Local, independent film screenings give student filmmakers the chance to explore their craft

By Rachel Ambelang

The film and digital media division of the communication department will showcase one film a month, beginning this month, as part of the Texas Independent Film Network.

According to the Texas Independent Film Network website, “TIFN is a statewide coalition of film societies, universities and independent theaters united for the purpose of screening Texas independent film.”

Every month, TIFN distributes films to its different partners in order to increase the number of people that see the films. Many of the films are low-budget, making it difficult for them to get a distributor, despite the fact that they were well-made.

Dr. James Kendrick, associate professor in the film and digital media division, is one of the main organizers of Baylor’s partnership with TIFN.

When explaining why the Baylor film and digital media program was keen to be a part of the TIFN cause, he said, “It’s basically just a way for independent filmmakers to get their stuff out there because after they run the film festival circuit, they go straight to video and basically disappear.”

The Q&A period after the screenings also gives students a chance to meet the filmmakers themselves and learn from their experiences in making independent films.

The first film was shown on Sept. 1, a 2009 documentary titled Echotone. The camera follows Austonian musicians and similar struggles: from simply getting gigs, to the making of albums, to the influx of New York and Los Angeles corporate businessmen, “suits,” who have noticed the rising talent in Austin and are ready to make a profit. It was a fantastic piece that raises questions like “Where does the music scene in Austin go now that the city is growing and corporations are moving in?” Other, more philosophical questions all of these young artists are facing are also addressed, such as “What makes art?” and “Does giving in to a contract mean that I’m ‘selling out?’”

The next movie in the series was shown on Thursday night and is titled The Happy Poet. It was written, directed, edited, produced by Paul Gordon, who also starred in the film. The movie documents the life of an out-of-work poet who gets an idea to run a “mostly vegetarian” food stand whose aspirations are tested when he runs into real-world problems. After the screening, Paul Gordon himself was available for a Q&A session about how he got his small budget film started and featured in an array of film festivals, including South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. For anyone who is looking to watch free films, wants to support Texas filmmakers, or is interested in independent film-making, two more movie screenings present the perfect opportunity.

On Oct. 20, Dance With the One, a drama about a small-time drug dealer who gets in over his head, will be shown, and on Nov. 17 Mars, an animated romantic comedy about the first crew to land on Mars, will be screened. The screenings will take place in Castellaw Communications Center room 101 at 7 p.m., followed by Q&A sessions by their respective directors/producers.