Tuesday, November 15, 2011

VFF11 Wrapup and Awards

We've finished our eleventh annual season of independent film from around the Valley and the world.  Attendance by filmmakers and the general public was strong during three days of screenings, with some sold out in advance, at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.  The filmmaker reception at Decor Art Galleries in Studio City and the launch party at J.E.T. Studios in the NoHo Arts District also were well attended.

We screened a total of 34 films, including shorts and features, documentaries and fiction.  About half had some direct connection to the San Fernando Valley, such as being a location for filming.  On closing night, we presented the following awards:

Alumni Short – MINE (Greg Thompson)
Comedy Short – FISH! (Mark Eccleston and Damian Samuels)
Dramatic Short – GHOSTS OF SYLLABLES (Javier Grillo-Marxuach)
Girls on Film – BEYOND ESSAYS (Jules Dameron)

Documentary – ADVENTURES IN PLYMPTOONS (Alexia Anastasio)
Feature – BAD ACTRESS (Robert Lee King)
Short – THE SECRET FRIEND (Flavio Alves)

As Tracey Adlai said, "Award or no award, every film in VFF11 was strong and stellar. Thank you to our fabulous filmmakers!"

We also want to thank our sponsors Kirin, Primax Mortgage, Video Symphony, The Sign Language Company, Decor Art Galleries, Creative Handbook, and Community Partners.  Special thanks to Councilmember Paul Krekorian and his staff, Vicki Nussbaum and the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, and Bryan Rasmussen of the Whitefire Theatre.  And to the volunteers, alumni judges, and everyone else who helped make VFF11 a success.

Looking ahead, we will begin accepting submissions for VFF12 in January.

For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What They’re Saying about Some Films We'll Be Showing

STALKED (Friday evening, 11/11):  Brian Morton, of Rogue Cinema, writes that “We've all seen the movies where some poor young, vulnerable woman is relentlessly stalked by a masked stranger.  Well, a new movie by Matthew Irving, Stalked, takes that premise in such a new direction that I don't know if I can tell you much about it without ruining the experience for you...but I'll try.” 

Morton gives the film his highest rating, “simply for the ending...if nothing else were good about this movie, that would earn it a great review...but it's not, everything about this short is amazing, it looks great, the acting is top notch and it's just a great short film overall!”

KISS (Saturday afternoon, 11/12):  This is the story of a naive young man who hires a lively prostitute to learn how to kiss.  As their love for one another grows, the reality of their different lives threatens to come between them.  "I wanted to do something that would challenge me in every aspect of filmmaking," says Justin Zagri, the film’s writer and director.  "I chose a controversial subject with a story that is difficult to tell in a genre I never thought I would be involved in."

The creator and director of the Action on Film Festival, Del Weston, says, "I love this film. The thought of new love mixed with jaded obsession and turned on its head by Justin makes for a beautiful film that questions everything we know about our first kiss."

HOLD THE MAYO (Saturday evening, 11/12):  In Jeffrey Williams’ short film, a beleaguered sandwich store clerk's bad day gets worse when a customer returns to prove the adage, The Customer is Always Right.  In this case, horribly, horribly, right.  Mark L. Miller, of Ain’t It Cool News, writes that this “is definitely one of those devious little films that outshine a lot of the dull full length horrors out there… This little short deserves an audience!"  Ajay Singh, of the Eagle Rock Patch, writes that "lurking beneath the plain violence is a mocking—and to many, shocking—humor of Hitchcockian proportions."

But Jeffrey’s personal favorite quote, sort of a badge of honor for this genre, is from a rejection letter from another film festival:  "The graphic scenes of violence and cannibalism may be too gruesome for all but the staunchest of horror fans.  The editing, however, was strong, as was the camera work."

LEGACY (Sunday afternoon, 11/13):  This is a short film about a young man being released from prison after twenty years, and being forced to confront the person who set him up...his own brother.  Jessica Ordoñez, the film’s director, describes it as “a modern-day Cain and Abel story about two brothers, betrayal and redemption.”

