Well, it’s been a week since the opening night of the Hallowscreen Film Festival. I couldn’t have written this up any earlier, I was beat down dead exhausted after months of scrambling and relatively little sleep. Once the Sarasota Fringe Film Festival bowed out of the Hallowscreen, I didn’t have that much time to pull the festival together, especially considering how I’d never been in charge of a film festival before. I’ve run 35mm projection for the Sarasota Film Festival, but that’s a completely different animal. They, for one, have staff. I had only me, really, to organize and get the word out. Denise Kowal, the head of the Avenida de Colores, who was running the Sarasota Chalk Festival, was kind enough to support Hallowscreen. She had enough to worry about with her massive amazing event and yet, she managed to help me out tremendously!
Unfortunately, some of my plans didn’t work out. I tried to get I Am Nancy for the festival and I tried to hook up with Fangoria, but IAN didn’t work out timing-wise and there just wasn’t enough money to do any advertising with Fango. For what little time I had, I think I managed to pull off an amazing festival celebrating everything that encompasses the horror genre: cheesy bad movies, surprisingly awesome movies, scream queens, and heart...lots of heart. And guts. And various other viscera.
Every showing had at least one non-projectionist / non-staff audience member, which I think is extraordinary considering the incredible, historic event that was happening right outside the venue. I mean, we were a mere 50 feet from Edgar Mueller’s first large scale American installation! We had standing room only during the Saturday shorts package which featured the majority of our Sarasota artists: Jesse Kozel and Sage Hall with Candy, Paul Krisher with 8:59, Derek Conley and Brett Jones with a promo for The Hunted: Vindication, as well as 2:22 from Orlando filmmaker Steven Shea and myself with Without/Within. Hopefully some collaborations will be borne from the connections that were made during this festival!
The screening I arranged of Nosferatu with a brand new score performed live by my brother’s band, World Collision, was an unmitigated success! Whenever anyone came up to me and turned away as soon as they heard that I was running a horror film festival (which, let’s be honest, was nearly everyone because of Sarasota's demographics), I would tell them that they shouldn’t miss Nosferatu. According to some friends who were able to be there for it (I couldn’t leave the venue as the projection guy had to be at Nosferatu and I had no volunteers), the crowd for Nosferatu swelled to about 200 people!
No film festival can be a film festival without the actual films. Hallowscreen had some of the best in new Indie horror features such as Mel House’s Walking Distance, Barbara Stepansky’s Fugue, Adrian DeLude and Eric Nichols’ The Awakened, and Gregg Holtgrewe’s Dawning. Our special screening of the classic Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama to honour Brinke Stevens as our Queen of Hallowscreen was a hit!
Though I was sort of volunteered into the role of program director for the festival, I did my best to take up the challenge. I’ve done just about everything else for a festival: I’ve been a freelance photographer, a concessionist, an usher, a projectionist, an attendee, and a filmmaker...why not try this one on for size, too? And when the Sarasota Fringe Film Festival bowed out leaving me essentially on my own, I tried my best to continue on and put on the best show I could. I’m sure I made some mistakes, but they were all things I have learned from for the future, assuming, of course, that I do this again next year...which I don’t know if I will or even can.
The main goal of this festival wasn’t to make money for me. All money earned via donations went directly to the Avenida de Colores (it’s never too late to donate, by the way, just go to www.chalkfestival.com and look for the donation button or contact Denise Kowal herself via the site for more information.) Making it a free event was a GOOD idea, especially given a few of the bumps that happened during the festival such as the tremendous amount of foot traffic from artists and volunteers during the films or the band that was set up right outside our front door for thirty or forty minutes on the last day of the festival...just gotta work on that donation aspect more because I don’t think the film festival raised as much as we could’ve for the Avenida de Colores. If I were to do this again next year, I honestly wouldn’t do it for profit. I’d do it for a reputable organization like the Avenida de Colores.
Anyway, for my first time doing anything like this, I think it was a huge success! I’ve learned a lot (especially as a filmmaker, such as why 30 minutes is too long for an individual short film!) and if I DO do this next year, I think it could be even better! But I have a lot of projects lined up right now and can’t even begin to think about next year yet. One day at a time...
A huge thank you must go to Denise Kowal and the Avenida de Colores, my brother Shawn and World Collision, the people of Sarasota who shed their inhibitions and came out in support of great indie horror, Ron French and Axis Audio/Video and PC Rental for the excellent projection and sound, and to the amazing filmmakers for giving their films to an untried first year not-for-profit film festival!:
Julian Grant, Jesse Kozel and Sage Hall, Mel House, Ashley Maria, Marc Leland, Gregg Holtgrewe, Wyatt Weed, Matt Harry and Barbara Stepansky, Douglas Pritchard, Mike Sasse, Eric Nichols, Adrian DeLude, Steven Shea, Derek Conley and Brett Jones, Norman Magden, Doug Osman, Joe Kerns, Paul Krisher, Gary Ugarek, Chris Kiros, Tiffany Jackson, Shane and Derek Cole, Alex Horwitz, Tim Anderson, Brinke Stevens, Ry at Full Moon Entertainment, and all of the filmmakers in the Thirst for Blood package given to us by Asif Ahmed at the Vampire Film Festival in New Orleans!
As Rob Zombie said, “Art isn’t safe.” Support indie horror!