Written by Gwydhar Gebien
This past Saturday was the first annual Elgin Film Festival, and if you were unable to attend this year I recommend that you mark your calendars RIGHT NOW for next year because this is the film festival to attend.
When I decided, at the age of 12, that I wanted to be a filmmaker I was especially taken with the photographs in magazines of the gala film premiers with lots of glamourous celebrities and bright lights. Even when I learned the reality- that independent filmmaking is a lot of tedious paperwork and a collossal effort balanced on a dental floss budget- there was still some nugget of hope that if I stuck with it I would someday have the opportunity to stand in the bright lights and to make all of it worthwhile. This past Saturday I had that opportunity.
The first annual Elgin Film Festival, hosted by film critic Dean Richards of WGN was a little bit of Hollywood glitz right here in the midwest. The judges and the filmmakers of the five short films that had been chosen as finalists all arrived on a red carpet (my very first time doing so!) and were ushered into the Hemmens Cultural Center with great fanfare. The Hemmens Auditorium is a vast theatre space designed for large crowds and quickly filled up with over 800 guests, which alone was a thrill. To put this in persepective, the second largest audience we’ve ever screened any film for was a total of 75 people. The five short films that screened were:
“Crossing The Line”
“The Erogenous Zone”
“House of Cards”
“The Booby Trap”
All of these were excellent- at one point during the screening my Associate Producer leaned over to me and whispered “We have some real competition here!” and we did. “The Visionary” placed third out of the five after “Crossing the Line” (second) and “House of Cards” (first), but I found that I didn’t mind so much that we hadn’t taken first. It was an honor to be among such quality films to begin with and I felt that we held our ground and could stand tall with what we had done.
But the point I would like to make over all is that while every festival that we screen a film at is important to us THIS festival will stand out for months, maybe years to come as being something special. The feeling of having the film screened before an audience of hundreds reminded me why I wanted to do this in the first place and, even if it was just for one evening in Elgin, Illinois, we all genuinely felt like celebrities- like our work was worth celebrating and was being celebrated.
So next year when the time comes, don’t walk, Run! to the Elgin Film Festival and let it remind you too of the reason that you do what you do.