The film is a manifestation of her personal philosophy about filmmaking:  “I want to make films that will lift my audience up and make them realize the miracle of life; films that show a view of compassion, faith and understanding.  I am very persistent and passionate about which path I choose to follow. For me, film is one of the basic forms of storytelling; it merges the audience with a vision, a world designed inside the head of the director.”

Edited by James Latham
For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Three to See at VFF11

Here are three terrific feature-length films on our program.  Check out our website for more on these and the rest of our independent films from around the Valley and the world.

Few Options (Saturday night, 11/12/11):
Kenneth Johnson plays Frank Connor, a good man who made a big mistake and is finished paying his debt to society, or so he thought.  After more than twenty years in prison, Frank returns to Van Nuys to restart his life, but gets stuck.  He can’t get a decent job or place to live, even a driver’s license.  Life has passed him by, though some things remain the same.  He gets work as a security guard at a seedy strip club run by his old crime partners, and they take advantage of him, knowing he has few options.

A thoughtful, simmering drama about a man struggling to start over and do the right thing, with a strong yet nicely understated performance by Kenneth Johnson.  Rainn Wilson has a small but solid role as the cousin who reluctantly lets Frank live in his garage, so long as nobody can see him. 

If you’re tired of crime films with lots of action and little else, here’s a grownup character-driven film with an engaging story.  An L.A. premiere from director George Pappy.  For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.

Rats & Bullies (Sunday afternoon, 11/13/11):
A distraught teen takes what she thinks is her only option, and, sadly, it’s her last.  This documentary traces the events leading up to fourteen-year old Dawn-Marie Wesley’s suicide in 2000 due to bullying.  As The Huntington Beach Independent writes, the film “explores the secret world of teenage behavior, addressing violence as well as intimidation through less explicit means, such as rumor spreading, shunning and gossip.”  It also explores how bullying can affect whole communities and what can be done about it, including legal action.

This is the L.A. premiere of the film Cassidy R. McMillan and Ray Buffer made to help expose bullying and prevent it.  For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.

Bad Actress (Sunday night, 11/13/11):
This is a dark comedy about has-been TV actress Alyssa Rampart-Pillage, played by Beth Broderick, and her dysfunctional family.  Her husband Bernie is the appliance king of the Valley, and Alyssa’s career has been reduced from the glamorous “HMO Nurse” series to appearing in his TV commercials.  Things go awry when their daughter, aptly named Topanga, leads a protest against the family business because the appliances aren’t environmentally friendly.  After Topanga dies in a tragic golf ball incident, Bernie has a spiritual awakening and tries to give away the family fortune, but Alyssa intervenes.  Events spiral as people die, or go to jail, and Alyssa’s career is revived. 

Spoofing contemporary pop and celebrity culture, including the crazy actress and the family and friends she harms, this film has some similarities to movies like Serial Mom and Mommie Dearest, but with a Valley touch.  Directed by Robert Lee King, who also directed Psycho Beach Party.  Cameo by Corbin Bernsen.  For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.

By James Latham
For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

One of the VFF11 Films: George Bradshaw on “Public Museum”

By James Latham
Among the several short films we’re screening this year is Public Museum, a comedy about a smug and jaded museum curator who’s been downsized. Dropped from a prestigious big city museum of natural history due to an exhibit he did on lesbian lizards, he finds himself in a “transitional job” at an oddball natural history museum somewhere in small-town middle America. Seeking to revive his career, he must confront an embarrassingly bizarre museum collection, an eccentric staff, and his own pomposity and fear of failure.

George Bradshaw wrote and directed Public Museum, and I wanted to talk with him about the film and some related issues, including his career in marketing and advertising. George has had over fifteen years of experience working as a Creative Director specializing in entertainment, fashion, and sports. Public Museum is his first film.

James Latham:  You’ve screened Public Museum at some other festivals, including Cannes’ Short Film Corner, and are now developing a feature-length version as well as a documentary on the contemporary democratization of art.  But your professional background is in marketing / advertising. What motivated you to go into filmmaking, and how has your background helped or challenged you in that process?

