The 28th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced
by Enzian Theater and held this year from April 12 – 21 throughout Central
Florida, offers 184 feature and short films from 41 countries. The Festival
includes the American Independent Competition with 20 narrative features and
documentaries vying for jury awards and audience awards.
As always, Festival goers also can choose from a variety of
additional programming, such as celebrity guest events, special screenings, spotlight
films, sidebars, international showcase, Florida films, family films, midnight
movies, parties, avant garde films, and the popular film forums offered free to
Some upcoming highlights from this year’s Festival:
Night Film and Party, April 12. Held at Enzian Theater, the opening night
film Woman in Motion, is a first look
at the documentary by director Todd Thompson about Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols’s tremendous influence in
recruiting women and minorities to the field of space exploration. The film
also screens at Regal Winter Park Village at 8:00 p.m. for $25.00 a ticket.
Food Film Sidebar with the narrative feature Ramen Shop (directed bv Eric Khoo) and the documentary Chef’s Diaries: Scotland (directed by Laura Otalora).
Family Film Sidebar with two features for children making their Southeast premieres. Minuscule—Mandibles from Far Away, and animated adventure directed by Helene Giraud, and the live action feature film, The Witch Hunters directed by Rasko Miljkovic.
Festival Block Party sponsored by Winter Park Village. Saturday, April 13 from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village in Winter Park. Free for all Festival ticket and pass holders. Meet at the Winter Park Village fountain for live entertainment and free drinks and appetizers from participating restaurants.
Sunday, April 14 from 8:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., Enzian Theater will host “An Evening with The Blair Witch,” featuring a 35mm screening of the low-budget thriller and a Q&A session with members of the cast and crew.
Enzian Theater hosts three filmmaker forums: “Turning the Tables: Renegade Women of Early Cinema” on Wednesday, April 17, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; “Sketches Insane: The Wild World of Independent Animation” on Thursday, April 18, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; and “Filmmaker Forum” on Friday, April 19, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Night Retro Film: Monty Python’s Life
of Brian (directed by Terry Jones). This R-rated comedy classic from 1979
is in English and Latin with English subtitles. Sunday, April 21 at 8:30 p.m.
at Enzian Theater.
20-year anniversary of its release, the scary pseudo-documentary, The Blair Witch Project returns to the
Florida Film Festival where it was featured as the opening night film in 1999.
This time it appears in a 35mm version in the coveted special event spot as “An
Evening with the Blair Witch: A 20th Anniversary Celebration” on
Sunday, April 14 at 8:00 p.m. at Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida. As the
filmmakers are local and will be participating in a Q&A following the
screening, this event likely will sell out fast. Tickets are available now for this
program and all screenings at the Festival, which runs from April 12-21, 2019.
years ago when the story broke that five local University of Central Florida
film school graduates had sold their micro-budget horror film to Artisan
Entertainment at Sundance Film Festival, I was lucky enough to interview the
filmmakers in their studio and write articles for Orlando Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel,
The Hollywood Reporter, and Markee Magazine. As proof that you
should never throw anything away because someday you might need it, I dusted
the creepy black widow spider webs off one of my articles from 1999, and am
reprinting it below.
created by the premiere of the low-budget thriller, The Blair Witch Project,
purchased by Artisan Entertainment at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, was
no less exciting than the stir created during the actual filming of the pseudo-documentary.
During the month of October 1997, Haxan Films transformed the tranquil beauty
of Maryland’s Seneca Creek State Park into the haunted Black Hills Forest, the
site where three student filmmakers (played by Heather Donahue, Michael
Williams and Joshua Leonard) mysteriously disappear during filming of a
documentary about the mythical Blair Witch. Although the three students never
emerge from the forest, terrifying footage of their experiences is discovered a
directed and edited by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez and produced by Gregg
Hale and Robin Cowie, the four men—along with co-producer Michael Monello—comprise
Orlando-based Haxan Films. Sanchez grew up in Maryland, and with the assistance
of The Maryland Film Commission used the benign park for the eight-day shoot.
in their home office was more daunting than haunting, however. Eight days of
shooting produced 18 hours of raw footage, which took more than a year to edit
into an-87-minute film. Shot on video and 16mm film, in color and black and
white, the feature is a hybrid of looks created by method filmmaking, where
Haxan Films achieves amazing realism through the imperfections of the footage. Blurry
shots, seemingly unedited footage, improvised lines and unplanned expletives
allow the actors to film themselves experiencing terror in the haunted forest.
actors’ prime directive was to react to stimuli and roll camera on everything
that occurred,” Myrick says. To prepare for their ordeal, the actors were given
a two-day crash course in filmmaking.
unsuspecting actors didn’t know what awaited them as they wandered through the
woods, deprived of sleep, proper nourishment, and knowledge of the production
team’s plans, which included nightly harassments, haunted images, and a bloody
discovery wrapped in flannel. “Actually
it was just some extracted teeth with the roots attached that we got from a
dentist,” Cowie says. “You can’t really tell what it is—just that it’s nasty,
says although the production team spent countless hours walking through the
woods before the shoot, the tedious scouting was well worth it. Their in-depth
knowledge of the woods was crucial for the nightly hauntings staged by the
production team. “My favorite part was waking up the actors at 3:00 a.m. and
scaring them,” Sanchez says. To facilitate these supposed encounters between
the filmmakers and the Blair Witch, the production team moved quietly through
the woods—sometimes a mile or more—in the dark using red-lens headlamps.
