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Written by mstansberry on 30 Aug, 2004
The 2003 Red Bank International Film Festival (RBIFF) was put on by the Freedom Film Society, a group generally in their mid-twenties that are involved with the arts community and have careers. More than a few live with their parents. It’s a testament to the…Read More
The 2003 Red Bank International Film Festival (RBIFF) was put on by the Freedom Film Society, a group generally in their mid-twenties that are involved with the arts community and have careers. More than a few live with their parents. It’s a testament to the cost of living in a waterfront community across the Raritan Bay from New York City.
Susie Sefcik is the marketing director for the festival. The RBIFF doesn’t make enough through ticket sales to pay for itself, so Sefcik brings in money from local businesses, grant money, and T-shirt sales.
This opening night, Sefcik was stretched as thin as she looked. Her hopped-up gestures and the way her cell phone hung out from the front pocket of her denim jacket gave her away as the go-to gal for the evening. She raced between answering questions from the lobby staff while orchestrating events in the VIP room. The venue, The Count Baise Theater, is larger inside than it appears from the street, and opening night it was crawling with people she needed to visit. After the initial wave of ticket holders had been ushered into the first feature of the evening ("City of God"), I pulled Sefcik aside to ask her why in the hell anyone would do this for free.
"Film is great for expressing specific cultural and social phenomenon. It removes you from your state of being in a way that other art forms are challenged by," said Sefcik. "Having the audience in that state allows the filmmaker to penetrate with the story or idea in ways that would be more difficult for other art forms."
Something came up in the lobby that needed Sefcik’s attention, so she pawned me off onto the evening’s forthcoming live entertainment, a band called Rotting Moldy Flesh. They didn’t want to talk to me until they’d secured some free beer. Unfortunately for everyone, the beer wasn’t free that night.
I found that the operator of the Rotting Moldy Flesh’s sound setup and its Moog synthesizer, Don Yarosz, was happy to talk and have his picture taken after a few gulps of regular, non-free beer. Yarosz’ role is to create the textures of the sounds, rather than the thematic music (melody is out of the question). He’s also sort of the technical sidekick, the man in the background keeping the wires together.
"We live in a society that is based in consumerism. So I think it’s important to support anything that will get people to think a little deeper, use their imagination, and get excited about art," he said.
That night, Rotting Moldy Flesh provided surround-sound accompaniment to the German silent horror film, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." The film was actually a re-mastered DVD video of the film, as were many of the screenings over the weekend; convenience of transport and setup is more important for a low-key, low-budget festival than getting actual celluloid at greater expense.
Throughout the performance, band members focused on the movie with a super-human concentration. It was like jazz, in a way—improvised, but at the same time obviously scripted at many points. The musicians matched the strange tones to the action on-screen.
The next day (Saturday, October 4th) featured a whole bunch of great stuff at two of the smaller venues (Phoenix Productions and Synapse Studios).
Of the films I saw on Saturday, one of the best was "Night Cap" by a young Jersey resident named Brandon Kahn. Kahn, who hails from Point Pleasant, NJ, attracted a crowd of well wishers after the showing let out, fiercely attached to his new renown. Did they smell the potential for another Jersey breakout director? Kahn even looked like a skinny version of the local film hero, Kevin Smith.
Kahn told us it took him two weeks to write the script, three days to shoot, and then two months of editing to produce the fifteen-minute film. He had produced the movie for a class at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
"I was kind of broke, so I used my parents money and mine. It was like a three-way," said Kahn. "It cost $3,500 dollars to make because I shot it on Super 16mm stock. Video would have been a lot cheaper."
Kahn plans to send "Night Cap" to as many film festivals as he can afford. The entry fee to be considered for an event like this can run from $50 on up into the hundreds.
"If you send the film out to an editing house or a producer, they’re probably going to shut it off in the first scene," Kahn said. According to him, a big studio’s attitude would run something along the lines of, "We’re making ‘The Hulk’, fuck you."
Kahn is not trying to be a production assistant. "I tried that and I’m not good at it at all. I don’t have the ‘gofer’ mentality. I worked on a film in New York as an intern and realized that it wasn’t going to work out. That’s grunt work. You could do that at a 7-11. You just happen to be on a movie set. You make contacts, but in the end it just wasn’t my deal.
"Film is like the Voltron of Art," Kahn continued. "Bringing together writing, photography, music, and all this crap."