George Bradshaw:  Initially, what motivated me to go into filmmaking was watching Star Wars at a drive-in from the hood of my parents’ car in 1977.  The wish of someday working with / for George Lucas is also why I went to graduate school at Pratt Institute for my MFA in Computer Graphics.  I guess you could say I owe a lot of inspiration to the other “George.”  In the end, I chose a different path as a Creative Director on Park Avenue in the marketing world.  It was a great way to cut my teeth as a “big idea” generator, copywriter and business person, as well as the director of a group of talented creative people…all transferrable skills to filmmaking.

JL:  Is this a career change for you, or are you keeping the day job and adding filmmaking to your professional repertoire?

GB:  I currently divide my time evenly between being a creative director, filmmaker and songwriter.  I have so many creative ideas that I perpetually feel like I am running out of time.  At this moment, specifically, I am doubly focused on the film side because I am very proud of Public Museum and hope to bring joy to people by showing it.

JL:  It’s a little simple to say, but Public Museum sort of mixes aspects of Night at the Museum with Fargo. What inspired you to do this particular film?  Have you or your colleagues on the film worked much in museums, or lived in small-town America?

GB:  Firstly, I am humbled to be in the same sentence as those two terrific films. Thank you. The initial inspiration for Public Museum came from an art installation in Grand Rapids, MI called Michigan: Land of Riches, the great film This is Spinal Tap (obviously) and my own life as a New Yorker who moves to the mid-west.  My brief experience working in an actual museum was an internship at The Cape Ann Historical Association in Gloucester, MA, which is a terrific little museum.  But I did grow up in a family of artists and musicians in a small-town, and then spent many years in the Big Apple, so I have always been surrounded by art and culture.  I can’t tell you how many times I had to sing and/or play my guitar in front my whole family at Christmas!  Fortunately, I had my brother Robert Bradshaw to commiserate with, who has since gone on to become one of the world’s most recognizable living classical composers. He was gracious enough to do the music for Public Museum. Isn’t nepotism great?!

JL:  It can be.  Did you get to film in an actual museum?

GB:  We had the generous support of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, who granted access to their former headquarters – a historic Art-Moderne, WPA-era building – for our location. The building is extraordinary and added to Public Museum’s authenticity. It also became another very interesting character in the piece.

JL:  For the main character in Public Museum, his new job is a personal and professional hell.  But there are in fact advantages to working in small, obscure places. For instance, it can give you freedom to experiment and grow yourself and the organization without all the pressures, bureaucracy, and politics of a big institution. What’s your experience been with the merits of working in small and obscure vs. big and famous?

GB:  That’s a difficult question. There are merits and challenges to both. The philosopher Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  Nice work if you can get it.  Our main character, Spencer Cheese, would probably say that he prefers “big and famous” companies over “small and obscure” ones for the remuneration, growth and networking opportunities – none of which he has in his new job at Public Museum.  I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with huge, global clients during my days as an Executive Creative Director in a Park Avenue ad agency. I have been equally fortunate to juxtapose this experience with my newer experience working on short films and documentaries. Both provide fulfillment and enrichment for different reasons.

JL:  You screened the film at the Short Film Corner organized by the Festival de Cannes.  How does your experience there compare to the other festivals you've done?

GB:  It was truly an honor to be a part of Cannes in a small way. The Short Film Corner is a professional area not in competition. Public Museum has also screened at the Grand Rapids Film Festival, and we are very excited to be a part of The Valley Film Festival, too.  It is a privilege to screen at every festival because there are so many talented filmmakers making movies.  The good news is that there are a lot of festivals to choose from and advantages to screening at both small and large.  One might attract bigger names.  The other might be friendlier and more approachable.  I have only attended a few festivals, so I am by no means an expert, but every festival that I have taken part in has been run by a supportive community championing the art of filmmaking. The trick is to make a good movie and get in.

