Independent filmmakers showcased at festival
In a break from its usual showings of low-budget and foreign films, Jason Graham and the Magic Theatre are showcasing 10 original films by local artists during the fourth annual Nevada County Film Festival every night through Sunday.
Unlike recent independent film favorites such as “Shakespeare In Love” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” which earn an “Indy” title because of their low-budgets in comparison to their Hollywood-produced counterparts, the films shown at this year’s festival are, as one local filmmaker said, “true grassroots independent cinema.”
“A lot of smaller films are considered independent films, but they’re really big-budget in comparison to what we do,” said Job O Brother, a 29-year-old Nevada City filmmaker.
“None of us have a producer, we’re using our own money and we’re buying our pal a sandwich if they acted for us that day. That’s about as independent as it gets,” he added.
In stark contrast to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which debuted earlier this year at a production cost estimated by Forbes Magazine of $30 million, O Brother’s 19-minute film with the same title is a comedy about friendship and only cost him $12 to make.
Ranging in length – although no film is more than 23 minutes – the films at this year’s festival capture the sometimes sarcastic and rebellious spirit of independent cinema as well as the personalities of the filmmakers.
One of the films submitted in this year’s festival offers a 20-minute parody of popular television news magazines in a documentary-style film called “Newsline.”
“Newsline” plays off of NBC’s “Dateline,” or as its maker Trevor Veralrud joked, “any news show called “Fill-in-the-blank Line,” by packaging the core components of these 60-minute news programs – “hunky hosts, enthralling story lines and more hunky hosts” – into 20 minutes, Veralrud said.
More comedies and satires are featured this year, which film festival creator Graham, 25, attributes to the nature of independent cinema itself.
“There is definitely that parody on the mainstream element in this year’s films that is really a part of the spirit of independent filmmaking,” he said. “These movies are the antithesis of Hollywood and an alternative to those movies that make millions of dollars.”
Although some of the films at this year’s festival are rebellious and address controversial issues, theater owner Jeffrey Clark is more than happy to show them as the festival is the Magic Theatre’s most successful event.
“We want people to come here and have an experience that is going to be different than one they’d have watching a video in their living room,” Clark said. “Films shown here are not going to be like the ones shown anywhere else in the community.”
Graham and the other nine filmmakers at this year’s festival have used filmmaking to offer an escape from the monotonous reel of Hollywood cinema and their own lives, O Brother said.
For 25-year-old Phil Hassan, making the film “Butterfly” helped him personally cope with the stress and sadness that came from watching his girlfriend battle cancer.
Although the story of 50-year old Jill McMurray’s “Finding Charlie” had little to do with her own life, making the film, she said, offered her an opportunity to enter Touchstone Television/ABC Directing Assignment Initiative program designed to help women earn more directing jobs in America.
Reflective of the male-dominance in the profession at-large, as she pointed out, McMurray is the only female director and filmmaker in this year’s festival.
In addition to providing an outlet to handle their frustrations in life or to express their passion for filmmaking, the festival also provides a chance for this small coterie of independent film artists to give something back to the community that supports them, Graham said.
“There is a lot of appreciation for the arts in this area,” he said. “This festival adds fuel to the artistic community and especially to the filmmakers here.”
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Nevada County Film Festival 4
WHEN: Every night through Sunday at 7:35
WHERE: Magic Theatre, 107 Argall Way, Nevada City
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