Phil Holland Ad One

FilmGate Interactive’s third iteration starts today in Miami. The film festival/conference is an interactive, immersive event that is part entertainment and part an educational workshop for emerging filmmakers. The creative and independent organization is quickly rising to be the main stage for “transmedia” storytelling in South Florida. It is a new field, and an exciting one, as its technology-heavy aspects have lowered the barriers of entry associated with traditional filmmaking. “There are a lot more women and is a more egalitarian and definitely independent,” says Diliana Alexander, Executive Director of FilmGate.

FilmGate Interactive is a creative conference living at the intersection of storytelling and new technology and runs from Feb. 20 – 28. Now in its third year, it promises to deliver well-rounded content while making it fun as well. The week is packed with events for everyone. As a film lover, I cannot wait to experience some of the interactive screenings, but there are plenty of events for filmmakers that are simply not available anywhere else in South Florida.

There is a cornucopia of events to attend this year in a short time span, which can easily become overwhelming. “This year there are a couple of themes behind the conference,” says Alexander. The thematic strands behind this year’s events are climate change, the right to privacy and death. Sobering issues that are covered via interactive filmmaking, like One Dark Night, which re-casts the story of Trayvon Martin’s death through a fully immersive virtual reality experience. According to Alexander this a “must-see” interactive exhibit. Director Nonny de la Peña has been leading the charge on advocating for experiential journalism and using transmedia, as it changes how we receive information. In a recent TED Talk, she made the case for virtual reality technology use in journalism that puts the audience inside the story.

tech playground meeting

The festival is also spotlighting France this year, and one of the more important representatives of the nation comes via the screening of Wei or Die, a 90 minute interactive feature film by Simon Bouisson. The screening is a North American premiere and will be shown with subtitles. This is another of the must-see films in FilmGate Interactive. Wei or Die is a multi-camera narrative that tells the story of hazing gone wrong. Bouisson, along with the film’s producer, will attend FilmGate Interactive. Another not-to-miss screening is Do Not Track, an interactive web documentary about tracking data on line.

A new addition to this year’s FilmGate Interactive is “The Percolator Industry Pitch Session,” which aims to connect filmmakers with local talent. The program entails a training session on how to pitch ideas to networks and will be followed by actual opportunities to pitch to a few networks including VICE, MTV and others still to be confirmed. Up to 15 local filmmakers will be able to pitch their ideas to individual networks, which will then gather for a closing panel to give feedback to the entire class of participants on what worked and what didn’t. “Even people who were not able to participate in each session will be a part of it through the workshop,” says Alexander. This is an innovative idea that is clearly a welcome addition to South Florida, home to talented people that at times struggle to connect with the right resources to create locally.

Capture

Finally, it wouldn’t be South Florida without a kick ass party. FilmGate Interactive hosts its “kickoff” party mid-festival, on Thursday, at 7 p.m., at the Deauville Beach Resort. In addition to a great time, there are a pair of free events and several ticketed workshops like a sound workshop, led by Billy Wirasnick who has helped pioneer the Slow TV movement in the U.S. “Sound is such an important asset in immersive filmmaking,” says Alexander. Also, local actor and Emmy Award Winner Jordi Vilasuso will lead a two-day intensive Master Class designed for actors. The festival will also host a three-day Cinematography class in Stiltsville with RED Digital Cinema led by Phil Holland, a digital imaging specialist on several notable movies, including credits on several X-Men and Fast & Furious movies. Also it sounds idyllic to be in such a unique, historical location.

The festival kicked off in 2013 thanks to a winning a big grant during the Knight Foundation’s Arts Challenge that allowed FilmGate to become an international Conference, which allowed the festival to bring some of the most innovative storytellers from Canada, London and France to Miami. Alexander says the grant allowed for than important guests to take part in the festival but also brought important ideas to it. “Being a Knight Grantee, outside of financial assistance, also introduces you to other amazing projects, and we have gained many collaborators from just sitting beside other recipients of amazing projects and loving what they are doing,” she says.

As the film community grows in South Florida, there will be more need to build peer-to-peer bridges and share technical knowledge about filmmaking. This is one of those areas where FilmGate shines. Although South Florida is not a filmmaking hub, that dream may not be as far-fetched as it once seemed.

Ana Morgenstern

For tickets go to: www.filmgate.miami. Individual screenings are $10 for subscribers. Advanced tickets are $60 and include access to the Tech Playground, workshops, projects and an invitation to the launch event. An All Access Pass can also be purchased for $120, which includes invitations to industry happy hours, the kickoff pool party at the Deauville Hotel and the Future Survivor themed closing party and awards ceremony.

