3 Picks for Indy Film Fest

Indy Film Fest kicks off today! I’ve been volunteering with the festival for many years now, and the magic that unfolds over ten days never ceases to amaze me – the community of film geeks, the traveling filmmakers, the wide range of 100 films – it’s all so transporting. While I believe the best way to take in the fest is to get an all access pass and see as many films as possible, not everyone has that kind of time. The tentpole events are always a good bet, but here are a few others that I am particularly excited about.

is the story of two transgender friends and prostitutes living in a seedy part of LA. It’s become known as the film that was shot on the iPhone.

Consider this glowing review from Fresh Air , which calls Tangerine “at once wildly funny and painfully honest about the everyday degradation and inhumanity that its characters experience,” it’s 93% Rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the fact that Indy Film Fest is donating $1 from every ticket sold to this movie to Indy Pride.


Crocodile Gennadiy
earns the distinction of being the film on the slate I’ve been waiting for the longest. I actually kickstarted it many moons ago. The director, Steve Hoover, is the same fellow behind Blood Brother, a 2013 Indy Film Fest selection. That film was heart wrenching and beautiful, and to this day, I’ve never experienced a crowd sit so still and quiet through the full credits. I imagine this one will be just as hard-hitting.


Crocodile Gennadiy Teaser from Crocodile Gennadiy Documentary on Vimeo.

A Space Program
features NY artist Tom Sachs as he hand builds a mission to Mars.

I’ve been fascinated by his work since I first saw Ten Bullets (below). One of it’s pinnacle scenes is a clip of Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glenn Ross, except instead of “Always be closing!” the overdub changes closing to knolling, which basically means to align objects in a tidy, designerly, and perhaps one might say OCD manner. Anytime we have out the art supplies for a sketch sprint or something like that, my coworkers and I find ourselves knolling.

You can warm up for this one by watching this most wonderful manual with instructions for working in the studio:

Ten Bullets, By Tom Sachs from Tom Sachs on Vimeo.

Notice anything with these picks?
They’re all incredibly different! And there are 90+ more short films, documentaries and features from as close as Indy and from all around the world too. Come by and take a chance on some wild and wonderful films!

The festival runs July 16-25, 2015 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the IMAX Theater at the State Museum. See the schedule and get tickets

For Wheel

A few years ago when Indy Film Fest started the Roving Cinema program, we really had no idea what a huge hit it would be, and what crazy corners of the city it would take us. The idea was simple: let’s show movies where the should be. And so we screened Big Lebowski in a bowling alley, Strange Brew at Sun King, Fight Club in the City Catacombs. Some of these screenings have sold out months in advance, sending a loud and clear message – people love these events.

As an all-volunteer organization, we didn’t necessarily think about the long-term needs of a program like this. Thanks to the 5×5 grant win from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, Christel DeHaan Family Foundation and the Efroymson Family Fund we were able to purchase a screen and sound equipment, allowing us to screen films anywhere. The city is our theater. Getting there is another matter…

We’ve had to depend on volunteers with big vehicles to transport the screen and sound system to all of our events. It’s a lot to ask. We’ve decided it’s high time to purchase some wheels to help the cinema rove.

If you can chip in, give here.

Then next time you come to one of the fest events across the city, you can revel in the fact that you helped make it happen!

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Apple Of Your Eye. You’ve ranted. You’ve raved. You’ve freestyled, soapboxed, and even waved a magic wand or two. Today, let’s keep it positive. Who (or what) is doing something good? Share a story of your positive action, whether it’s a favorite charity, foundation, or nonprofit – or just an individual whose penchant for do-goodery makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Heartache Over Folding Chairs

On one of the most oppressively hot days of the summer, Indy Film Fest packed a sold out crowd into the Harrison Center gym. Most of the ten day film festival took place at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, but we also programmed a few experiences where the film paired with an atypical movie venue. For a documentary about the Medora Hornets, the losingest high school Indiana basketball team – an old gym, turned art community center.

