A culture. Thatʼs how to explain the rush of hours spent at the No Budget Film Festival last weekend. With a diverse group of young adults, all sharing the one vital element of spirit in common as artists, the passion in the air seemed dangerous – bubbling and colliding in the cauldron of the weekend.
The attitude of the whole affair drawing in the rich anticipation in the atmosphere, from the young adults that poured in to Saturdayʼs Guest Panel, to Sundayʼs eventual Screening of short films. Thus, I felt the earth start to shake as I attended the No Budget Film Festival.
The No Budget Film Festival is an event geared at up-and-coming artists looking to get into the professional film industry to show what theyʼre made of. These young hipsters range from Composers, DPʼs, Writers, Directors, and so on, and of their social networking, sixteen short films were selected to be screened and judged at Los Angelesʼ Downtown Independent Movie Theater. A formidable and social occasion, itʼs unique angle was making it a two-day event, and injecting a sort of ʻred carpetʼ feel. What was so fantastic was the element of the ʻBlack Tie Eventʼ- upped on energy and light on rules. I got the impression that anything could happen – a great way to feel at an event like this!
Kickstarting it with a panel of guests, some well known, others not, at the felicitous “Last Bookstore” the aptly titled “Bonus Features” panel gave berth to both insight and a few frustrations. There were three panels: First being a Q & A with four people who run film festivals themselves. There wasnʼt really any insight given from any of them during the actual questioning. They all acted either overly excited, or shamelessly cynical, and it was hard to get a definite hook on what they were conveying to the attending audience. The sum of their lectures was “donʼt be overt in your presentations” or “If you canʼt do it well, donʼt do it” in regards to presentation of a film. I guess it would really depend on how great the film festival, to decipher the validity of their statements, but that panel only kicked open the door for the next one.
The second panel that day was the “Spinning the Web” panel with artists that have made names for themselves creating “Webseries.” Informative and very liberal, the panel was buoyant and full of energy, but lacked the more formal etiquette. The main speakers cursed up desert storms and were full of jests that would have been better suited for around the water cooler than at a industry gathering. Furthermore, the attitude of the panelists was one of apathy. The general gist of this Q & A was that you donʼt have to work very hard to get a webseries off the ground. Whether or not they were being jocose, it wasnʼt amusing. It gave credence to the ever-growing fear of mine, that the hard work to get into the industry is lost in the recent generations. Jane Espensen, a welcome talent on the panel, and her webseries partner, Brad Bell (their webseries is Husbands) were the only panelists who spoke with any regard of responsibility. There was a slighted sense that the digital age will be here sooner than we think. I hope thatʼs not the case; there are still other boundaries we as people have to overcome. One of these would be women coming into power. Which brings me to…
The final panel. This panel was about the “Stereotype” of women in prominent positions in the Industry. By far the most influential panel, these woman (Jane Espensen being one of them) answered questions about starting family, working their way up, and finally being called upon for successful roles in the entertainment business. Questions were raised regarding stamina and ethic among the male dominated world, and each women answered in the same tone: Non – sexually. The whole idea set by this particular panel was that people in the industry are people; that men and women are capable of accomplishing the same feats while working professionally in the film industry. This was a panel worthy of Rachel Maddox, Anderson Cooper, or HIlary Clinton. Seriously, it was the most important panel, considering whatʼs going on in this country. It helped too that the panel was comprised of “older” generation Hollywood such as writer Jane Espensen, Diana Ritchey, and an Executive at Fox TV, of all studios. Younger panelists included the vivacious Tarin Anderson- cinematographer for successful commercials and a rarity in the industry. Insights met with feminine muscle to provide a progressive, open-minded panel that was both the perfect way to close the events of the day, and what great business in L.A. is all about!
The following evening provided Los Angeles with the widely touted event of the screening. This was the place to see and be seen. The black tie event was done up to the nines in shimmering attitude and bedazzling beauty, that was brought upon not by physical looks, but once again, by the passion in the air. Hipsters of all types sizzled and scoured the Downtown Independent Theater, blazing the streets with uncompromising personalities and iron wills. A noticeable red carpet lay outside the exhibition hall, where the collision of these dreamers met with attractive tin types, sure to conquer all forms of internet networking sites. But the core of all this was the panel of judges that perched in the upstairs lounge like diamonds in the rough.
This group of fine tuned industry regulars included Actor-Producers Rider Strong and Shiloh Strong. What I feel was really important, is why they became involved in a limitless, but small coordination like the No Budget Film Festival, and to hear the perky Shiloh Strong explain it was engaging to say the least. “I look for a good story, acting, of course, [but mostly] innovation. A film where the medium lends itself to the story.” Likewise, panelist Joe Garner chimed in, “I look for a real point of view. Something thatʼs really original.” Both of them really terrific reasons for sporting around an almost voluntary position. It was truthfully touching to have panelists with their expertise laying the groundwork for whatʼs acceptable and what isnʼt. Another representation of where culture has taken the industry in this generation, and what followers are drawn to.
That brings us to the films themselves. Some of them were quite tedious to be honest- throwing phrases and derogatory terms to try and emit a laugh from the audiences. Quite peevish attempts fell short (despite a few snickers from the audience) and are not at all worthy of even being accepted into a film festival of any kind. The first short, which shall remain nameless, was the worst at that. However, others were pleasant surprsises. There was one short that used animation very effectively (Chocolate Bacon), and a short that featured exemplary use of split screen and voice-overs (Happy Hour), but the real gem of the whole event was the comical, yet oddly poetic short, titled Carrie: The Artist. Written and directed by Drew Crabtree, and starring Emma Fassler (who both won well deserved awards for their contribution), the short is an innovative look at the young artist today, in the great recession, trying to avoid all the cliches of esoteric work, and recognized for talent, only to see your attempts mirror the cynicisms of the country, and that mirror in turn reflects in the title characterʼs ultimate downfall as an artist by the end. The picture was between five to ten minutes, but a lifetime of feelings was expressed, showing, not telling, what kind of a world it is for young struggling artists, and speaking volumes about the way they are seen. Itʼs well done for a film shot with no budget, and proves that one doesnʼt need a budget to come up with great work. If the filmmakers are smart, theyʼll submit it to further festivals, if anything for the exposure.
Cultural influence from movies has always been present in all types, to all types, and when it all comes down, the No Budget Film Festival, agree with it or not, proves to be exciting and socially relevant to where the film industry is headed. Itʼs tasteful, and the people involved are sincere in their intentions for it (the sponsorship alone is impressive, given the title of the festival is ʻNo Budgetʼ), and everyone who submits is a winner in their own right, regardless of whether they win acclaim, accolades, or accordance. So, in effect, submissions to the No Budget Film Festival do prove to be labors of love, making the No Budget Film Festival one of the most opulent experiences an artist can venture.