Another notable festival in which I have participated is the Nantucket Film Festival, which was an amazing experience.  My writing partner, Stephen Garvey, and I wrote a script called 9/11 Kevin that was honored with a staged reading in 2005.  We are currently working with Jace Alexander, Tom Cavanagh, Jim Gaffigan and their excellent teams to bring it to the big screen.

JL:  Are you planning to expand Public Museum into a feature?

GB:  I have a feature version idea that I am very excited about.  Hopefully, someone in the movie biz will see the possibilities in Public Museum (the great Paul Feig, are you out there?) and reach out.  But as Rick Page says, “hope is not a strategy,” so I am going to work really, really, really hard, too.

JL:  I worked for several years at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, first as an intern and then a gallery lecturer, and can say that your film does capture some of the oddities of museum culture.  But there are a lot more character types, issues, and situations that you could potentially mine for laughs. Any ideas for doing that?

GB:  I think that Spencer would join a Klezmer band that plays all Beatle covers called The Maccabeatles. Just kidding!  We have created a funny and interesting sandbox with Public Museum and I would welcome the chance to play in it for 90 minutes. There are a million ways to go because the museum world is so unique and ripe for parody. That said, it is also an incredibly relatable world because we have all had to negotiate the political waters of a job we hate at some moment in our careers. This is Spencer’s moment.

JL:  Tell us about the documentary you’re developing on the contemporary democratization of art.  What issues are you addressing?  What’s your POV?

GB:  This is a passion project of mine that will ask the question, “What is the public’s role in art?”  I am sure that if Spencer was asked, he would turn up his nose and snap, “None at all!” Coming from the point-of-view of an artist who wants people to experience and enjoy his work as much as possible, however, I’d have to disagree with him…respectfully, of course.


Public Museum will screen at the Valley Film Festival on Friday, October 11th, at 9:30 p.m., accompanied by the feature We Gotta Get Buscemi. To learn more about Public Museum, see its Facebook page. For more on George Bradshaw, check him out on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Party Like It’s The Valley: Social Events for VFF11

Mark your calendar.  Here are the party events for next week:

MEET THE FILMMAKERS - Wednesday, 11/9 @ 7pm-9pm
(Filmmakers and Invited Guests only.)
@ Decor Art Gallery
12149 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, CA 91604
(Laurel and Ventura. Free parking behind gallery in CVS parking lot)

LAUNCH PARTY - Thursday, 11/10 @ 8pm-11pm
(The More the Merrier!)
@ J.E.T. Studios
5126 Lankershim Blvd.
NoHo Arts District, CA 91602
(Lankershim, just south of Magnolia)

CLOSING NIGHT PARTY / AWARDS - Sunday, 11/13 @ approx 9pm-Midnight
(7:00pm Ticket Holders and Invited Guests only.)
@ Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(Ventura Blvd. @ Sunnyslope)

For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Countown to VFF11...T-Minus 13 Days

It seems like only yesterday we started the "T-Minus 100 Days" countdown, yet here we are with our 11th annual showcase less than two weeks away. This weekend alone we have a to-do list of 61 action-required items. You may think we're joking, but we're not.  Seriously. By Sunday night, we need every item on the list checked-off as completed or to be completed by November 1st.

Our main focus this weekend has been on the technical side of our upcoming screenings. We've reassigned the team lead and the wheels are in motion, with a contingency plan in place.  We can exhale now.

Another big rock for us this week is our print deadline! Almost forgot about it. Our creative edits have been submitted for the artwork and we've asked all sub-committee coordinators to get us the names of their volunteers for the program.

What else can we can share? Oh, ticket sales! They're in full swing right now and we're very happy to report that our final screening, Bad Actress, is almost sold out. As of this morning, we had 20 tickets left. Get 'em while you can. And if you follow us on Twitter, you may see an opportunity come up for some free tix. Just sayin'...

The usual updates to the website and a list of social media outlets is also on the to-do, including MySpace. Really! Don't judge.

The longest section of the list is devoted to special events, including our filmmaker party, opening night event, after-hours parties, panels, food trucks, in-kind donations, booze, and more parties!  We think we have our bases covered but if you have an idea, please chime in. 

