Frederick Film redux

Moviemakers unite for a festival reborn

Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006

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Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
Team Rainbow, consisting of Will Saxton (left) and Kevin Collins, both of Frederick, edit their film Saturday evening at the Down Time Cafe in Frederick.

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Jim Hamann⁄Special to the Gazette
Chosen from one of the envelopes on the wall, filmmaker Clayton Myers (left) announces the instructions for the film his team Tronkatrucks must create as Jason Streff holds the microphone. The criteria for Tronkatrucks’ film is 'lust and sex with no nudity.' All of the event's participants received their directives during Thursday evening’s launch party at the Cultural Arts Center.

‘‘Remake” is often considered a naughty word in the back-alleys of filmdom — not by the people who make them, of course, but by those who watch them.

So let’s just call this a re-imagining.

When the volunteer-run Frederick Festival of Film faded out earlier this year due to a myriad of fiscal and aesthetically frustrating reasons, a handful of cinema devotees stepped in and set out to revive the cherished project.

The result was the re-christened 72 Film Fest, which will take a bow this Friday at its predecessor’s old stomping grounds, The Weinberg Center for the Arts.

It kicked off Thursday evening with a launch party and the re-knighting of the 72-hour filmmaking contest, renamed the Narrative Challenge. The event drew a full house at Frederick’s Cultural Arts Center and sent a slew of soon-to-be sleep-deprived cineastes into the field to craft an opus in only three day’s time.

Those flicks will be enjoyed by audiences for the first time ever Saturday afternoon, with the victors and their spoils being unveiled later that evening. Documentarians will also be represented this weekend, their contributions culled from a three-week competition that began October 1 and called for filmmaking teams to capture the rise of Frederick’s creative community with their cameras.

In addition to vying for cash and prizes with the Narrative Challenge entrants, best-of footage from the docs will be used in a collaborative film project for Downtown Frederick Partnership produced by the city’s own IDmakers, a digital media and Web broadcast company based downtown.

Its title, ‘‘Downtown Frederick Rising: The Rise of the Creative Community,” is an ideal that IDmakers cofounder Salyer McLaughlin strongly believes in, and was a driving force behind his company’s participation in the upcoming fest.

McLaughlin, who operates IDmakers with wife and designer Rhonda, was initially approached by festival organizer Jason Streff, who had served on the winning 72-hour team at last year’s Frederick Festival of Film and was seeking to assemble a new group of diehards who could set the fest upright again.

‘‘I felt it was important for the community,” Streff said. ‘‘I started e-mailing all of the filmmakers I knew.”

Little did he know that somewhere across town writer and director Clark Kline was seeking to do the exact same thing.

Kline, too, was no stranger to the former Frederick Festival of Film, his production company Fool Martyr having participated each year.

‘‘I had hoped they’d keep the 72-hour contest running,” he said. ‘‘I wanted to try and salvage it. The festival was a great way for filmmakers to meet each other once a year. When I learned that Jason was already going through the motions, we joined forces.”

With McLaughlin on board, a new festival soon began to take shape.

‘‘I had heard of Clark and his work with Fool Martyr Productions, and I had always wanted to work with him,” said McLaughlin. ‘‘It just seemed like the right group of people. These guys are producers. They’re both directors, as am I ... So I knew it was going to be a more creative endeavor.”

Realizing power in numbers, the help of Walter Chalkley and the nonprofit CinemArts was quickly enlisted to assist with distribution and the 72 Film Fest was off and running.

Rights to screen independent and controversial documentaries ‘‘The War Tapes” and ‘‘An Inconvenient Truth” were swiftly secured, as was the participation of New York City director Andrew Bujalski and his film ‘‘Mutual Appreciation.”

Launching a citywide event is no small undertaking, however. Many of the fest’s costs, said Streff, came out of the pockets of its core organizers, with the exception of donated goods from sponsors — Isabella’s and Brewer’s Alley, for example, catered the launch party through trade with IDmakers, while Creek Side Productions and Structures Salon offered various wares and services.

‘‘It’s a lot more detailed than I expected,” said Streff. ‘‘We counted all of the e-mails sent [in preparation], and there were almost 1,000. It shows the magnitude of all of the planning involved. It’s definitely been a lot of fun, though. And I’m glad the community is receiving it well.”

As are the filmmakers, themselves, Kline said. The launch party alone attracted close to 200 individuals and a total of 21 teams — a personal best.

‘‘We were really surprised at the turnout,” he said, noting that of those attending, only a handful of teams were prior participants.

In the interest of breaking the mold, new guidelines were enacted for the short-film contest, said Kline.

In previous years, 72-hour filmmakers were handed a list of mandatory elements — genre, props, a line of dialogue, etc. — to include in their creations.

‘‘It was kind of hard to play to your own strengths with that, though,” he said. ‘‘It [could] end up stunting you. We wanted to get them to think outside of the box.”

Instead, 24 different themes — from salvation to devotion — were concocted by festival organizers and subsequently drawn by all filmmaking teams.

For those picking a theme they simply couldn’t abide by, alternatives were available, but on a higher, more difficult tier and ranging in vagueness from ‘‘the number of man” to ‘‘fear and desire.”

Topping it all off was a mystery box, available to anyone up to the challenge, which included technical restrictions such as ‘‘no visual cuts,” upping the ante for the brave.

By the end of the launch party, the mystery box was nearly empty, Kline said.

It’s testimony to the burgeoning talent in the Frederick area, which mirrors the theme of IDmaker’s documentary.

‘‘Human creativity is the engine of economic growth,” McLaughlin said. ‘‘And it’s becoming the reason for Frederick’s economic success.”

The 72 Film Fest is now a part of that engine.

‘‘We just [want] a lot of people to show up and get excited about independent film,” said Streff. ‘‘There’s a creative community in Frederick that audiences wouldn’t see otherwise, and we’re giving them a platform. We definitely want to start a legacy. And if we have a good start, hopefully it can sustain itself for years to come.”



6 p.m. Women In Black, silent candlelight vigil

7 p.m. Film screening: ‘‘The War Tapes”

9:15 p.m. Shane Gamble, live music

9:30 p.m. Film screening: ‘‘An Inconvenient Truth” Followed by a global warming discussion with Ken Eidel, organizer for Frederick’s Cool Cities campaign, and a panel of experts


2 p.m. Film Screening: ‘‘Mutual Appreciation” Followed by a Q&A with director Andrew Bujalski

4:30 p.m. Film Screening: ‘‘An Inconvenient Truth”

7 p.m. 72-Hour Film Competition screenings

9:30 p.m. Awards Ceremony

10 p.m. After Party