As a matter of craft

As a matter of craft

Spotlight on the 2014 Eichelberger FilmDayton Festival

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Photo: Josh Marshall as Dean and Hannah Marshall as Lana in “The Infinite Man”; photo courtesy of “The Infinite Man”

The slogan for this year’s Eichelberger FilmDayton Festival says it all – “Craft Matters.” Those two words label not only the films selected for the festival, but a statement of purpose for FilmDayton’s ongoing program beyond this celebratory event, because the organization was conceived with an understanding and a focus on attending to the craft that goes into this art form. 

FilmDayton Interim Executive Director Beth Devilbiss assumed command of the organization in the midst of planning and pulling together this signature event. As such, the slogan had immediate, big-picture implications for her. 

“[The importance of craft] means we are not an amateur festival,” Devilbiss said. “The submissions we received are well-made films from professional filmmakers with great storytelling abilities.”

Going further, Festival Director David Temmesfeld said, “You don’t need millions of dollars and big-name actors to make compelling cinema.”

This is not to present some naïve proverb that less is somehow more. Instead, it places greater emphasis on craft itself, reminding us just how much it matters. This idea flows through every programming aspect of the festival. 

“We also have workshops about Comedy in Film, The Critic’s Perspective, Life to Narrative and one on crowd-funding,” Temmesfeld explained. “We are also bringing back WYSO’s ‘Community Voices’ this year, which features Dayton natives that have recorded radio stories from around the community in the style of ‘This American Life.’ We will also be bringing back Ryan Singer’s FlickMyClip which is a collection of comedy shorts from around the country and also the Ohio and Dayton regiont. Singer is a stand-up comedian from Dayton who lives in LA now. There are also many other events going on, like the FilmDayton awards and our Big Festival Party featuring the ‘Pitch It’ contest, a festival favorite, that lets anyone that has a great idea for a movie throw money in a hat and pitch their idea to judges to receive feedback and also half the pot if their idea is chosen as the best.”

Craft is always present, every year, although it is akin to the creative blood coursing beneath the surface, feeding the heart of FilmDayton. This year, that lifeblood is acknowledged as a vital component in its own right – and so much of it is constituted right here in the Dayton community.

For all the talk of craft, I kicked off my interview exchanges with both Devilbiss and Temmesfeld with the same question: How does FilmDayton live up to the “best of the Fests” moniker? Temmesfeld pointed to this year’s Spotlight features. 

“The Spotlight films we chose this year are films that have played at the big festivals and have won awards at SXSW Film Festival [‘The Infinite Man’] as well as Tribeca Film Festival [‘Zero Motivation’],” Temmesfeld said. “Both films did well at the festivals, but are still small enough they will probably not get much play in theaters in the states, and this will be the only opportunity to see them in the Dayton or Ohio region, if not the Midwest, which makes them very exclusive to our festival.

“We also started last year with taking short film submissions from filmmakers all over the country and the world and we are expanding that this year with feature films,” Temmesfeld continued. “We will have two spots for submitted features showing at this year’s fest. One spot is reserved for Ohio filmmakers to showcase their talents. We also have an Ohio-only shorts block, screening the best short films from around Ohio. We are still in the process of judging these films, but we received a lot from the Dayton region I am sure will play in this year’s fest.”

Devilbiss keyed in on the community pull expected of the regional talent. “[Each year, we] offer workshops featuring local filmmakers who still live in Dayton or have grown up in Dayton but now live in LA,” Devilbiss said. “These workshops are designed to welcome all levels of film interest; you do not need to be an expert in the field.” And, as often as possible, the festival screenings will have filmmakers present to answer questions, returning the attention to an explanation of their craft. 

Dayton City Paper In-Depth Sneak Peek at the Spotlight Films for the 2014 Eichelberger FilmDayton Festival

Friday, Aug. 22, 7 p.m. – “The Infinite Man”

“The Infinite Man” is a time travel comedy-romance about Dean (Josh McConville) whose attempts to construct the ultimate romantic weekend for Lana (Hannah Marshall) backfire, when his quest for perfection traps her in an infinite loop. Expectations are for something more akin to Shane Carruth’s “Primer” played for laughs rather than, say, more mainstream pitches like “Groundhog’s Day” meets “Edge of Tomorrow.” Directed by Australian filmmaker Hugh Sullivan, this hit from the 2014 SXSW Film Festival has something for everyone!