Filming around Halloween added to the ambience.
filming, the actors moved to and from pre-determined locations, encountering
actors and non-actors with whom they improvised scenes. Direction was limited
to written notes passed to the actors as they interviewed people in town before
entering the haunted forest. In the woods, the actors relied on Global
Positioning System (GPS) handsets for navigation. The production team also used
GPS to track them. Notes, gear, and food were exchanged via baskets marked with
DayGlo orange bike flags.
who also serves as president of the development and production company
FILMstart, Inc, says although a few local actors were used for small roles,
many of the people interviewed in the film were local non-actors who agreed to
answer questions. “Heather went up to people and asked if they had heard of the
Blair Witch,” Cowie says. “For whatever reason, some of them said ‘yes’ and
related stories they had heard or television shows they had seen on the
possessed locals to share witch stories based on a myth conjured up by the
filmmakers? Myrick says it was one of
many lucky signs that appeared along the way. “On the second day of filming, we
were hiding in camouflage in the woods while the actors tried to negotiate
crossing a log across a river. Because they were effectively shooting on film,
they had sound gear, cameras and rolls of film on their backs. I knew that if
they fell into the water and soaked the camera and film, then our movie was
over. We couldn’t afford to buy any more stuff. I thought to myself, ‘If they
can just make it across the log, then we’re home free.’”
made it across the log.
Artisan Entertainment test markets the film to determine play dates and range
of distribution, Haxan Films is developing more projects, including
screenplays, a book detailing the production of The Blair Witch Project,
a film sequel, a television series and an interactive CD-ROM, all based on
Blair Witch mythology.
For more information about “An Evening with the Blair Witch” and Florida Film Festival, visit the official website.
With so many annual film festivals around the world, it’s easy for them to blend together – apart from definitive fests such as Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, and our own Florida Film Festival. That’s why Life Screenings International Film Festival is so refreshing. Focusing primarily on shorts that are 15 minutes are less, this 90-minute experience presents between four and seven films each third Sunday of the month at the Winter Park Public Library in Winter Park, Florida.
This truly is a unique festival for three reasons:
Life Screenings International Film Festival is a
monthly event, rather than an annual gathering. Featured local filmmakers are often
in attendance to talk about their work and international filmmakers participate
in question-and-answer sessions and discussions by Skype following the
screening of their films.
Each month’s festival is free and open to the
public, although advanced tickets must be reserved to ensure seating. Other
festivals typically charge for screenings other than a few selected freebie
These film shorts range in style, subject, and
length, but all depict “a world we want to live in,” according to host,
curator, and founder, Banks Helfrich. This distinctive feature is the
antithesis of the dark, dreary, disturbing fare that most edgy festival
programming directors seek for their events.
A World We Want to Live In
Helfrich, a Central Florida-based actor and independent
filmmaker currently working on his 10th feature film, started the
festival in February 2016 after first experimenting with Living Room
Screenings, which (as the name implies) presented short films in a home setting
to a handful of people. Although it began locally, now only about ten percent
of the submissions are from Florida filmmakers as the festival has gained
As interest grew, so did the festival. Now based in the Winter Park Public Library, the event has changed rooms over the years to accommodate growth, and technical director Jesse James was brought on to keep things running smoothly. Attendees are not necessarily typical movie goers. “These are people who like to think, to question, to learn and to connect,” Helfrich says.
He usually receives about 19 submissions each month and
chooses about six of them to screen. No good submission gets ignored, however,
although it might be saved for future use. Any submitted film that impresses
him with its high quality filmmaking and positive message will get screened at
some point. “This is not a competition,” he says. “I will take them all if I
like them all. It’s dependent on how they move me.”
So what exactly is a world Helfrich wants to live in? “I
want a world where I’m inspired all the time and where people are kind to each
other. It’s the world of a child filled with beauty and wonder.”
To that end, he’s working on another new experimental show
at the same library this fall. On October 10th, he’s planning “No Assumptions,”
a live interactive event in the round where people with opposite views discuss
their ideas in front of an audience. “Whenever they disagree and conflict
arises, music will begin to play, and they must dance away the tension,” he
says. “I’m hoping that art wins.”
The 27th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced by Enzian Theater and held this year from April 6 – 15 throughout Central Florida, offers 183 feature and short films from 38 countries. The Festival includes the American Independent Competition, 23 world premieres, 82 women filmmakers, and a new experimental shorts program named Sunspots: New Visions in the Avant Garde. As always, Festival goers also can choose from a variety of additional programming, such as celebrity guest events, special screenings, film sidebars, family films, parties, and the popular film forums offered free to the community.
