By Jeffery L Carey Jr.
About 260 entries submitted to the Oct 27 second annual Flint Fright Film Fest provided “a low cost fun show for people in and around Flint who love horror and weird stuff like we do,” stated film festival organizer and judge of the festival Paul Counelis.
A film titled Sweetie by two United Kingdom directors, Ethan Evans and Sean Toshach, won the $100 “Grand Ghoul Award” for best overall picture and the $50 Marilyn Ringler Memorial Award for scariest film. Other winners were Accepting Armageddon by Director Christian West of Grand Rapids, who won the $50 Charles Shaver Award for Michigan-made films; Bloody Sundae by Director Cody LaRue of Flint who won the $50 Jon Cockerill Award for Flint/Genesee County student films; La Bete by Director Filippo Meneghetti of France who won the $75 Bradbury Award for writing. The film Trapped Inside by Director Usher Morgan of New York, NY won the $75 Chaney Award for makeup and special effects.
Hosted by the Flint Horror Collective and Mott Community College, the festival was held in the Mott Memorial Building on the first floor with the main theater’s showings in the Recital Hall and a secondary theater showing films in a classroom just down the hall as well. The family friendly event showcased vendors who lined the halls outside the theaters with tickets to the event at five dollars except for Mott students, who got in free.
Other judges for the event included local authors and film enthusiasts Glen Birdsall and Chris Ringler. Counelis said judging focused on well-made films, despite budget constraints and well-told stories with a fresh look.
They looked for “challenging films, well written films,” Counelis said. “If they’re comedy based horror, they gotta be funny. Something creepy or scary, if it works really well it will almost always get in.” Counelis also stated that with just the three judges this year they all watched an insane number of films over a really short period.
“We’ve been putting on events like this for over 25 years,” Birdsall said as he described what goes into hosting the Flint Fright Film Fest. “The first year we received roughly 1300 movies,” he said–the submissions last year were free for filmmakers. “It got bonkers.”
Now the festival has a two dollar entry fee and is limited to no more than 45 minutes long, with most of the films averaging under 20 minutes. “We typically screen for tension in a variety of genres,” Birdsall said of the process, “narrowing down to 40 films after screening.”
Vendors hawked their wares, called festival “incredible”
Among the many vendors at the event was local film producer Matt Woodbury, owner of the film company Population of Zero. “I thought the film festival was incredible this year,” he stated as enthusiasts browsed the many items on his table including his 2017 submission to the festival, Rotten to Thee Core. “The Flint Horror Collective always does a bang-up job when they host an event.”
With almost 15 years of experience in filmmaking, Woodbury has produced around two dozen movies, shorts, web series and music videos. “A movie is a long process, It always starts with an idea,” Woodbury described of his process, “after that you write the script, scout for locations, set a budget, assemble the crew you want, raise the budget, find the actors, practice the dialog secure the locations and finally film. After you finish filming you need to edit, find and or score the movie, make the artwork, have a pre-screening with the cast and crew then decide if you want to either enter into film festivals or release it for viewing on DVD.”
This process plays out all around the world as many of the Flint Fright Film Fest entries were from outside the United States. Some of these films included While You Were Asleep from Director Adrián Quintero Mármol Martínez of Mexico, Welcome to Hell by Director Simón Fariza of Spain, The Dog Walker from Director Peter Mckeirnon of the United Kingdom and Shadow from Director Roman Moshensky of Germany.
Local filmmakers comment
Films from local filmmakers included Don’t Be Late by Director and Flint native Tyler Zickafoose a short film described as, “What happens when a normal family outing to the local video store turns into sheer horror?” Also entered was the film Don’t Eat That by Grand Blanc Director Sandy Shelton with co-writer, camera person and local artist Brian O’Leary.
“We’ve made seven short films, Shelton said. In order they are, Some Sort of Beast, Calling Shelton Jon, Search Party, The Kids, The Cold One, Suburban Man and this year’s film fest entry Don’t Eat That, a 3.26 minute film about, “A group of kids on Halloween night as they meet a mysterious man and bowl of treats.”