Saturday night also featured some animated shorts, hand-picked by Bill Plympton, famous for his MTV work and some ads he did for GEICO insurance. He has a new feature film coming out soon called "Hair High."
I pulled Plympton aside for an interview during the Saturday night RBIFF after-party held at Red Bank’s Nirvana clothing store. He was extremely giving with his time, especially considering that he’d figured me out. Yes, I admitted, I was a hack, in it for the beer and the cartoons, but to Bill’s credit, he didn’t really seem to have a problem with that.
Plympton explained that there are good festivals and bad ones. The savvy filmmaker knows the difference—which ones have the best audiences, the best parties. He also explained that some of the major festivals don’t really appreciate animation.
Interestingly, all of the films that Plympton picked for his segment of the festival don’t use actual dialogue, but instead rely on visual storytelling and unique soundtracks.
"Independent filmmakers have a difficult time making a living, making their films," explained Plympton. "So to increase their value, they sell them overseas to France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Korea, wherever. That’s why I encourage young filmmakers to make films that don’t have a lot of dialogue."
"I have a lot of hints for young people to get into animation. Make it short. Make it inexpensively; you can do that with computers now. And make it funny. If you can answer those three requirements, your film will be successful. I think there are a lot of people out there who are looking for the next South Park or the next Simpsons."
I asked Plympton whether or not he’d considered crossing over into live-action, considering the success of live-action movies done by animators like Mike Judge (responsible for "Office Space").
"I tried two live-action films and they were complete bombs," he said, not even going so far as mention their names or anything about them. Other than, "They failed so badly," and, "It’s really expensive."
According to Plympton, "The problem with live-action is that you lose control. You can’t control the weather, the actors, or the movement. I’ll probably stick with animation."
More features played on Sunday, but I just waited for the after-party/awards ceremony held upstairs at Ashes, a cigar lounge and restaurant in Red Bank. I had been swept away by all this glamour, the convictions of the people volunteering, the Vegan hors d’oeuvres, the kegs of free Belgian beer. Yes, I had become an independent film buff, even if my attendance rate of the actual films was less impressive than my loyalty to the after-parties.
I vowed that night to stay in touch with these people and to send them copies of the magazine (I’d hinted at The New Yorker) that my story would most likely appear in. I also vowed to actually sit down and write this article to redeem my karma points for not paying a red cent all weekend. To that end, I volunteered to join the Freedom Film Society, offering my services as writer, consultant, and film aficionado. Not to mention, it would be the only way I could possibly get in for free next year.
Written by Colleen on 02 Oct, 2000
Backward Glances, located on Monmouth Street, sells vintage clothing from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Here you can find go-go boots and real bell bottoms. They also sell fun things like mood rings, funky sunglasses and games. At Halloween they rent super costumes.…Read More
Backward Glances, located on Monmouth Street, sells vintage clothing from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Here you can find go-go boots and real bell bottoms. They also sell fun things like mood rings, funky sunglasses and games. At Halloween they rent super costumes. Close
The town offers various festivals throughout the year. Get a schedule and choose one to attend. They include, an antique car show, Celtic Festival, River Feast, Fourth of July Festival and GIANT fireworks show and carnivals. For more info call 1-888-HIP-TOWN.…Read More
The town offers various festivals throughout the year. Get a schedule and choose one to attend. They include, an antique car show, Celtic Festival, River Feast, Fourth of July Festival and GIANT fireworks show and carnivals. For more info call 1-888-HIP-TOWN. Close
The Book Pit sells used books at a super cheap price. It is a little cramped and a little unorganized, but the staff is extremely friendly and will be glad to help you find what you are looking for. The Book Pit is located at…Read More
The Book Pit sells used books at a super cheap price. It is a little cramped and a little unorganized, but the staff is extremely friendly and will be glad to help you find what you are looking for. The Book Pit is located at 17 Wallace St. (in the Dorn's Building). Phone: 732-747-4635. Close
The Antique Center consists of three giant buildings that hold 150 dealers' booths. This is the perfect place to find a hand carved dresser or a 'Josie and the Pussy Cats' cookie jar. The buildings are located on E. Front Street and are open…Read More
The Antique Center consists of three giant buildings that hold 150 dealers' booths. This is the perfect place to find a hand carved dresser or a 'Josie and the Pussy Cats' cookie jar. The buildings are located on E. Front Street and are open daily 11-5PM, Sunday 12-5PM. Phone: 732-741-5331 Close