VFF11 runs November 11-13 at The Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.  Screenings run daily. Tickets are $10-$15.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Announcing The Valley Film Festival’s 2011 Program

We are now ready to announce our eleventh annual lineup of cinema so independent it can be found only in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley!

With over 30 films on our program, including eighteen premieres and five foreign films, the VFF continues to showcase independent cinema from around the Valley and the world.  Our selections include a range of short and feature-length films, both documentaries and fiction.  VFF Founder and Director, Tracey Adlai, says that this was “by far the most competitive year, making our selections that much harder.  We wish we could screen everything.”

The VFF continues to promote local independent production, with over fifteen films made by San Fernando Valley residents and/or in the Valley or about it.  Filmed in Van Nuys, FEW OPTIONS, an L.A. premiere directed by George Pappy, is a gritty drama starring Kenny Johnson (“The Shield,” “Sons of Anarchy”) as an ex-con starting over with everything against him.  FEW OPTIONS also features Erin Daniels (“The L Word”) and Rainn Wilson (“The Office”).

The Festival’s documentary showcase includes the L.A. premiere of RATS & BULLIES, the powerful story of fourteen-year old Dawn-Marie Wesley, who, after being repeatedly bullied and receiving death threats at school, hung herself with her dog’s leash. Filmed in Canada and the U.S., this film documents the horrifying incident that outraged a nation and led to a groundbreaking court case in which, for the first time in North America, teens stood trial for bullying.  Also featured is Alexia Anastasio’s ADVENTURES IN PLYMPTOONS!, a profile of animator Bill Plympton.

The “Girls on Film” program of short films includes the U.S. premiere of THE SAFEST PLACE FOR FRUIT IS IN CARMEN MIRANDA’S HAT, a comedy about not fitting in with society’s expectations, directed by Kal Bonner.

Formerly known as (818), the VFF11 closing night feature, BAD ACTRESS, directed by Robert Lee King (“Psycho Beach Party”), is a dark comedy starring Beth Broderick (“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” “Lost”) as a has-been TV star living in The Valley.  Her career is revived when she’s accused of killing her husband, played by Chris Mulkey (“Saving Grace,” “Twin Peaks”).  The VFF has paired this film with THE POTENTIAL WIVES OF NORMAN MAO, a comedy short directed by Derek Nguyen and narrated by George Takei (“Star Trek”).

In addition to screenings, we provide educational panels, social mixers, and awards.  The juried "Ten Degrees Hotter" award is for one short and one feature from a competitive section.  Additionally, there is an award for short films, in the non-competitive section, as chosen by the audience.

Tracey Adlai says that she is “excited to return to Sherman Oaks” for three days, beginning November 11th, at the Whitefire Theatre, located at 13500 Ventura Blvd., in the Restaurant Row District.  Tickets are $10-$15.  

The Valley Film Festival 2011 Program


7:00 pm – Alumni Shorts Program (Dessert & Suicide, The Further Adventures of Cupid & Eros, League of S.T.E.A.M: Zed’s Clutter Calamity, Made in Japan, Mine, Stalked)

9:30 pm – Feature Program: We Gotta Get Buscemi with Public Museum


11:00 am – Panel TBA (topical to independent filmmaking)

1:00 pm – Dramatic Shorts Program (Ghost of Syllables, Kiss, Live for the Day!, Method Actor, Mirk Riders, Valley Relics)

3:30 pm – Documentary Program: Adventures in Plymptoons! with TBA

7:00 pm – Feature Program: Few Options with The Secret Friend

10:30 pm – Comedy Shorts Program (Fish!, The Gran’ Scam of Things, Hold the Mayo, The Hunter, Mrs. Christmas, Two Broken Hearts)


11:00 am – Panel TBA (topical to independent filmmaking)

1:00 pm – “Girls on Film” Shorts Program (12 Hours, 52 Seconds, Beyond Essays, Legacy, Mind the Gap, The Safest Place for Fruit is in Carmen Miranda’s Hat)

3:30 pm – Documentary Program: Rats & Bullies with Red Princess Blues

7:00 pm – Closing Night Feature Program: Bad Actress with The Potential Wives of Norman Mao

For more information and tickets, visit www.ValleyFilmFest.com.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Countdown to VFF11: T-Minus 40 Days...Short Films From A to Z

We're updating our website to reflect the awesome programming we have lined up next month, and we're not quite ready to unveil it.  In the meantime, we thought we'd get you excited for the 2011 Valley Film Festival by giving you a sneak preview of our short films...from A to Z.