“I took my 12-year-old daughter Sophia to the festival,” Shelton said. “She really enjoyed herself. There were a couple films we watched that were really good. The people all seemed really nice and the festival organizer Chris [Ringler] was really great.”
“As an organizer, there were a few glitches,” Counelis said about the festival. “Overall I was very pleased with how smoothly things went and all the fun people were having. As an attendant, I didn’t get to see as many of the films in the theater as I did last year because I was running the panels, but I would say even if I weren’t involved I would LOVE this show. What horror fan doesn’t want to watch cool movies and see horror vendors?”
City’s new filmmaking fee considered “silly,” by some, “reasonable” by others
“The filmmaking in Flint is still a fairly constant and thriving undertaking, even without the tax cuts,” Counelis said. He was referring to the Public Act 117 of 2015, which prohibits the state film office and the relevant agencies from entering into any new film subsidy agreements or adding to existing ones.
Asked about the new city-imposed fee of $100 for filming in Flint ($25 for student filmmakers) Counelis responded, “I think it’s reactionary and kind of silly. I don’t understand how they hope to enforce it, because no one is going to stop filming in their yards and houses and where ever else people are shooting.”
The filmmaking fee in Flint was passed Monday Oct 8, 2018 by the city council of Flint as part of their Master Fee Schedule under the Home Rule Cities Act, whereas, “a local unit of government may defray the cost of services by collection of user fees.” Under the heading, Law Office, the schedule has been clearly amended to reflect the new fees.
“Because this is a service that the city provides, we want to charge a reasonable fee for the service similar to other municipalities,” Candice Mushatt, the city’s public information officer said in a recent interview. “It doesn’t mandate filmmakers to apply, but we encourage them to do so.”
While it is unclear what costs or services are being defrayed, it is known that in the past filmmakers have left trash like Solo cups and couches at the sites they filmed at, leaving messes for the city to clean up; also, there are liability issues for the city to consider. according to one of the filmmakers, who asked not to be named.
Mushatt claims the filmmakers are only encouraged to pay the fee but the resolution signed by Chief Legal Officer Angela Wheeler, Chief Financial Officer Hughey Newsome and the Mayor Dr. Karen Weaver clearly states that, “the appropriate City Officials be and are hereby authorized to do all things necessary to implement and collect the attached user fees.”
“It isn’t an outrageous fee,” filmmaker Brian O’Leary stated. “I don’t think it should exist for students or low budget filmmakers. Maybe if I planned on doing a feature film with a budget I wouldn’t mind the fee. As far as stifling other filmmakers, they will probably just work around this one way or another.”
“I don’t understand why they are charging us filmmakers,” Woodbury said, “and not the rest of the artists like painters, photographers, musicians, and dancers? I would like someone to explain that to me, because if we are not shutting down an area, then why do we need to pay?” He also stated he had always done projects in Flint and would continue to do so.
Flint offers “good networking” options for filmmakers
As far as the Flint Fright Film Fest goes, Woodbury stated, “I think it is a good networking event to show the community that there are filmmakers in the area and it gives us a chance to reach out to the community and show them our projects. They can connect with me at the website popofzero.com or on the Pop. Of Zero Facebook page.
“I would say there is a good atmosphere for moviemaking in Flint,” Shelton said. “Also there is a film maker in Flint named Jeff Swerdan from Verna June Entertainment who hosts an event monthly discussing film making.” Shelton said people who want to get into movies are encouraged to show up and jump into the discussions.
“There are so many actors and filmmakers in Flint,” Counelis said, “and there are places on Facebook where people can join to meet up and discuss making movies.” One of these Facebook forums is the Flint Filmmakers Forum. According to the forums description the group page is for all filmmakers in and around Flint Michigan. The 88-member group was created on May 21 and was created to communicate, educate and celebrate all things cinema in the Vehicle City.
“You can keep tabs on the Flint Horror Collective on the Flint Horror-Con website and Facebook page,” Counelis said, adding the Flint Fright Film Festival will continue next year. “We are gonna do it again. I would expect that we will start thinking about opening submissions in the summer again, after the April Ghoul’s Day book show.”
EVM Staff Writer Jeffery L. Carey, Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.