Medora screening in Indianapolis

As a tiny high school, with just a handful of talent to choose from, Medora High had built up a scrappy, underdog team. And they lost. Again and again. But “Medora” is as much about the decline of the small, rural town, and the lack of opportunities for the young people who call them home, as it is about basketball. There was a bit of trouble, here and there. A recovering alcoholic mother, getting kicked out of school, the pressing business of getting a date for the big dance. Amidst it all, the mounting pressure to win a game. It wasn’t certain if anyone would be able to stay on the team, to graduate, to hold it together. I know I barely did.

Yes, that was me, the one sobbing in the far corner of the bleachers in the back of the gym. I was glad for the dark. As the lights flickered on, I was pawing at my throat, a throbbing lump, a weighty sadness. Despite the uncertainty of their future, there they stood. Four of them in a row, two wearing their letter jackets, with their coaches and the filmmaker, Andrew Cohn.

Medora team

A couple of the boys were seeing the film for the first time. When asked their reaction, a meek reply. “It’s sort of awkward.” I can’t even imagine. I’d probably not have the courage to stand in front of a crowd after watching an hour plus of my life unfold on the silver screen. Especially if the evidence points to doom. Their town is failing, the school, shrinking. What chance do these kids have, especially if they decide they do want to stick to their Medora roots?

As the Q&A finished up and the crowd thinned out, I and the other volunteers starting grabbing the metal chairs, folding them up, and carting them over to a storage rack. Without missing a beat, the team started grabbing chairs, chipping in.

No! I thought. This is their night. They’re the stars. If my heart wasn’t fully broken for these boys by this point, I nearly lost it as I watched them dutifully shuffling chairs into place. They’d go on to celebrate the film at an after-party with family and friends. Just not until each chair was back in its place.

Watch the trailer:

Medora is available to rent here.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “Share a moment that stands out. Is it moving? Awkward? Infuriating? Ecstatic? Who was with you? Where were you?”

The Reel Deal

Indy Film Fest ReelMy love affair with movies started young. My mom loved watching old westerns, and I remember scraps of them as a sort of backdrop to my childhood. When I saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with Indy Film Fest a couple of years ago, I thought it was for the first time. After a few scenes, it all came rushing back, the movie I’d seen some thirty years before.

When we were very small, my sister Kelli and I thought we were sneaky, trying to cheat bedtime to watch movies. We even had a secret code for it – M-R-O, our hilarious attempt at adult strategy. We knew grown-ups spelled things out when they didn’t want kids to understand what they were saying and we thought we could do the same in reverse. MRO, to this day, still means “stay up late and watch movies” in my family.

My dad took Kelli and I to our first films in the theater – The Dark Crystal and the re-release of Disney’s Snow White around 1983. Soon after, we saw Jaws in 3D. We soaked up the good and the bad of 80s flicks, wearing out our VHS copy of Once Bitten with Lauren Hutton and a very young Jim Carrey. Until I was old enough to go out with friends on the weekend, every Saturday night was reserved for one of the cheesy horror flicks that my dad loved so much, followed by SNL.

In high school, I discovered Woody Allen and caught a rare foreign film screening of Like Water For Chocolate on what must have been the one weekend it screened in my hometown of Evansville, Indiana. I credit these, along with Kurosawa’s Dreams, The Graduate, Harold and Maude and a few others for showing me what film can be.

Even with all of that, I’d never have guessed how much of my spare time would be invested in movies. I volunteered for the screening committee for Indy Film Fest a few years ago and it’s been my cause of choice ever since. This year is kind of a big deal – it marks the tenth festival. As an all-volunteer organization, our board is feverishly planning events, rounding up volunteers and seeing to all kinds of details to to make this year bigger and better than ever. After a few years of focusing on marketing, I’m shifting toward fundraising for the organization.

I’m still determining my exact goals, working with the board president and the rest of the team to understand what we need for this year and beyond. Our three to five year plans call for major growth. I admit, I’m dreaming big, like HOLY CRAP, this could mark my biggest professional failure EVER sort of big.

