Entertainment Magazine: Film: The 2014 Indie Film Con

Indie Film Con 2014

By Madelyn Ritrosky

The Indie Film Con 2014 is in its second year, drawing films and filmmakers primarily from around the state of Indiana.  Like its inaugural year in 2013, the weekend program was held on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana.
Part film festival and part filmmaker education, screenings were at the state-of-the-art IU Cinema, and workshops and panels were held in the nearby Fine Arts Building.  Most films were shorts, screened in the afternoons, with two feature-length films shown in the evenings. 
Workshops and panels ran in the mornings to ensure that attendees did not have to choose between watching a film and attending an informative presentation. 
Workshops included topics like stunts and set safety, taught by Jim Dougherty, an experienced filmmaker, actor, and stunt coordinator and assistant director overseeing safety on numerous film sets.  As I write, he is on set as assistant director for a feature film, Reparation.  
Chris EllerConference organizer Chris Eller, who runs the Bloomington chapter of the Indiana Filmmakers Network (IFN), ran a workshop on his specialty, producing 3D films. 

Other workshops covered acting for the camera by Jim Dougherty, contracts for filmmakers with Steven Douglas, and intellectual property law by Daniel Cavallini (producer of Atone). 
The panel presentations imparted sage advice from numerous filmmakers:

(above) Ultra-low budget filmmaking panel.

(below) Women in Filmmaking panel.

  • Ultra-low budget filmmaking – with Leya Taylor (Found), Zack Parker (Scalene), Amy Pauszek (Ingenue), and Scott Schirmer (Found)
  • Directing – with Zack Parker (Proxy)
  • Digital cinema packaging – with Chris Eller (Z-6463)
  • Women in filmmaking – with Kate Chaplin (Ingenue and the upcoming Shoki’s Bag), Sheila Plank (Why Do Nice Guys Finish Last?), Barbara Ann O’Leary (IU Cinema), and Jessica Stone (Small Change)

Women in Filmmaking PanelSince my expertise centers on women and film, I want to add a few tidbits.  For those who are unaware, it may come as a shock just how few inroads women have made into professional filmmaking more than a century after its emergence as an industry and as mass entertainment. 
The statistics, provided by filmmaker Kate Chaplin, chair of the women in filmmaking panel, reveal that Hollywood has an ongoing lousy record.  Did you know that women make up only 3% of cinematographers on Hollywood movies?  Or just 6% of directors?  Women fare a little better in independent filmmaking, but can you say “low budgets” and “limited distribution?”
While I could not see all the films at Indie Film Con, I did see a number of shorts that were creative, dramatic, well-made, or otherwise interesting.  Here are the films I had the chance to watch. 
AtoneThe creativity and emotional punch of Atone hinge on two separate but interconnected revelations, one about halfway through the 25 minutes and the biggie at the very end.  The film opens with a man of about 50 years of age, played by Jim Dougherty, posting missing person notices for a young woman who we later learn is his niece.  Allie, played by co-writer Jessica Froelich, is “missing” because she’s distraught and delusional due to a recent trauma involving her fiancé (Bret Hopkins).  Suffice it to say that the very last shot of the film answers one question while purposely flinging several more at us.  It’s maddening – in a good, tantalizing way.  (Director: Jim Dougherty; Writers: Daniel Cavallini & Jessica Froelich)
SubmergeSubmerge: The Chronicles of Ni’re is the second part in a planned science fiction trilogy from new filmmaker Demetrius Witherspoon.  The weird sci-fi atmosphere, where a homeless pregnant woman (Erin Langham) finds herself “submerged” in some alternate reality, actually has clear connections to today’s headlines. 

In Submerge, it is government agents – those FBI/CIA/NSA types – who grab the central character and do nefarious things to her.  You just can’t help think of out-of-control big government, which should be a concern to all of us these days. 

Did I say the protagonist is a woman?  I did, but it’s worth repeating.  (Writer/Director: Demetrius Witherspoon) 
Another new director, this time a woman, piloted an intense family drama called Holding On.  Director Emelie Flower makes you feel the strain and stress that the central teenage girl Megan (Lauren Branam) feels trapped in an abusive home.  She feels she has only so many options to cope with or escape from her Holding Onunpleasant father (Logan Hunter).  This is not just teenage angst or intergenerational conflict.  Believe me when I say her father is as nastily violent as any abusive parent could be to his child.  A sweet family drama this is not.  (Director: Emelie Flower; Writer: Hallie Baumann)
I think the title of 2.0 is so simple that it’s superb.  The same can be said of the 3-minute story.  You know the film’s title from the screenings program, but you only see the film’s title and get the revelation of its meaning in the very last shot of the film.  I’m tempted to say it’s lushly silent, but 2.0there’s just no dialogue. 
It’s a beautifully sculpted world realized through digital visual effects.  The story (such as it is) meshes two seemingly disparate elements:  we follow a cyborg/humanoid robot – think I, Robot – jogging across a desolate desert landscape.  He comes across something.  Without giving it away, filmmaker William Reliford confirms it’s a commentary on our throwaway society.  (Writer/Director/Animator: William Reliford)
Old DOgs Never DieJim Dougherty is again director – this time, writer as well – of one of the few truly “feel-good” movies at this year’s Indie Film Con.  Old Dogs Never Die follows an older man (Steven Durgarn) as he turns 71, lives alone, and continues to mourn the loss of his wife.  He has a son (Mark Nash), daughter-in-law (Shani Salyers Stiles), and granddaughter (Maggie Williams), but Harry is missing purpose and direction in his life.  He needs something to strive for, though he only gradually comes to realize the significance it will have for him.  Who would guess that that something could be so simple as riding a bike?  Life’s little victories are indeed life’s big ones.  (Writer/Director: Jim Dougherty)
Santharia is another film about abuse, but this time it’s a husband’s emotional and physical abuse of his wife.  This story, however, incorporates a little witchcraft and special effects to spice things up and even the score.  It’s quite fun to watch someone you know as a thoughtful acting teacher portray a vicious spousal abuser – Mark Nash delivers a great turn as nasty Joe Morrow.  But in this case, the abused (Whitney Kraus Jones) exacts some otherworldly revenge.  (Writer/Director: James Wallace, Jr.)
One more film that also had a nice “feel-good” quality was a 2-minute short of stop-motion, cut-paper animation.  Sunday Doesn’t Have to be Blue is from another woman filmmaker, Laura Ivins-Hulley.  When your dog jumps on your bed, wagging her tail and eagerly dropping her leash in your lap, you simply cannot mope in bed.  Nope.  Cute.  (Writer/Director: Laura Ivins-Hulley)
The Alchemist of Montenegro is a one-man, one-small-set short that demonstrates you can be creative, stylish, and dramatic – narratively and visually – on a meager budget.  (Writer/Director: Chris Heck)
The Dream Job plays on the concept of the Native American “dream catcher.”  Here, it’s a job cleaning up others’ dreams – that also has this woman tracking her own fragments.  (Writer/Director: Jeff Moore)
Finally, After School Special is anything but – meaning don’t think family-friendly.  It’s a dark look at a young woman’s survival mechanism and unplanned revenge on the man who kidnapped her.  (Writer/Director: Troy Davis)

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