The Cape Fear Independent Film Festival started off with 8 films in one night. It now lasts for 3 days and screens nearly 50 films. The Festival celebrates its 18th anniversary this week, June 14-16 at the Community Arts Center.
Founder and President Rich Garren joined us in the studio. Listen to our discussion above, and find our extended conversation below later today.
The films include documentaries, comedies, dramas, shorts-and an entire 6 hours for the popular horror block. Find the full schedule here.
Rich Garren: I am the President of the Cape Fear Independent Film Network, which puts on the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival every year.
Gina Gambony: How long has this festival been going on?
Rich: We turn 18 this year - which is our theme. We are officially adults. We're graduating from high school. So, at our awards ceremony this year, we're going to be throwing ourselves a senior prom - 80s themed. It's going to be a blast.
Gina: Where is the festival happening?
Rich: All of the events will take place at the Hannah Block Community Arts Center over on 2nd Street. This will be our fourth year in the row there. It's a great venue - plenty of space, all self-contained, and they're very, very good to us. So, we try to be good to them.
Gina: How many films?
Rich: We have 46 films of all different lengths that we're screening this year. The shortest one, I believe, is five minutes in the longest is almost a full two hours on its own.
Gina: Where do these films come from? How do you get them?
Rich: Well, we do open submissions a online. Which is great because, with the availability of digital submissions, we can get films from all over the world. We have, in fact, we have a whole block of European films that's going to be on Thursday night. But we try to focus on more closer to home. We really like to have as much North Carolina generated content as we can get our hands on. That said, of course there's a limited amount of space for everything. Thursday night we have our regional showcase, which is all North Carolina and Wilmington made films. We also have additional films that we couldn't fit in that blocks. We've put them on either in some of the Friday screenings or Saturday screens as well. They're peppered throughout the festival.
Gina: Can you tell me like one or two films that you're particularly excited about screening?
Rich: Sure. I'll give you the highlights. Obviously, the Thursday night North Carolina Shorts block is has really become a tradition with us, and we love every film in there. Honestly, if I could fit more, I would. I encourage anyone, if you're a supporter of the film community in both Wilmington or just around the state of North Carolina, come out and support these filmmakers. Even though the film industry itself has moved on for the most part from here, not everyone has gone with it. There are people still here making movies. I think we should support them as much as we can. Additionally, we've become known - even though we're not exclusive to any one genre, we show all genres of film - for our horror block. It has become very, very popular over the past six years. In fact, we expanded it this year. We have six hours of horror content on Friday night. So, more than enough for anyone who's a fan of the genre.
There is other programming going on Friday, not just the horror. So, if you're not a fan, alternately we have some comedies and dramas.
Gina: Do you have any trailers on your website?
Rich: Yes. Every film that has a trailer, [the trailer] is available through our website, capefearfilm.org. The festival is divided into individual days - so you can click on Thursday, Friday or Saturday to see what's showing. Then, you just click on a film, and it'll take you to the page that has the information about the film and the trailer if it's available. So yes, you can definitely get a taste for what you're getting yourself into.
Gina: Now beyond horror, what else do we have?
Rich: Well, Saturdays are our biggest day in terms of where you have good screening starting at 12:30 and going until 7:30. Then, we have the award ceremony ceremony immediately following the last screening of the day. We have some really good documentaries showing on Saturday, and three of the four in that block our North Carolina made. In fact, one of them is about GenX, which is a subject that we're all probably way too familiar with now. So, those are good. We also have a couple of highlights. The last shorts block of the day features a film called "Project Home: The Next Battle." It's about a local organization called Canines for Service, who pair service dogs with people who've come back from war with PTSD. We've paired up with that organization. They will be onsite. They will have some dogs there for people to meet. During the Q&A that follows the screening, people have opportunity to ask them about what they do.
The last thing I'd like to mention also is we have a feature film called "Butterfly Caught" which is also showing Saturday at 5:30. "Butterfly. Caught" is a film that was shot in LA, but the producer/writer is a UNCW graduate. They'll be attending the festival, and they're very excited to come back here and share their work.
Gina: Rich, how did you get involved with this festival?
Rich: It's a long story. Back in the year 2000, I was relatively new to Wilmington. I'd only been here about three years or so. I wanted to get into the film industry. But, at the time I moved here, the studio was for sale. So, there wasn't a lot going on. I ended up making my own short film just because I needed something to do that was a creative outlet. I ended up meeting a lot of people in the area who were involved in the film industry in one capacity or another. We decided to start our nonprofit organization as a way to connect people who were doing independent work so they could meet each other, share resources, share stories, contacts, all of that thing. The festival was an event that grew out of that organization. We started really small - one evening about eight films - and now we're up to 46 films on three days.
Gina: I gotta ask you about the cover of the brochure - the festival "menu," as it were. We've got your theme for the year, "I'm an Adult," and we have a creature that I think is a crocodile?
Rich: It is.
Gina: A crocodile with wings and bird feet with a crazy person on it. Well, the person's not necessarily crazy with their camera. It's an inspiring image [laughs]. I'm wondering - where did this image come from, and what's it about?
Rich: The image on the cover of the magazine sprung completely from the creative mind of Matt Barrett, who is also in the film industry as a filmmaker himself. He works here in Wilmington. I think he also works out of Atlanta as well. He was tasked with coming up with some art work for us. All we really gave him was the idea of we're turning 18 or celebrating the fact that we're entering adulthood. He ran with it. I'm told that the creature is a cross between an alligator and a cardinal, which is the state bird of North Carolina.
Gina: I can totally see that now that you say it.
Rich: The gentlemen on top, I guessing, might be Matt at age 18 - I'm not sure, I can't quote him on that - sporting a very, at the time was probably brand new VHS camera, to document his graduation.
Gina: That's fun stuff. Tell me about the way that people can buy tickets. I'm assuming that there are a couple of different ways?
Rich: Yeah, tickets are available right now on our website. Every film block has a little get tickets button on it. You just click on it, and it takes you to our ticket portal. Or, you can buy them at the door - assuming that we're not sold out of whatever it is you want to see on the day of. We do have blocks that generally do sell out, so we always encourage people to buy them early just to be sure. If you really want to go, get them now.
Gina: What about the Prom party?
Rich: Yes. If you are attending the award ceremony, which there is a separate ticket for that or you can buy an all access pass which gets you into everything, then we have invited everyone who was at the award ceremony to stay for our 80s Prom party. We'll get rid of the chairs, drop the disco ball, and just have a great time.
Gina:The festival is just as great as ever.
Rich: Oh yeah! It's growing every year. We might even have to start looking at additional venues. We're happy where we are. But if we're going to show any more films, we may have to add an additional days. That's a good problem to have. I'd rather it be growing than not. The festival is next weekend, June 14th, 15th and 16th, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Gina: What is that stack you have right there?
Rich: Oh, these are some of the all access passes. We've fashioned them sort of like drivers licenses.
Gina: Isn't that, what's her name? Molly Ringwald!
Rich: They literally just came in the mail. That's why I'm walking around with them. I just grabbed the box and hit it over here.
I want to say, as always, a big thank you to our volunteers and our sponsors which make this possible every year. We do not operate on a huge budget for this festival. The time and the materials are donated by various individuals and companies. Our prom party is being sponsored by Covington Vodka and Mr. Bartender who will have custom 80s cocktails there for people to drink if they're interested in that. We'll also have club soda and water and things like that. Of course, all the decor is going to be 80s as well. We'll have The Glass Men spinning some 80s dance music for us too, so that'll be a lot of fun.