(Copyright 2016 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

filmgateThere is a local movement slowly brewing in Miami, one that holds a promise to create a strong film scene. The film community in South Florida has been growing, from incredible cinema art houses to more offerings throughout the year at galleries, museums and even a film program at Art Basel. Indeed, Miami is shaping up to be a welcoming space for film lovers, enriched by organizations like FilmGate Miami, which is not only a welcomed addition to the Miami film scene, but it also puts forth an innovative take on what a film festival should be.

I recently sat down with Executive Director Diliana Alexander, who along with Jose Jacho, have brought this organization to life from an idea. “We started doing the immersive film festival collaboratively,” she says. “I convinced Jose that the interactive element would be interesting for everyone. He brought a democratic element to the process.”

The organization came out of a process of doing, like Indie Film Club Miami, the previous iteration of the organization, which programmed workshops for filmmakers after seeing the need for that during local film festivals. Alexander and Jacho have an inventive and collaborative approach to most of their programs. The organization, which was only recently formalized, came out of a series of programmatic activities that started at a grassroots level and centered on a passion for storytelling and the craft of making films.

IMG_0219

FilmGate’s interactive film festival, now heading into its third year, was one of the first programs of the organization. It attracts aspiring filmmakers not just from South Florida but from around the globe. It is “hard to describe,” according to Alexander. It exists in an experimental space where the organization has found its footing, opening the creative process to audiences and adding lots of technological advances in the process. “I looked around in Miami and saw that no one was really doing this,” says Alexander of the immersive interactive transmedia experience that is FilmGate Miami’s annual festival.

The interactive/multimedia storytelling approach, which is more widespread in Canada, where Alexander grew up, has been in use through several productions by the National Film Board of Canada. But it is one of the concepts that Alexander and Jacho wanted for Miami. An exciting aspect of the interactive narrative in multi-platform storytelling is the audience’s ability to participate in the creative process, which could be a nightmare for a curator, but not so for FilmGate. “The audience wants to be a co-creator,” says Alexander, “they want to be more interactive. You can get them to really interact and create interesting stories that live on longer than traditional films.”

Depending on the particular project, people can be part of the process via social media or other forms of participation like choose-your-own-adventure, for example. The festival is also very aware of the environment, which affects people in all walks of life. “I felt that if we were going to start a festival,” says Jacho of his experience with the festival, “it should have an eye on environmental issues and social causes. As it turns out one of the most engaging stories being told through interactive means have been documentaries.”

Lost children

Before you conjure up images of strange, incomprehensible art-house films or overly serious documentaries, the list of local short films is much wider and diverse than a niche of friends. Recent showings of NOLA – short for “Not Going to Move to L.A.” — have included filmmakers from the Keys, Orlando, Northern Florida and our own Miami. Their approach is inclusive, every NOLA we at IndieEthos have attended feels like a backyard party, complete with a juried competition of films showcased (full disclosure: both of us have had a turn), an audience competition that includes fuzzy balls to throw at filmmakers (yes, fuzzy balls, that is not a typo), and a live band after the local films’ showcase.

10959603_610836399050640_2718700433229778307_n

FilmGate is like the hip, younger new kid on the film scene, experimenting with interactive storytelling and bringing StoryCode to Miami — originally the program started in New York City. The idea behind StoryCode is “to connect the tech community to the film-making community to make sure that ideas conceived by filmmakers can be done within specific technical guidelines,” explains Alexander.

With growing investments in Miami making it a sort of tropical Silicon Valley, the idea of engaging with this growing sector is a timely one. It is also the engine behind some of the creatives at FilmGate. “The most exciting and fulfilling part of FilmGate is getting storytellers to re-imagine their stories using new media,” says Jacho. All these projects have something in common. They are the core of what makes FilmGate stand out in South Florida, marrying technological advances with traditional storytelling and in doing so bringing a fresh outlook to the film scene.

One of the latest initiatives by FilmGate is the Percolator, a multidisciplinary gathering of creatives around coffee with the goal of creating and collaborating in storytelling. Alexander’s voice brightens up when she talks about what a good day at FilmGate is like. “When I know that everything is possible, and that we can completely conceive something that never existed, it makes me excited for the day,” she declares. That is the ethos of the organization, which has an approachable style but is serious about making a space to connect filmmakers. I must confess, it is the community-building aspect that I appreciate the most about FilmGate; being a resident of the Miami tropics for over 10 years and counting myself a cinephile for most of my life, I have dreamt of catching indies not only during those two glorious weeks in March when the Miami International Film Festival is in full swing but throughout the year.

IMG_0052

Ana Morgenstern

Related links:

For details on “Not Gonna Move to L.A.”
http://www.film-gate.org/news/marchnola

Interactive Tech Playground
http://www.film-gate.org/techplayground

Last year’s FilmGate Interactive Festival
http://www.film-gate.org/filmgate2015

Submissions are open for FilmGate Interactive 2016
http://www.film-gate.org/news/2015/5/20/submit-your-project-to-filmgate-2016

(Copyright 2015 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)