12 HOURS (Director, Ester Brym)
Originally shot for Ridley Scott's "Life in a Day," the global experiment to create the world's largest user-generated feature film, Ester Brym (VFF10 Butterflies) returns to VFF with 12 HOURS, the story of one girl's day and what happens when you walk a small dog in a big city.

52 SECONDS (Director, Lauren Nadler)
Sometimes it takes less then a minute to know...52 SECONDS stars Zaki Rubenstein as a woman who imagines an entire relationship with a stranger, while on the train.

BEYOND ESSAYS (Director, Jules Dameron)
We first met filmmaker Jules Dameron on Twitter (@JulesDameron) promoting the VFF10 film Deaf Perception. Earlier this year, we had a chance to learn more about her organization, Deaf Women in Film, and are thrilled to screen her ASL short about a student and teacher, each with their own agenda.

DESSERT & SUICIDE (Producer, Ashley Cozine)
We love it when filmmakers meet at VFF and collaborate together.  Producer, Ashley Cozine (VFF10 By the Numbers), and writer, Sahag Gureghian (VFF06 Madame Priscilla's /VFF08 The Birthday Gift), teamed up for this dark comedy about a blind date gone awry. 

FISH! (Co-Director, Damian Samuels)
Making its West Coast Premiere at VFF, FISH! is a short comedy written and directed by Mark Eccleston and Damian Samuels about a chef with big dreams, a big fish, and an insatiable mermaid. 

Filmmaker Avi Glijanksy (VFF09 Raymond Carver Moments) returns to VFF with this modern mythological tale of Cupid and his colleague, Eros, practicing what they preach.

GHOST OF SYLLABLES (Producer, Sarah Baker)
Another alum returns to VFF!  Sarah Baker (VFF07, 'Tis the Season) joins forces with Javier Grillo-Marxuach ("The Middleman") for a short film set to Admiral Radley's "Ghosts of Syllables."

THE GRAN' SCAM OF THINGS (Director, Leor Baum)
We've all received a Nigerian scam email congratulating us on winning the local lottery or soliciting us to facilitate the move of millions from one bank account to another.  THE GRAN' SCAM OF THINGS explores what happens when an elderly woman opens an email that leads her into the welcoming arms of an international crime ring.

HOLD THE MAYO (Director, Jeffrey Williams)
A beleaguered sandwich store clerk's bad day gets worse when a customer returns to prove the adage, The Customer is Always Right.  In this case, horribly, horribly, right. (Coincidentally, HOLD THE MAYO features Damian Samuels of FISH! See above.)

THE HUNTER (Director, Jason Korsner)
When a radio phone-in dating-doctor finds that he has no date for Valentine's Day, he sets out to change that, using all the tips and advice he dishes out on air.  But when he tries to put his tricks-of-the-trade into action, he finds it's not so easy to practice what he preaches.

KISS (Director, Justin Zagri)
Shot in North Hollywood, KISS is the story of a naive young man who hires a lively prostitute to learn how to kiss.

Our favorite monster hunters from the Victorian era return to VFF!  If you enjoyed VFF10's Fool's Gold, you'll love Zombie Zed and his misadventures cleaning up the house.

LEGACY (Director, Jessica Ordonez)
After 20 years in prison, a young man is released and forced to confront the person who set him up...his own brother.  Made in the (818)!

LIVE FOR THE DAY (Producer, Ron Rogge)
Ron Rogge has had too many films in VFF for us to count!  This year, he brings us a drama based on a true story.  One of the last moments of life, given to inspire another to not just live for today, but also pursue those dreams without excuses, and Live for the Day!

