Local and regional filmmakers to showcase their films at the Urbana IMC

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 2/2/2008)

Let me guess. You’re looking for something fun to do this weekend. Something different. Something that will help you forget about these unshoveled sidewalks and killer wind chills—but without blowing too much cash.

Fear not, for the Independent Media Center in the historic Urbana Post Office Building is hosting a film festival this Friday, Saturday and Sunday—and admission is free! The IMC held out an open invitation for local and regional filmmakers of the indie bent to submit their works, and now nearly 30 films from about 20 directors will be screened.

“We really wanted it to be open to anyone who makes films,” IMC Outreach and Development Coordinator Nicole Pion said. “We wanted to bring more people into the IMC, and it’s really grown beyond our expectations.”

The center’s first full-fledged film fest drew cineastes from Champaign County as well as Chicagoland and Iowa City, said Brian Dolinar, an event organizer and Public i journalist.

The event is an opportunity for independent filmmakers to show their work and be recognized, he said.

“We’re providing a space for them,” Dolinar said. “It’s a long ways from Hollywood here.”

The films on tap this weekend will run the gamut from documentaries to mockumentaries, from dramas to comedies and from art films to talk shows.

Festivities kick off Friday at 6 p.m. with refreshments and the dope compositions of Urbana’s own DJ Belly. Friday screenings last until midnight.

Saturday’s events include family-friendly film screenings (courtesy of That’s Rentertainment) from noon to 2 p.m., a social from 5 to 6:30 p.m. livened up by a local jazz band, a dance party and screenings until midnight.

Sunday closes out the festival with Central Illinois comedy troupe Zoo Improv at 4 p.m. and movies until 10 p.m.

Concessions such as popcorn, pizza, cookies, soda and coffee will on sale all three nights to help support the center.

“One goal of the festival is to raise funds for the Production Group,” Pion said.

The IMC Production Group plans to use proceeds to purchase cameras and other filmmaking equipment for use by the general public.

“The Indie Media Movement has as its goal to get independent media in the hands of local people, and filmmaking is becoming more and more affordable,” Dolinar said. “We’re part of a larger network across the globe of people trying to promote a do-it-yourself attitude toward media and to cultivate the idea that anyone can be a media-maker.”

Area resident Luke Boyce submitted two films: a 35-minute experimental film entitled Prelude shot on a $400 budget and Sugar, an award-winning 7-minute comedy shot on an $18,000 budget and starring several Screen Actors Guild members.

Prelude is a production of Essence Films, an offshoot of Shatterglass Studios.

“I make commercials (through Shatterglass) to pay the bills,” Boyce said.

But his true passion is filmmaking, which he does with his RED camera.

“It shoots 35 millimeter film at four times the resolution of an HD camera,” he said. “An indie company produced (the camera) cheaper than Sony, and it puts Hollywood-quality technology in the hands of independent filmmakers.”

Illinois alumnus and former Illini Film and Video president Chris Lukeman entered The Transient for the festival.

“Our movie is about a homeless vigilante and his caseworker, Steve, as they try to stop Vampire Abraham Lincoln and his gang of punks from sucking the blood of four score and seven virgins,” Lukeman said. “It’s an 80s action comedy with a little bit of horror in there. Not so much slapstick comedy, but definitely not meant to be taken seriously.”

The 24-year-old from Jacksonville, Illinois made the movie with the current president and vice president of Illini Film and Video. The Transient was completed early last fall, but Lukeman decided to wait until later to launch the film.

“We’re trying to use this as our Champaign-Urbana premiere, especially considering how February 12 is Lincoln’s 200th birthday,” he said. “It’s a really, really fun movie and a fast watch. And yeah, we just had a lot of fun with it. We tried not to be too controversial with Lincoln as a bloodsucking nemesis.”

Other screenings include Patrick Thompson and Martel Miller’s 2004 police scandal documentary that led the Champaign police to press charges of eavesdropping on the pair of activists.

“The film exposed a sharp contrast between the police department’s treatment of the black community and campus,” Dolinar said. “They have a hands-off attitude toward students, but not towards the black community.”

This will be the documentary’s first screening since the Champaign police filed a lawsuit against Thompson and Miller.

Professor of Educational Policy Studies Antonia Darder will show her 20-minute exposé organized through her research team, Diversity and Technology for Engaging Communities.

“It’s a stellar project,” Dolinar said. “It’s exposing unrecorded and secret history of race relations at the University of Illinois.”

Movie screenings won’t be the only feature presentations at the IMC Film Festival. The daring art installations of Chris Hampson should crank the entertainment up a notch.

“I’ve been working on a composition for an ensemble of televisions called ‘The TV Show,’” Hampson said. “Imagine your living room flipped inside out: the TV has taken your spot on the couch and your life is the show. The common household instrument of mass mind control becomes a musical instrument in a unique composition for six TV sets.”

Hampson’s multimedia invention translates audio waves onto the screens to “create a mysterious awareness.”

“It’s like TVs talking to each other,” Pion said.

Pion encouraged area residents to get involved at the center, as filmmakers or otherwise.

“The IMC is an incredible community resource,” she said. “There are a lot of people working on social justice issues.”

The Massachusetts native and Americorps volunteer expects a large crowd.

“Just based on the amount of submissions and emails, it seems like we’ve been getting the word around,” she said.

IMC Media Training Advisor Stephen Fonzo developed the idea of the film festival with Pion.

“It’s something Stephen and I talked about, and it grew into a collaborative effort,” Pion said. “That’s kind of how the IMC works.”

Sponsors for the festival include That’s Rentertainment, Common Ground Food Co-op, Strawberry Fields, La Gourmandise Bistro on Main, MICRO-FILM magazine, C-U Blogfidential and One World Pizza.

“We really wanted to pair with local businesses,” Pion said. “Their generosity helped make it a free event.”