But I also know our attendance and response to film experiences like Roving Cinema and movies at Sun King Brewery have grown tremendously. There’s a passionate tribe of movie lovers that keep showing up, talking movies with us, answering the call when we seek support.

Putting this blog post out into the world is my first step toward what will be a banner year of fundraising for Indy Film Fest. Wish me luck!

Better yet, if you want to help build something amazing for film lovers in Indy, let me know (you can email me here). I’d love to share our vision with you. If you want a few details about corporate support, here’s an overview of some of our opportunities. We’re also trying to raise a little cash to kick start our 2013 programming. Individual donations can be made here.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: What’s one step you can take to support a goal you have for 2013?



The Nooner!

The NoonerI’m stepping outside of my normal marketing and board member role at Indy Film Fest to curate some short films for a new monthly series. I’m pleased to introduce The Nooner. It’s lunch. It’s short films. It’s afternoon delight.

This has been a little pet project of mine for a while, as I’ve fretted over how little access there is to short film programming round the year in Indianapolis. I’m hoping this will change all that!

This new shorts program will take place on the final Friday of each month in the café at Earth House. The first edition is tomorrow at noon, and I can’t wait to kick it off. We’re showing past Oscar winning shorts for this inaugural outing. You can rsvp on facebook, or just show up! The screening is free.

Have ideas for a film to feature? Or maybe you’re a filmmaker and want to submit your film? Contact me here.

Bigger Picture Show

A project of the Indy Film Fest, the Bigger Picture Show features re-invented movie posters for an art show/fundraiser. I took a stab at one of my favorites, Waiting for Guffman. Though it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, the tragedy within the comedy offers some of the most interesting moments in the film. These are the moments which inspired the poster.

When Corky erupts on the city council because he’s been denied budget for his production and threatens to go home and bite his pillow, the panic the acting troupe feels when they see that the folding metal chair they’ve reserved for the critic is empty,  the moment Corky St. Clair realizes Guffman isn’t Guffman at all, just some random bloke. The spinning propeller of his beanie cap and over done eyeliner seem to mock the tragic deflation in his expression.

Give the Fest a Kickstart?

My Friday night consisted of frozen pizza, a 6 pack of beer and a stack of Indy Film Fest screeners. Our submissions have officially closed and we got the expected last minute rush of films. Between now and June when we announce our lineup for this summer’s festival (July 14-24, 2011), I’ll be watching and evaluating about 15 or so shorts and 4 full length feature films each week, in addition to my other duties as board member and marketing director. It ended up being the perfect way to end a very hectic week.

You see, Indy Film Fest is pretty much my cause in shining armor. I can’t help but fully invest myself into it – I get to work with such stellar creative minds and dedicated volunteers. AND I get to help build something that can be enjoyed by so many, that adds to the vibrancy of our fair city.

Here’s something not everyone knows – Indy Film Fest has zero paid staff (maybe one day!). We have a few dedicated partners and sponsors – particularly Lodge Design, Nuvo and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. If it weren’t for these groups, and the generous gusto of our volunteers, the festival couldn’t happen.

We wrote it into our vision. Deliciously scrappy, Highly focused. I pour my heart into the festival because I know that come middle of July we’ll be able to put on this amazing shared experience around film that rivals any put on with full-time paid staff.

If you’ve been to the festival and liked what you saw, if you’ve scored passes into one of the many free advanced screenings we offer each year – please consider supporting Indy Film Fest.

Here’s the way Kickstarter works. We’ve set a goal of $4,000. We have (now less than) 30 days to reach that goal. If we don’t make it, we lose all of the pledges others have entered. It’s a risk, but we had faith. When we looked at the numbers coming to our events, our interactions on various social networks and the rising attendance at the festival – we just knew we could pull it off. Kickstarter even links up with Amazon, so if you have an account, pledging is a very simple process.