MADE IN JAPAN (Director, Ciro Altabás)
Last year, he entertained us with A Practical Guide for Imaginary Friends, and this year, Ciro leads us on an unusual journey when his lead actor learns that his father is not his father.

METHOD ACTOR (Director, Justin Stokes)
A powerful short film presenting the monologue of a single actor (John Shrapnel).  Through his reminiscences, the audience gets an insight into a dark, confused and embittered mind.

MIND THE GAP (Director, Kristal Williams)
This dramatic short film follows 16-year old Sara as she grapples with her father's inadvertent involvement in a classmate's suicide.

MINE (Director, Greg Thompson)
Three friends abandon the city for a little vacation and soon draw the attention of an unwelcome stranger; a man who will teach them that in order to survive in the desert, one must follow the rules – his rules.  Greg Thompson last screened Down a Dark Road at VFF08!

MIRK RIDERS (Director, David Becker)
Seen through the eyes and memory of band leader, Eve, as she leads her band mates through the desert after their last show of their tour.  A car problem sends the band into an unwinding downward spiral. 

MRS. CHRISTMAS (Producer, Brad Bucklin)
In this dark comedy, Alice and Jennifer, the "unofficial" welcome committee of Holyfield, drop in on new neighbor, Mary, to explain the established rules of the community.

OMERO BELLO-DI-NONNA (Producer, Blue Suede Shoots)
All the way from Italy, Omero is a grown up child living with his beloved grandmother.  His life takes place in a world of fantasies, heroes and magic creatures.  When his grandma suffers a diabetic attack, he is forced to get out of the apartment and face the outside dangers in order to call for help and save her.

A quirky and heartwarming short film narrated by the legendary George Takei (Star Trek), Norman Mao is an overweight, and socially-awkward man-child from Hong Kong, who at the age of 33 is still unwed.  Desperate to get him married, his parents take him on an international junket across the globe to find him a worthy Chinese wife. 

PUBLIC MUSEUM (Director, George Bradshaw)
In 2010, a film crew documented Public Museum’s grand reopening after 16 years, having closed its doors in 1994 to watch the O.J. Simpson trial.

RED PRINCESS BLUES (Director, Alex Ferrari)
In this twisted modern day fairy tale, Zoe, a young teenage girl, is lured into an after hours carnival tent by the sleazy rock n roll carnie, Rimo.  It's up to the mysterious princess to pull young Zoe out of the wolf's den she has fallen into.

A quirky, narrated tale about the weak against the strong, the different against the 'norm' and the difficulties of not fitting in with society's expectations.

THE SECRET FRIEND (Director, Flavio Alves)
A reclusive, elderly widow, Anna Marshall (Viola Harris, Deconstructing Harry), lives in quiet desperation following her husband’s death, until she begins receiving daily phone calls from a silent stranger.

STALKED (Producer, Cindy Baer)
Cindy Baer was last seen at VFF08 in Morbid Curiosity and returns to the (818) with this thriller shot in the (212).

TWO BROKEN HEARTS (Director, Giannis Georgiou)
A black musical comedy about two lonely souls who meet in a train, have some drinks and decide to share a room. Then, everything goes wrong

VALLEY RELICS (Director, Tony Tomasino)
This narrative pays homage to relics of the San Fernando Valley.

Hey, don't forget to "like" us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and join us November 11-13, 2011 at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks for some truly amazing indie film.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keeping it Personal at Shriekfest: Denise Gossett on Running a Successful Independent Film Festival

By James Latham

Based here in L.A., the Shriekfest Film Festival specializes in horror, thrillers, Sci Fi, and fantasy films. In addition to showing shorts and features, Shriekfest also has award categories for screenplays and filmmakers under eighteen. I recently spoke with Denise Gossett, who founded Shriekfest eleven years ago and continues to run the festival, which takes place this year from September 29th to October 2nd. I wanted to learn more about one of our fellow local film festivals, and to indulge my inner geek.

