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Interview with Filmstock Film Festival’s James Lee

Interview with Filmstock Film Festival’s James Lee

Though the big-name film festivals may have finished for the year–with Sundance rearing its head in only six weeks or so–there are still festivals running around the country. Take, for example, the Filmstock Film Festival, now in its fifth year, and catering specifically to the Four Corners states–Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. The festival is finishing up this weekend in Tempe, Arizona, at the Pollack Tempe Cinemas. They’re bringing along 12 short films which won awards when Filmstock stopped in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, and introducing a slew of new ones that are up for awards of their own. And although the festival premieres only shorts, both local and global, that doesn’t mean they’re completely unfamiliar; that is, unless a dual performance from Benedict Cumberbatch in one of those shorts sounds unfamiliar. As Filmstock begins its final weekend today, Sound on Sight conducted an email interview with the festival director, James Lee.

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Sound on Sight: What made you and the rest of the Filmstock team decide to focus the festival on the Four Corners states?

James Lee: There is a big need to get short filmmakers more exposure. At a typical festival, even at the big ones, short film screenings get about 50-100 people watching them. And that’s great, but we wanted the ability to do more. So the top 4 films from any Filmstock event will move on to screen at events in those four states, and get significantly more people watching them. The first round of films that we retired after their circuit this year got anywhere from 700-1100 sets of eyeballs watching their films!

SOS: What inspired you to join the Filmstock team back in 2009?

JL: I had a short film, and wanted it screened, so I submitted and was selected. I believed in what Filmstock was back then, and saw an opportunity for it to grow, expand and do more for the film community, both here in AZ and for the short filmmaker at large, domestically and around the globe.

SOS: What films premiering at the Tempe stop at this year’s festival are you most excited for audiences to see?

JL: Well, I’m excited for them all, but Menschen, A Stray, Inseparable, Insecurity, and SuperFuzz are some fantastic examples of short filmmaking.

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SOS: Of the 12 award winners from the other three stops at the festival, which are you most excited for Tempe audiences to see?

JL: Menschen, or Those That Play Your Clowns, which is a New Mexico film by a New Mexico native, and it’s just such an honest inside look to the life of an actor, independent or otherwise!

SOS: What’s the genesis of the iFest Challenge films? Have you been impressed by the skill of these films even though they were shot on cell phones?

JL: We wanted to get the message out there that storytelling is everybody’s responsibility. Whether you’re a filmmaker, college student, or office worker! And we also wanted to get across that everyone has the means to shoot a movie— their cell phone! I was really impressed with what some of the teams thought up as creative ways to tell their story, using only their phones as the camera!

SOS: Who will be receiving this year’s Barry E. Wallace Award at the Tempe stop and what have been their contributions to film?

JL: You’ll have to show up to the High Drama screening on December 7th at 7pm to find out. But you can see who we nominated here.

SOS: Have any filmmakers who submitted in past years gone on to make other films of note? If so, who and what films?

JL: Wes Martinez of Rock Soup Productions, LLC has been a Filmstock filmmaker for years now, and they have just finished their first feature film, The Conduit, which we are showing an exclusive first-look clip of on Saturday night!

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SOS: What details can you provide on the Actor’s Showcase? Will the performers be acting out material from the films themselves or from other content?

JL: Actors will be acting out performances from all sorts of material. We wanted to showcase the actor’s life & what it’s like to do a live audition in front of casting directors and other professionals… because that’s exactly what these performers will be doing! You can expect to see a wide range of material and tactics in these live performances, which will be supplemented with some fun films afterwards.

SOS: Was it your intent to stay indie by partnering with Tempe’s Pollack Cinemas as opposed to a bigger chain?

JL: Pollack has been with us from the very beginning, and they’re great people. They tend to be easier to work with than the bigger chains, as the decision makers are right there at the theater instead of some corporate office, so it’s a practical decision. We’re happy to be there, as it is a one-of-a-kind location that never fails to leave an impression!

SOS: Are tickets still available, and if so, is purchasing online better than waiting until the festival begins and buying in person?

JL: Tickets are still available, but some of the shows are filling up fast! You can get them slightly cheaper online ($9.50 as opposed to $10 at the door), and you will have your spot guaranteed. It’s always best, however, to get a pass, and go to all of the screenings for only $35, which is a steal compared to some other film festival’s All-Access passes! We look forward to seeing you there!

For information on the festival, ticket sales, the short films themselves, or any related events, you can visit the Filmstock Film Festival website here. And don’t forget: if you’re in Tempe this weekend, it’s running from today, December 5, to Saturday, December 7.

— Josh Spiegel

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