At $50 and up, you become an official member of the fest, with all of the accompanying perks. For your pledge of $500, you earn a reserved seat in the theatre for the duration of the festival. How cool is that? See more of the perks listed out for each level here.

Maybe you’ve never been to the Indy Film Fest before. Then please consider a ten dollar date with the fest. For your $10 gift, we’ll thank you with two tickets to any regular festival screening – a pretty risk-free investment if you ask me.

Become a backer of Indy Film Fest

Know you’ll have an entire volunteer festival team who is thankful for your support.
And if you made it this far, thanks, from the bottom of my grateful heart.

Always Wait for the Whistle

December 8 Beautifully Different.
Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Prompt author: Karen Walrond)

When I think about what makes me different and beautiful, or anyone else for that matter, I’m reminded of the the opening of the movie Amelie. We are introduced to the people in Ameilie’s life by short lists of things they love and things they hate. It’s a quick, clever way to sum up a person and incredibly telling of their overall personality.

Amelie, for example, likes to dip her hand into sacks of grain, look back to sneak glances at the faces of people watching movies in the theater and skip stones, but doesn’t like it when strangers brush her hand or when drivers in old movies don’t watch the road while driving.

These are the quirks that make people unique, the sort of things you uncover slowly as you get to know a person. Each learned quirk is a small reward symbolizing closeness. Sometimes when I’m getting to know people I think of them this way – what would their little Amelie-esque loves/hates be?

If a clever movie montage of my quirks were made, this would be among them: I love the sound of a tea kettle whistle. Even if I know the water is hot enough, I always wait for the whistle. Always.

What would be one your movie montage quirks?

Extras from Amelie:


This post is a part of #reverb10 by Gwen Bell. Gwen and her team enlisted a group of authors to write prompts for each day in December. Participants can blog, tweet or post photos in reaction to the prompts to reflect on the past year.

Dream Team

It’s official – I’ve joined the board of the Indy Film Fest, a.k.a the Dream Team. It is such an honor to be part of this festival. I previously volunteered on the film screening committee, as well as helping with promotion and at various events. I’ll be focusing on marketing needs for the festival, along with the amazing team at Lodge Design.

It couldn’t be a more exciting time to increase my involvement with the festival. We’ve just started a new program called Roving Cinema, in which we bring movies to the perfect setting for viewing. First up was a sold out screening of Strange Brew at Sun King Brewery. We’re currently working on the 2011 schedule. We’ve also got a doc screening coming up at the Toby with our lovely partners at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Did I mention submissions have just opened for the big fest in July?

For me, being part of something like this provides a sense of purpose that I don’t get elsewhere. While I love both the work I do by day and my solo creative endeavors, there’s nothing quite like the charge of volunteering. I’ve heard volunteering can even add years to your life, a pretty sweet bonus if you ask me.

He Says, She Says: Everyone Says I Look Just Like Her

An interview with filmmaker/actor Ryan Balas and Co-Star Deirdre Herlihy

A strange thing happened to me the other day after watching the world premiere of “Everyone Says I Look Just Like Her.” Some of the scenes began to weave themselves into my head, taking place next to my own memories. I felt distinctively that at some point I’d caught a secret glance into the back seat window of a car where Emmie (played by Deirdre Herlihy, http://twitter.com/deirdreherlihy) had sex with a new acquaintance. Did I really share mimosas with four friends in a wood-paneled cabin, made by Rowan (played by Ryan Balas, http://twitter.com/ryanbalas) while he wore nothing but black brief underwear? In reality, I had only just met the real life couple, Ryan and Deirdre, first via twitter, and finally in person a few days prior to the world premiere of their movie at the Indy Film Festival.

Indy Film Fest (http://twitter.com/IndyFilmFest) is a ten-day festival featuring movies from around the globe. In it’s seventh year, the festival aims to feature independent and innovative film. Each time yet another ill-conceived sequel is announced and the frustration mounts that Hollywood is not only broke, but also out of ideas, festivals like this deliver signs of life in film.

