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DIY Screenings & Niche Film Festivals


Last week when I wrote of the importance of online peer-to-peer content curation, I forgot to mention that we shouldn't lose sight of the communal experience of moviewatching. In fact, because the general mass-going film festival experience has grown too big for its own good, now is the perfect time for to seek or create some niche programmed (underground) film festivals. For example take MoFest, a weekend long festival (April 16-17 at the Portage Theater in Chicago) that focuses on the works created by industry folk from the Midwest. This fest describes itself as being "dedicated to the hardest working film crew in the world. We are the people who assist, grip, light, record, prepare, style, sweep, scout, iron, paint, cook, edit, design, drive, sweat, and bleed for other directors’ projects. Now it's time for OUR creativity to take center stage!”

A festival like MoFest is the direct offspring of a festival-programming universe that has lost footing with its roots. Before individuals were interested whatever Tinseltown production would grace a modest fest with its presence or how many gala or red carpet "exclusive" events a fest could host, festival-going cinephiles sought out festival films for their unique offerings, their counter commercial lineup. We always had our Blockbusters and our cable TV, but really good festivals could feed us some really good off-the-grid content. And I don't want to give the impression that important and true fests have all vanished. I just want to insist that you continue to seek out fests like MoFest and other niche programs that continue to push for alternative experiences and ultimately, a new dialogue for that kind of content.


But niche fests can't do it all on their own. Consider an organization like the Gadabout Traveling Film Festival. Gadabout's website offers this description: "The Gadabout is a nationally touring film festival that screens a program of 20+ international short films. Independent in every sense, these films share the same willingness to challenge the conventions set for filmmaking. The Gadabout is a distribution avenue for truly indie filmmakers that distrust Hollywood and the commercial film festival circuit. We are NOT a competition, rather a celebration of what is possible in independent film and video." 

A rogue fest like Gadabout pushes for the implementation of DIY Screenings. Sure, this fest conducts its own micro-tour but what Gadabout would really love to see are more local producers in various cities take the initiative. These producers would be able to exhibit the short films somewhere--anywhere--to that area's moviegoing audience. How? Well, that depends. If someone had access to a wall and a projector, a makeshift DIY screening would be ready to go. In some cases, some cavalier local producers might even have access to a showing room or a back room in a coffee house. The point is that Gadabout offers a program of selected films and wants to push for a resurgence of the REAL indie moviegoing community.

That is something to really admire. A few weeks ago, in an interview I did with DIY-Film.com, I confessed: "We need to lower our fences from each other. Why do you think Hollywood thrives? Talent works with production houses that work with major studios that work with distributors who work with exhibitors and on and on. The key is collaboration. Screenings at the Nightingale or limited runs at the Music Box shouldn’t feel elite. The cinema is a currency that should be afforded by all. Know someone with a projector? Host your own DIY cinema."

It's comforting to be reminded of the enduring spirit of my DIY peers. Long live the cinema. Now go out and share this attitude.

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