we’ll reach out. (For criteria, here’s our blog post from our 2016 search).

Thanks for being part of our film family through the run of IndieWorks. We’re excited for this new chapter of working to make it better than ever!

And please join us to kick off our new year and celebrate Pride on June 25th!