“Everyone Says I Look Just Like Her” (http://everyonesaysilookjustlikeher.blogspot.com) is the epitome of indie film. With a cast and crew numbering four each, it was shot in just ten days. The original budget of $5,000 (now surpassed due to additional post production and travel expenses from their home in Queens, NY) was crowd sourced from friends and family members, the new revenue stream for small-scale creative endeavors via personal appeals and sites like Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com).

The result is a surprising film that dives deep into the heart of family, relationships and grief without going too far into the brink. Two sisters, one biologic to white parents, one adopted (she happens to be African American, but no big deal is made of this), spend a week at their famous father’s summer home in the days before the anniversary of their mother’s death. It’s the real stuff of life, shelling out doses of unexpected joy to pierce the melancholy and mourning.

I got a chance to get into the minds of Ryan and Deirdre about “Everyone Says,” work and life, an especially nice trade, since they’d already worked their way into mine.

SM: The film has a lot of private moments, both happy and sad, and a lot of sex. After watching, I kept thinking a good word to describe your film was intimate. Was that part of the intent?

RB: Yes! We had a super small crew and cast. I wanted to create a safe environment and level of intimacy in which we could all come together and be truthful in the moment.

DH: I think of my first scene with Joe in the back of the car. It’s not dimly lit, there isn’t any heartfelt music playing – it’s just not that sexy. With that being said, I think that most sex between two people who have never been intimate is like that.

RB: My approach was to keep it honest and to acknowledge all the awkward, in-between- moments, not just of these characters sex lives, but also the times when they were alone with themselves. There is always a liability to personal work but I’d say that it’s worth it for the intimacy achieved.

SM: You shot the movie over ten days in Michigan. In some of the scenes, it feels like the setting is another character. Can you comment on sense of place?

RB: As for sense of place, it was very important to me that the house felt lived in and that it felt like these girls had made a lot of memories there. Also, let me just say that I stole a lot from the opening of Woody Allen’s “Interiors.”

DH: I had traveled to the house twice with Ryan for his family reunion. It was of course a very different experience being there with a film crew and working on an intense film schedule. When I wasn’t shooting, I would walk down to the water and feel so grateful. I was working on a film I believed in and able to take in our beautiful surroundings. The setting was another character – It was where these two sisters found comfort and familiarity.

RB: For me, it was easy, because it was true, but I had to play the opposite of that. The cabin where we filmed is a place my family has been renting for a week every summer since I was a kid, so it is wall-to-wall memories for me.. It had to be new to me, it had to be some place mysterious. There is so much natural beauty in Northern Michigan, that you basically just need to turn the camera on and start shooting and you are likely to find something really lovely. Plus, my producer/right hand man Darren Marshall (LINK) and Director of Photography/Cam Operator Richard Buonagurio (LINK) both have a good eye for natural composition and establishing a sense of place in the mix of our improvised scene work.

SM: How was your experience premiering the film at the Indy Film Fest?

RB: We had the best time. For me, it felt like a homecoming. I was born in Valparaiso, Indiana, my dad went to Purdue, and I spent a number of years living in Northern Indiana, so it’s a special state for me.

DH: I couldn’t have imagined it going any better. Everyone involved with Indy Film Fest was so welcoming and supportive of our film. I felt like we had a group of cheerleaders backing us the whole week. Also, having to two very different audiences during the screenings was beneficial to us as filmmakers.

SM: What did you take away from the screenings & their different audience vibes? There was a lot of laughing out loud in the first screening. Were you surprised about that?

DH: I was surprised by the amount of laughing during the first screening. Sometimes you aren’t sure if people will get your humor. It was so rewarding to hear such a positive response. The second screening had a more conservative audience, but the film provoked good questions from them during the Q&A. As a filmmaker, you need to have that balance from your audiences.

SM: During the Q & A of the World Premiere, you mentioned how viewing home videos inspired you to make this film. How much personal life was woven into the story?

