Well, it was another hot July Thursday in Phoenix, AZ and The Two Gay Geeks were at another film festival. This time it was the first edition of the IndieAZ Fest held at the Pollack Tempe Cinema’s. For a first go around, the crowd was quite impressive, 200+ were in attendance to screen the 11 short films in one block on the program. The IndieAZ Fest was created and put together by Ann Cabano and Angela Friis to celebrate local Arizona filmmakers and part of the proceeds were donated to One True Love, a grass roots organization serving the un-homed.
The program began with a short biopic of Krysten Aldridge who co-founded One True Love. After that we got into the films, we have listed below.
First up was Terminus, a film by Adam Ruiz. In what appears to be an employment service there is something unusual in the “testing”, it turns out it is a placement service with a twist (no spoilers). This film that could have been increased in time and issued as an episode of The Twilight Zone and done very nicely. It won the Best of Thesp (acting) award going to Michelle Palermo and the Best of Fest award. It was a little quirky in a good way, and the payoff was very satisfying.
Next was We Probably Still Do from Bethany Brown. This was a “very short” short that examines the meaning of a relationship in its various stages.
The Dome was the next entry from Steve Anderson and his Teen Street Films project for the previous season. The teens that made this film are definitely excelling in their craft, and their performances were believable as young people trapped in a geodesic dome. While the subject matter of the story was not my cup of tea, it was a great showcase for these young performers. Their hard work paid off with the Best of Cast Award.
Best Day Ever was a comedic short from Adam Ruiz (Terminus). This little ditty had me laughing at the end. Apparently, this short was created for Phoenix ComiCon and can be viewed on Vimeo. It is worth the time spent for a good laugh.
Next up was Fortune from Tray Goodman of CGM Media and Crushing Your Box, a sponsor of IndieAZ Fest. It was a cute look at a sales organization and the lengths that some will go to in order to increase their sales. Why am I hungry for Chinese food now?
We have now arrived at our favorite of the whole block, Focus from Matt Chesin. We have written on this delightful short previously in our review of the Phoenix Loves Sci-Fi film fest last week (on the Thursday – btw). We got to meet and chat with Matt and Jeff Lynn, his partner in crime on this film. It was nice to see it again, as it does hold up on a second viewing and still had the emotional impact of the first viewing. Focus won the Audience Choice Award and tied for the Best of Craft Award, both well deserved.
From a tug at the heartstrings to an introspective piece about loss we have Sinking from Nathan Lawrence and Justin Ehlers. This short appeared to be shot in reverse and tells the story of loss on several levels.
We next saw Orientation from David Gunn, a thriller, of sorts. You could definitely tell this was filmed in Phoenix from some of the scenery and sets. There is some intrigue and a twist of plot at the end.
Flight Fright from James Politano was next on the bill. We screened this short at the Phoenix Loves Sci-Fi film festival as well. It is a wacky twist on a theme from a Twilight Zone episode. This was the co-winner of the Best of Craft Award.
Surrender at Crow Lake from Boise Esquera was next on the roster. This film short was about a man who had lost his faith, only to rediscover it under unusual circumstances.
And to round out the film festivities for the evening we had Hell of A Deal from David Ugarte. A story of a get rich quick scheme that has unexpected results.
At the end before the awards were presented there was a special presentation of the Rose Award for an individual that has exhibited goodness and has had a positive effect on other people.
The evening was enjoyable and it was nice to see such a large crowd in attendance to support local filmmakers. The facilitators brought in several vendors and a couple of celebrities to entertain the crowd at the beginning and end. There appeared to be some technical difficulties, which caused a bit of an unsteady start to the evening but once things got rolling it was pleasant. Also, for me there really needed to be a break somewhere in the middle of the films rather than having one gigantic block of films. Other than those two little quibbles I think it was a hit and look forward to the Second Annual IndieAZ Fest and to supporting local AZ filmmakers throughout the year.
The 1st Annual IndieAZ Fest came off as partly a surprise for me. I have never attended a “regular” (meaning not themed) film festival so I was approaching this one with some trepidation. There were some very unsteady and uneven moments throughout the evening, but as I continually reminded myself, this was their first festival of this nature.
The evening attempted to have a bit of glamor with it, with a number of people totally dressed to the nines and being professional photographed. In a way this did help to raise the bar a bit as opposed to just being a film festival where people would watch a block of filmed shorts and then leave. No, this was something special as there would also be awards at the end of the evening.
Instead of going over each movie I will touch upon those films that really struck a nerve with me.
First up was Terminus. It started off feeling like a commercial and right away I started preparing myself for what is going to be a punch line. What I received were punch lines on multiple levels making this a really strong start to the festival.
The Dome struck a nerve in me, but not for the same reason as Terminus may have. The subject matter, and the approach to the making of this short is not exactly something I go out of my way to see. However, upon some research it was learned that this short was more of an exercise for the cast in acting, and on that point alone, I felt it succeeded.
The next short to gain my attention was Best Day Ever, directed by the same man who did Terminus (Adam Ruiz), and as much as Terminus was clearly thought out and methodically put together, Best Day Ever felt almost like an afterthought. Mind you, in this case it worked as sometimes doing something spontaneous (which was the feeling while watching this) can really turn into a crowd pleasure. The gags came quickly, and even though I could see where the final punch line was going to go, it was still very delightful in how it was presented.
From there we went to Fortune. Right from the start I could recognize this story as something similar I had seen a number of years in a classic episode of Twilight Zone, but this story was sort of given a “fresh coat of paint” which really helped to shine, get laughs from the audience, not to mention probably make a few people hungry. (Now if I can only find my Magic 8 Ball to help me decide where to have dinner…)
Then again I was treated to seeing a personal favorite from the previous week, that being Focus. I freely admit that this movie was my personal choice for favorite short in the entire festival, but it was more than just bias. A real testament to any movie or short subject is how well does it holds up under a re-watch. Well this short film did. In fact, not only did it hold up, but also it actually had greater emotional resonance the second time around. That’s not an easy thing for any short film, or feature length film, to accomplish.
The last short to get my attention was Sinking, and yet this is not something I could see a second time. The subject matter is quite harsh, but it was in its creative filmmaking that this short stood out.
The great surprise for me for this event was the number of shorts that “dipped their toe” into the pool of speculative fiction. I had stated previously that Focus could easily appear on an episode of Amazing Stories, purely for the quality of its storytelling. As for the others that I liked, they all had en element to them that was “other worldly,” and those are the types of short films that I enjoy watching. And as I had stated before, what I like most of all is the pure love that these people have for the art of filmmaking. It is my greatest hope that they continue on, not just the filmmakers, but also those actors who took part in these films. If I took anything away from last night is the amount of talent that the state of Arizona has, and I wish each of these individuals, the best of luck in the future.
Below are links to information I could find on the films presented. Some for the films have IMDb entries and some do not.
Terminus YouTube trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTbl6tf-y2g
We Probably Still Do on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/123466124
The Dome – IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4527594/?ref_=fn_al_tt_3
Best Day Ever on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/126998449
Fortune – Tray Goodman site http://productionstudio44.com/index.html
Orientation – teaser on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/117874835
Flight Fright – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4367134/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Surrender at Crow Lake – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4280140/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1
Hell of a Deal – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4071612/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1