James Latham:  Your festival’s genres used to be sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of movies, often getting no respect.  But that’s changed a lot.  What are some lingering misconceptions about the genres you screen, or their audiences?

Denise Gossett:  Horror is still considered the lowly genre, but that is changing....with better scripts, strong acting, and the amount of money these films can bring in.  Horror is not so cheesy anymore, nor is SciFi for that matter...with the help of computer graphics. 

JL:  As a woman running a festival for films that traditionally have tended to be male-centric, what key changes have you seen in the last ten years with women as producers and consumers of these films?

DG:  There are many more women filmmakers, directors, writers, producers.  It's wonderful.  Men are digging the strong, talented women who are into the same genres they are.  And, it's changing the formats of the typical horror film too; the characters are stronger, not so weak, the stories are smarter and not so exploitative. 

JL:  How easy or difficult has it been to attract distributors to attend Shriekfest?  

DG:  It’s been very easy...that is part of the perks of submitting to our festival...we give out referrals all year long.  95% of all films (shorts included) that have screened at Shriekfest have gotten distribution!

JL:  That’s terrific.  What is it about the festival that has yielded such great results?  And what sort of distribution?  Do these films tend to generally do better than other genres, because their primary appeals are often visual and physical (less verbal), so they cross barriers of culture and language better than, say, romantic comedies?

DG:  Well, Shriekfest screens quality films and the distributors have come to know that, so they come to the fest and scoop up our films.  Many of the features that were submitted this year already have distribution via a referral from Shriekfest!  These genres do tend to do better than most genres...there is a HUGE following in horror and scifi and these fans are loyal...they are willing to fork over money to buy an unknown's DVD.  It's refreshing.

JL:  What makes for a great film festival?  Which is your favorite one, besides Shriekfest and, of course, The Valley Film Festival?

DG:  I think a great film festival should be personal, hands on, treat the filmmakers and screenwriters with respect, go out of their way to help further the careers of the submitters, and be organized and timely with their schedules.

JL:  When you first started Shriekfest eleven years ago, there weren’t many horror film festivals around.  Now they’re all over the world, and even several here in L.A.  Some of them are pretty specialized.  How does Shriekfest fit into that universe?  Besides the screenplay awards, what else distinguishes your festival from the others?

DG:  Well, the under 18 category and the fact that we truly champion indie filmmakers!  We don't cater to studio films or star laden projects.  That's not to say our films don't have some stars in them, but there is a difference.  The big boys don't need the recognition, the indie filmmakers do.

JL:  A flip side to that question is whether you have or would want to collaborate with any other festivals, whatever their film genres.  Regardless of that, what are some ways that festivals in general realistically can / should collaborate in a mutually beneficial way?

DG:  Hmmm...that is a good question.  Sure, we'd be open to it if it was to everyone's benefit.    It's tough, we've had festivals approach us through the years, but if the festivals aren't on an equal grounding, then it's not beneficial to both entities.

JL:  Your interview with Altered Realities Radio (podcast link on the Shriekfest website) covers a lot of ground.  Shriekfest also has active Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace accounts.  Tell me about how social media have worked (or not) for you.  Any advice for other festivals on how to best leverage these media?

DG:  It's amazing...I cannot believe how quickly word travels with social media!  It has to be used, daily...not every now and again.  You have to be personal with your followers and help them as well.  It can't be all about you.  Share, retweet, help out others.

JL:  After eleven years, what keeps you doing it year after year?  What synergies does your career as an actress provide you in running a film festival?

DG:  Well, it's tough; as an actor first and foremost I am very busy.  I am also a Mom and it all becomes a juggling act.  The people are the main reason I keep doing it...our following...I don't want to let them down.

JL:  What were some of the bigger challenges you’ve overcome in creating and running Shriekfest? 

DG:  The balancing act of life and the full time job of a festival and all that goes into running it....I don't think people realize how much time and effort go into it, especially if you do it personally.  And, by that, I mean keeping all correspondence personal.


The Shriekfest Film Festival takes place this September 29th - October 2nd.

For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.