Thus far, Sullivan has written and directed four shorts (“Man Janson,” “Stanley & Dean,” “Family Man” and “The Art of Darts & Dying”) prior to helming “The Infinite Man,” his first feature. The protagonist (David Mealor) of “Man Janson” understands the adage that nothing in life is free, but he’s dead-set on barreling through without paying one red cent. “Stanley & Dean” is an animated road trip adventure about a pair of broke brothers out for revenge. Tod Tasker (Peter Fenton), the titular figure of Sullivan’s “Family Man,” over-indulges on a big night out and wakes up a long way from home. As things play out, Tasker makes a less-than-grand entrance, quite sorry and hung-over, only to discover his wife and child aren’t so welcoming. Death sure loves games, taking on Terry Discount (John Leary) in Sullivan’s “The Art of Darts & Dying.” The hard drinking and smoking Discount is the undisputed champion of darts at the local pub, but Death wants to take him down – intent on stealing the man’s soul and his reputation. 

The adventurous souls who come out for this regional premiere of “The Infinite Man,” be prepared for a raucous and dark wit that could only come from Down Under.

 

Saturday, August 23, 7 p.m. –
“Zero Motivation”

From Israeli writer-director Talya Lavie, “Zero Motivation” tells the story of young female Israeli soldiers serving in the human resources unit of a remote desert military base. Told in three sections, the film explores the complex trials of these female soldiers serving in a dysfunctional military office. The synopsis for this title recalls Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” and “M*A*S*H*” as seen through the eyes of modern women warriors. This film, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, won the festival’s Best Narrative Feature award as well as the Nora Ephron prize for outstanding female directors or writers. 

Another filmmaker who got her start making shorts (“The Waitress,” “Sliding Flora” and “The Substitute”), Lavie, like Sullivan, has dabbled in animation (“The Waitress”), but focuses on the dramatic – and somewhat existential – situations of women in the world. Prior to “Zero Motivation,” her short film “The Substitute” explored the plight of Zohara (Dana Ivgy), a soldier stationed at a remote base, eager to return home, who ends up deferring when her replacement arrives and turns out to be suicidal and in need of constant guarding.

Sunday, August 24, 5:30 p.m. – “This Time Next Year”

Co-directed by Jeff Reichert (the documentaries “Gerrymandering” and “Remote Area Medical,” which screened at last year’s festival) and Farihah Zaman (“Remote Area Medical”), the documentary “This Time Next Year” tells the story of a community banding together to support each other after the devastation Hurricane Sandy brought to Long Island Beach, N.J. The film also features additional photography by local filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar. Both directors will be present for a Q&A after the screening.

“This Time Next Year” received funding from the Tribeca Film Institute in conjunction with The Rockefeller Foundation as a call to action. In a Filmmaker Magazine interview, Ryan Harrington, director of documentary programming at TFI, proposed this venture would provide “filmmakers with tools to bridge the gap between the film-viewing experience and the direct action needed to affect progress and change around the cause it serves to support.”

These three filmmakers certainly attest to the genre and stylistic diversity FilmDayton seeks to highlight, not only during the festival, but also as part of its mission to support filmmakers throughout the region. 

Yet, the craft of filmmaking is about more than the framing of shot, matching sight and sound, even the art of composing a visual narrative. It is, at its core, a communal collaboration, a coming together of talent and know-how to inspire the spirits of those involved in its creation and the many more who will be engaged by it.

Devilbiss captured it best, explaining the feeling of diving in headfirst. 

“I had to learn quick, since the buzz for the festival is getting louder and the excitement is building,” she said. “The people helping to build the festival are extremely dedicated, professional and have been more than helpful.”

Showcasing the vibrant filmmaker community connected to our region, the 6th Annual Eichelberger FilmDayton Festival takes place the weekend of Aug. 22-24. The festival features professional workshops, screenings of award-winning and locally connected films, parties and contests.

The 2014 Eichelberger FilmDayton Festival takes place Aug. 22-24. Film screenings will take place at The Neon, 130 E. Fifth St. Workshops will be held on Saturday and Sunday at thinkTV, 110 S. Jefferson St. For a full schedule and more information about the films, please visit filmdayton.com/festival.

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at  terrencetodd.wordpress.com.

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