Closing up the Indy Film Fest notebook


Kate Pell addresses the audience for an Indy Film Fest filmmakers panel on July 19. - STACY KAGIWADA
  • Stacy Kagiwada
  • Kate Pell addresses the audience for an Indy Film Fest filmmakers panel on July 19.

This is Rebecca Berfanger's final dispatch from Indy Film Fest. Screenings continue through tomorrow. The fest ends July 26 with a 7 p.m. screening of the Aubrey Plaza-starring comedy Life After Beth followed by an after-party at the City Market.

With more filmmakers at this Indy Film Fest than ever before, audience members have had plenty of opportunities to hear behind-the-scenes stories and advice — at a filmmakers panel on July 19, during after-film Q&A sessions in person and via Skype, and just by milling around the box office and outside of the theaters. Here are a few stories from the Saturday's panel.

Husband and wife filmmaking duo Ryan Balas and Deirdre Herlihy were on hand to talk about Ice Saints, a movie about their own engagement and marriage. The New Yorkers put their lives and intimate moments on film over the course of about two years. Although none of it was scripted, they said in a Q&A session that they were always both aware when they were on film and would often film ongoing awkward discussions with the idea that other couples in their 20s and 30s could relate: when do they plan to have kids, if ever; will Herlihy take her husband’s last name; and will their relationship change when they are married are just a few examples.

Ice Saints TEASER from Robel Films on Vimeo.

These Hopeless Savages may be Iowa City director Sean Christopher Lewis's first feature film. (It plays for the final time at the fest Friday, July 25 at 5:15 p.m.) However, having run a theater company, he says he already had the skillset to make this film, such as organizing and directing people, and dealing with all the behind the scenes logistics.

Having a large network for shooting was a benefit, Lewis says, because his budget was only $5,000 with a shooting schedule of about one week. He says he was able to do it by calling in a few favors, like asking his friends along the film’s road trip from New York to Iowa City if he could shoot scenes at their houses. He also requested his friends to provide extras.

Two other filmmakers, Laurie Little and Mary Novak, says it helps to have access to a film community in Chicago, as well as equipment and talent from current students and recent graduates of the film school where they teach, Columbia College. Their short film, Cut Out, is about a young woman who befriends a neighborhood kid involved in gang activity.

For a couple scenes, they needed to pay for an officer and a squad car to shoot a couple scenes that feature a handgun. Unfortunately, the dispatcher who took over after a shift change was unaware of the film — and three police cars showed up on the set after neighbors called with their concerns.

Short Film CUT OUT trailer from Mary Novak on Vimeo.

While no permit was required, location was also important to first-time filmmaker Skyler Lawson of Indianapolis, who directed the short film Anon, which screens for the final time with the “Rites of Passage” shorts program  on Friday, July 26 at 11:30 a.m. He was able to film at his parents’ house just outside of Wabash, Ind., where an icy cold reservoir and vast expanses of frozen space served as a backdrop for the story of a family that was dealing with a tragedy.

ANON trailer from Skyler Lawson on Vimeo.

Lewis adds being able to shoot a location for free, something he and Lawson were able to do unlike their counterparts in New York or L.A., can be a huge benefit to filmmakers who don’t live on either of the coasts.

However, when it came to editing his film, Lewis says it was a little lonely in Iowa as he didn’t have a large film community to speak with for advice when he had questions about particular scenes. Then again, Lewis adds, smaller communities might not nave the same talent pool as a large city, but he says in smaller towns casts and crews might be more willing to work for less money and take more risks for the chance to work on a film.

For those looking to make their own movies, an overarching theme among the filmmakers is to just do it, and don’t be afraid of failure. It also helps if a filmmaker has a story he or she is passionate about and collaborates with people he or she can get along with so at least the process is worthwhile, even if the end product is just a few minutes long with only a few scenes and a few characters.

Lawson summed it up by paraphrasing two pieces of advice he read about filmmaking that struck a chord with him: “Make something that can be told only through film,” he says, and, “anybody can get to 95 percent, but it’s the last 5 percent that’s the difference between good and great.”


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