DH: Ryan really dug deep into my family, with permission of course. A few years ago, I asked my dad to convert some home VHS videos into DVD so I could have them as my own personal keepsake. Having lost my mom nearly 13 years ago, I cherish anything that shows my mom, dad, older brother and I together. I remember Ryan being especially inspired watching the films. They were both a great tribute to her and also helped Ryan get to know her in a way.

RB: “Everyone Says” was a very personal film for all of us, in different ways. I wanted everyone to have the chance to add a unique voice and history to the story, which is why a majority of the dialogue is improvised.

SM: How has technology and social media changed how you promote and talk about your work?

RB: Where do I begin? Well…we met on twitter didn’t we? I have to say that I really began to promote my work at the time when social media was getting big, so it hasn’t been this totally new way for me to do old work. There certainly is a forever-morphing method. With the advancement of technology and the ability to connect with a larger audience on a daily basis, I think indie film can thrive on that opportunity.

DH: Darren, our producer, put together and posted a teaser online while we were still shooting. It felt a little premature, but then when I saw the response it was getting, I had no regrets. So many friends and family members donated to this film, so it felt awesome being able to show them what they helped us make.

RB: Our work is enhanced by it and in fact I really hope we can learn to use it as another story telling method. I think it has caused me to daydream ways in which we can integrate the process of the promotion with the work itself. That’s the exciting part about new media and technology for me. We are able to draw new lines between storytelling and promotion.

SM: What’s next for “Everyone Says I Look Just Like Her” – Are you seeking other festival screenings or distribution?

RB: We are actively submitting for fall, winter and spring film festivals and would really like to continue on the circuit for a little while. As for distribution, only the future can really tell. We have some interest but want to have the opportunity to build our relationship with the audience before we decide the direction to the film.

DH: We are looking for distribution, but not rushing into anything. This film is our baby and we want what’s best for it.

SM: Ryan, I’ve heard that your next project is a documentary that could be a little controversial. What other projects are on the horizon for you two?

RB: I’m working on the documentary, “Stage Brother,” (LINK) which I’m producing with director, Richie Buonagurio. We’ve been following Richie’s sister around for the last 6 months as she dips her toes into the adult industry. That project could be shooting for at least another 6 months to a year, so it’s more of a long-term thing. As for the next project that I will direct, we are talking about making a film based on our web series, The Really Cool Show (http://thereallycoolshow.blogspot.com).

DH: Ryan and I both just recently wrapped on Darren Marshall’s film, The Kings of Yorktown (LINK), and I also got to briefly appear in Stage Brother. I’d like to direct a film maybe this fall. In between all of this, I’m going to continue to work on my photography (http://www.deirdreherlihy.com).

RB: The Kings of York Town, which I also produced, should be hitting the circuit next summer. I’m trying to stay busy and do a lot of things at once. There are ideas on the table and we all want to do it, it’s just a matter of getting a few logistical things into place.

SM: You’ve just celebrated five years together as a couple, with countless collaborations under your belt. How has your relationship grown as a result of the work collaboration?

RB: We met in acting school and our relationship slowly unfolded out of a mutual interest and enjoyment in working together. The relationship has obviously grown far beyond the work, but we still love to collaborate. It feels natural and though we are both independent artists, it’s still great when we get a chance to partner up.

DH: We were really good friends for months before becoming an item and collaborating creatively, which I feel has made all the difference.

RB: It’s great fun to travel together and saves us both a lot of money when we only need one bed. The only downside is we always have to find someone to feed our cats while we are away.

One thing is certain, Ryan and Deirdre and countless other emerging filmmakers are making original, inspiring films with small budgets and a lot of love for what they’re doing. It isn’t about big paydays, but creating films that move, inspire and provoke thought. Do what you can to help make independent film happen. Look up your local festivals and screenings. And if you’re in Queens, maybe offer to watch Ryan and Deirdre’s cats so they can share their lovely film with a wider audience?

This post was originally published on July 31, 2010 on Sundayed.