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An Inaugural Event
Almost a hundred movies will be shown next weekend at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival; fifteen will be world premieres. This new-to-Vermont festival is for first or second time filmmakers and is the brainchild of Lloyd Komesar. For Lloyd, this kind of festival creates a level playing field. As he explained, “This is for new filmmakers who really need a break—who really need a breakthrough. No huge budgets, no big stars. This is the opportunity for them to be nurtured, discovered, and talked about without the distraction of competing with filmmakers presenting their third, fourth, or fifth film.” He makes no claim the concept is new. “There are other festivals like this, but not in this neck of the woods.”
The new festival opens August 27 in three Middlebury venues. Lloyd is the producer, Jay Craven the artistic director. Lloyd, Jay, and two “brilliant staffers”—Lloyd’s words, in addition to “powerhouse, fearless, spectacular, and creative”—are putting the final touches on the event right now. Phoebe Lewis is working on press coverage and social media, Kyla Jarrett is handling logistics, herding filmmakers, gathering donations for swag bags, and finalizing a signature Festival trailer compilation. Lloyd is finding housing for the visiting filmmakers in private homes and just finished the print copy for the program. This is the work when 90 films are to be shown in four days.
How it Happened
Lloyd volunteered at the Pasadena Film Festival in February, 2014 and enjoyed it. A lot. His satisfaction inspired him to start another event—but not in L.A. Now Lloyd says, “L.A. doesn’t need another film festival.” The idea got under his skin and he emailed Jay Craven not long after that. Lloyd again: “I had met Jay in Brandon when he was showing ‘Northern Borders’ and we just hit it off.” Jay agreed to consider Lloyd’s idea but needed time to complete the shooting of his latest film.
Lloyd admits this is a larger project than he usually grabs hold of, but easily remarks he is “happy to take on the responsibility.” He likes projects that are clear from start to finish and says “I don’t mind the legwork and the innumerable face-to-face meetings. I’m willing to do all that.”
The Selection Process
The films were chosen by a screening committee. Jay and several other subject matter experts–mostly from New England—reviewed 320 submissions. Lloyd was “startled but delighted” at the number; they were anticipating 125 entries. Online platforms connect filmmakers to film festivals. This committee used withoutabox and FilmFreeway.
Three top short films and three top feature films will be named. Makers of those films will receive the first-ever VTeddy awards. (Lloyd’s description: “A lovely custom bear by Vermont Teddy Bear Company. It’s more a good luck charm than anything.”) Those films will go on tour, courtesy of the Festival. The films will be shown in venues in each of the six New England stakes where independent film is valued at the end of the 2015 calendar year and into the first two quarters of 2016.
This tour relies on Jay’s experience. He has committed to the tour, and is asking the winning filmmakers to travel with them. A stipend is provided to filmmakers who go. Jay encourages a question/answer session afterwards; he finds films with a q-and-a perform well. Lloyd’s earlier words, “break, breakthrough, opportunity for them to be nurtured, discovered, and talked about” echo here.
A Short List
With a sense of fairness to all the Festival’s filmmakers, Lloyd was completely unwilling to disclose the three “can’t miss” films. He was willing to name a few films that he and Jay were “delighted to have,” they are listed below. A Vermont collection is available on this page. Choose a few and attend this Vermont Arts 2015 event!
Barnyard Slop Trough
John the Baptist
Picking up the Pieces
Pretend We’re Kissing
The incredible adventures of Jo Jo (and his annoying little sister Avila)
The Sound and the Shadow
Omo Child: The River and the Bush
Romeo is Bleeding
The Dinkytown Uprising
By and By: New Orleans Gospel at the Crossroads
Approaching the Elephant
Among the Believers