Area filmmakers in the spotlight at festival

📷 Kyle Kuchla and Bill Fulkerson, creators of Survival of the Film Freaks, with B-filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman. (Kyle Kuchla courtesy photo)

Graziano: Low budgets, great rewards

By Patrick Bracken
Citizen Chronicle Entertainment Writer

SOUTHBRIDGE — According to the website Box Office Mojo, the recent big-budget giant shark movie The Meg cost $140 million to make.  Silvia Graziano produced her short film, I Want You to Know, which premieres at the Shawna Shea Film Festival on Saturday, for about $2,500.  That means her entire film cost significantly less than it cost to make one second of The Meg.

Graziano is one of several area filmmakers having their work screened at SSFF, Southbridge’s version of the Cannes Film Festival.  They report that money is one of many challenges facing low budget filmmakers, but that the rewards far outweigh the costs.

“I think anyone would say the biggest challenges are always time and money.  You can always use more of both” said Sean Carmichael, director of Alone In a Paradise, a searing 7-minute look at a drug deal gone tragically wrong.  The North Andover resident spends his days in the corporate and media event world.  In fact, most (if not all) low-budget filmmakers have day jobs; very few can afford to do this full time.  Because of this, one short film can take a long time to produce.  “From the germ of the idea through casting, gathering props and wardrobe, and then the final cut of the film the process was about two years,” Carmichael explained.

Another challenge for filmmakers is getting their films seen.  Attleboro resident Chris Esper has two short films playing at the Festival, Imposter and Bent.  He said “the demand for making high quality films is tall and you also have to break through the herd of everybody else doing the exact same thing you are.”  One way to break through that “herd” is by executing on a unique vision, as Esper does with his short Imposter, one of the highlights of the festival.  Completely silent, Imposter perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to live with anxiety and depression.  “The reason for it being a silent film was to represent the idea that those who suffer do so in silence,” explained Esper, “Many of us can never see or understand what another person is going through.”

Psychology and the mind is a running theme throughout the films at the festival.  Graziano works as a coordinator for a psychiatry residency training program in Boston and brought her knowledge of the mind to I Want You to Know, an intense 3-minute short that convincingly tells a terrifying story in the time it takes to fry an egg.  One of Graziano’s goals is to get her audience to relate to deeply troubled characters.  “I have respect for all of my characters,” she said.  “Evoking empathy for the more monstrous ones is my favorite challenge.”

It’s not all darkness and psychology for local filmmakers, however.  Kyle Kuchla and Bill Fulkerson turned their love of trashy B-movies and cult cinema into the feature-length documentary Survival of the Film Freaks, which is loaded with film clips and interviews with B-movie celebrities like Joe Bob Briggs and Ted Raimi.  The film traces the rise of cult cinema from the 1970s through the present day.  “In an age where you can find any information you want through a simple online search,” said Kuchla, “we wanted to know what gets people excited about the idea of “cult” still.”  He noted the influence of these b-moves can still be felt today.  “These are the films that let filmmakers and artists know that you can go out and make the film you want and still have it seen, no matter how crazy the content is, how small the budget is, etc.”

In fact, this independent spirit is alive and well in the local filmmaking scene.  When asked what advice they would give to aspiring filmmakers, their responses were summarized nicely by Chris Esper.  “Nowadays with the technology to make a short film so readily available, there’s no excuse to not make a film and make it well.”  Who knows, someone reading this article may be the next local filmmaker to play the Shawna Shea Film Festival.  All It takes is some time, a little money, and a passion for the story.

Alone in a Paradise and Imposter will screen Saturday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m. during the short film bloc at Starlite.

I Want You to Know will screen Saturday, October 4 at 2:30 p.m. during the horror film block at Starlite.

Survival of the Film Freaks will screen Saturday, October 4 at 5 p.m. at Starlite.

Bent will screen Friday, October 3 at 2 p.m. during the short film block at Starlite.

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