Here’s a quick look at this year’s forums, all held at Enzian Theater. No tickets are required, and the forums are free and open to the public; however, seating is limited. The moderator asks questions of the panelists, and a general Q&A with the audience follows the discussion.
Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.
Write Now! A Screenwriter’s Road from Keyboard to Storyboard
Wednesday, April 11, 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Enzian Theater
This group of respected screenwriters will provide an up-to-the-minute insider’s guide to succeeding in the film industry, including tips on breaking in and working with the changing markets (such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu). Panelists will discuss agents, hot topics, and writing on spec, among other issues. Moderated by screenwriter Barry Sandler (Crimes of Passion, Making Love), this panel features Nick Naveda (Say You Will, Words on Bathroom Walls) and Don Mancini (Childs Play).
Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.
Indie Women: Grab ‘em by the Movies
Thursday, April 12, 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at Enzian Theater; sponsored by Full Sail University
In recent years, Florida Film Festival has devoted time and attention to some of the extraordinary women filmmakers working today. The Indie Women film panel returns this year, marking an even stronger presence at the Festival with women filmmakers representing more than 45% of the total programming. With strong women filmmakers including Greta Gerwig (Ladybird) on today’s scene at the same time as the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, these are changing times in the entertainment industry (and beyond). Panelists include Brooke Purdy (Quality Problems), Raama Mosely (Tatterdemalion), Jen Serena (My Indiana Muse) and Caroline Voagen Nelson (Aquacade), who will talk about their industry experiences. The forum will be moderated by Anne Russell, Program Director – Film Production MFA at Full Sail University.
Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.
Friday, April 13, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at Enzian Theater; sponsored by IMDBPro
Always a favorite, the filmmaker forum brings together a combination of talents from each year’s Festival. Conversations are lively, dynamic, and totally unscripted. Panelists reveal their triumphs and challenges, gloats and grievances, along with plenty of colorful anecdotes of the independent filmmaking process. Charles Sutter, Adjunct Professor, Film Department, UCF School of Visual Art & Design and festival selections team member, will moderate the panel, which includes Karl Jacob (Cold November), Fiona Dawson (TransMilitary), Christina Parrish (Call Me Brother) and David Howe (Call Me Brother).
The 27th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced by Enzian Theater and held this year from April 6 – 15 throughout Central Florida, offers 183 feature and short films from 38 countries. The Festival includes the American Independent Competition with narrative features and documentaries, 23 world premieres, 82 women filmmakers, and a new experimental shorts program titled “Sunspots: New Visions in the Avant-Garde.”
As always, Festival goers also can choose from a variety of additional programming, such as celebrity guest events, special screenings, film sidebars, midnight movies, family films, international showcase, Florida films, parties, and the popular film forums offered free to the community.
Some upcoming highlights from this year’s Festival:
American Animals will be the opening film at the Florida Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.
Opening Night Film and Party. American Animals in its East Coast premiere, starring Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, and Barry Keoghan in a heist film directed by Bart Layton. Blake Jenner will be in attendance for the film and party, and will participate in a post-film Q&A. The party includes food samples and cocktails from local restaurants.
Ramen Heads. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.
Food Film Sidebar with the narrative feature Back to Burgundy (directed bv Cedric Klapisch) and the documentary Ramen Heads (directed by Koki Shigeno).
Family Film Sidebar with two animated features for children making their Southeast premieres. The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales… directed by Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert, and Lu Over the Wall directed by Masaaki Yuasa.
Grace Jones: Blood and Bami. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.
Music Film Sidebar features three documentaries: 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie (directed by Lee Aronsohn); The Godfathers of Hardcore (directed by Ian McFarland); and Grace Jones: Blood and Bami (directed by Sophie Fiennes).
Festival Block Party sponsored by Winter Park Village. Saturday, April 7 from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village in Winter Park. Free for all Festival ticket and pass holders. Meet at the Winter Park Village fountain for live entertainment and free drinks and appetizers from participating restaurants.
Pam Grier in Jackie Brown. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.
Sunday, April 8 from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., Enzian Theater will host “An Evening with Pam Grier,” featuring director Quentin Tarantino’s third film, Jackie Brown, which stars Grier as the title character along with Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Michael Keaton, and Robert Forster. A screening of the crime caper action movie, based on Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, precedes the interactive event with Grier.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg in RBG. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.
The Spotlight Films program includes 11 non-competing movies with especially intriguing premises, riveting subjects, and well-known stars. Included in this year’s lineup: Borg McEnroe (starring Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf, respectively, in a fact-based sports film by director Janus Metz); Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (a documentary directed by Morgan Neville about Rollins College graduate Fred Rogers); and RBG (a documentary directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West about 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
Enzian Theater hosts three filmmaker forums: “Write Now! A Screenwriter’s Road from Keyboard to Storyboard” on Wednesday, April 11, 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; “Indie Women: Grab ‘em by the Movies” on Thursday, April 12, 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; and “Filmmaker Forum” on Friday, April 13, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.