13th Mar2015

’2015 First Time Fest’ Report

by Catherina Gioino

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The Third Annual First Time Fest took place over the past weekend in New York City, from March 5th to March 9th. The festival, which celebrates first time filmmakers, had numerous panels that discussed topics such as financing films to getting the right marketing for the film to even talks from established filmmakers sharing their advice. The festival concluded with the honoring of Harvey Weinstein, as a tribute for “his support of first time filmmakers.”

A purely New York City centric film festival, the festival’s founders of Johanna Bennett and Mandy Ward chose to show the films at the Core Club, the Village East Cinema, and the Wild Project, while the discussions and panels were featured at the B Bar and Grill. The festival allows for a five day competition among films that were completed by first time filmmakers for the chance to win international sales and theatrical distribution. Any movie that has a first time director, writer, producer, editor, cinematographer or composer can qualify for the festival’s Competition Films. This year, six fiction and documentary films from all over world, including Lebanon, the Netherlands, and the US premiered at the festival, which were judged by audience members as well as a set of judges, which are Scott Feinstein, Rafe Fogel, Maureen Masters, Nile Rodgers and Harper Simon.

Of the various panels that were featured at the festival, many this year focused on women in film and the women that made the movies we love possible. Discussions varying from “Power Girls! Women in Entertainment,” to “From Rock to Score” to even “Show Me the Money” and “Crystal Ball: The Future of Distribution” were featured at the festival. They offered great insight for all aspiring filmmakers and established ones as well.

Bennett and Ward started the festival as a way to advocate the amazing films that new filmmakers come out with. They state “Our world is increasingly less tolerant of the risks associated with supporting films by first time filmmakers. This creates an ever more challenging environment for filmmakers to create truly inspired content without the need to focus on fundraising and economic success.” Due to the obstacles that many new filmmakers face, the duo decided to make the First Time Fest in order to show these first time films as well as attract viewers and show their appreciation for such films.

Guests of this year’s festival included Questlove and Wayne Kramer for a panel discussion of “Rock to Score,” as moderated by Rachel Felder; the panel which shows how rock stars became film composers. The “Power Girls! Women in Entertainment” panel featured Jacqueline Gonzalez, Terry Lawler, Soo Kim, Leah Meyerhoff, Jenny Halper and Anne Hubbell, while Katie Stern, Rose Ganguzza, Jessica Caldwell, JP Sarni, and Frida Torresblanco all were part of the Producing panel.

Of the films, The Intruder (Infiltrant) had its US premiere on Friday, March 6. The 87 minute film from Holland was directed by Shariff Korver, is about an undercover cop infiltrating a drug trafficking family and starts to feel at home with them. The Mind of Mark DeFriest is about a magician sent to prison after faking a mental illness. One Eyed Girl is an Australian thriller about a psychiatrist haunted by a dead patient of his, and finds himself in a cult seeking redemption. Lebanese film Void (Waynon) follows six Lebanese women waiting for their sons and husbands from the Civil War. Beneath the Olive Tree shows the true life of women who were sent to Trikeri Island, the biggest concentration camp in the Greek Civil War. I Believe in Unicorns depicts an imaginative teenage girl who has to take care of her disabled mother and tries to figure out her relationship with an older boy. Other Madnesses is about a NYC tour guide that suffers from nightmares that might cause him to break it off with a Russian tourist he falls in love with, and Come Simi follows a pregnant women trying to get closer with her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s, her older porn star sister and others.

The festival ended on Monday with a tribute to Weinstein as well as announcements of the winners of the competition. Check out our next post to see who won and the interview with Harvey Weinstein.

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