As happened all three years with Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival, my daily previews and recaps of Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival quickly fell behind and out of existence, pushed aside by the all day needs of actually running the festival. There is a perception that Buffalo Dreams is Buffalo Screams 2.0, but that isn't the case: Dreams is an all new festival, started from scratch when my partner Chris Scioli and I found certain behind the scenes factors of Buffalo Screams unmanageable and unacceptable. Given that Buffalo Dreams was a first year festival, it surpassed my expectations and everything we accomplished with Buffalo Screams. We didn't get up and running until March, which means we put this whole thing together in eight months, and now we're in a great position for next year.
It wasn't easy: we ended up putting on our first seven day event with all day programming, and we were pleasantly surprised when filmmaker after filmmaker notified us of his intention to attend our inaugural event. We programmed 85 films (26 features, 59 shorts, 27 international films, 13 local productions). We had amazing movies, and I don't use that word lightly: Motivational Growth, On Air, Animosity, Judas Ghost, Atlantis: The Last Days of Kaptara, My Fair Zombie, Nightmare Box, Dust of War, Sick: Survive the Night, Pinup Dolls on Ice, and Imago, to name but a few (and in no particular order). Just as important, we had amazing visiting filmmakers: Don Thacker, Simon Pearce, Brendan Steere, Brett Kelly, Jon Keeyes, Ryan M.Andrews, Mel House, Chris Warren, Geoff Klein and Melissa Mira, actor Bates Wilder and actress Tracy Willet (again, to name a few). To have these folks and many others travel to our city, to show their terrific films at our start-up festival, was astounding.
Jerry Landi and the Bloodmarsh Krackoon team, Don Thacker and Simon Pearce were here for most of the week, and most of the other filmmakers came up for two or three days to support each other and see as many films as they could. In other words, they actually participated in the festival and brought something extra to the table besides their excellent films, which is something we didn't expect to happen for a couple of years (Scioli and I are big picture guys, and we know it will take time to realize our full vision for this event). The filmmakers gave great Q&As, and I was pleased with the questions asked by our intelligent audience.
Far too much happened over the week to give a blow by blow account, but here are some of the highlights:
- For the second year in a row, our Krackoon friends from the Bronx were a real presence at the fest, providing warmth and humor. I hope they make another film soon so they can come back - I hope every visiting filmmaker comes back.
- All of our screenings presented by visiting filmmakers were memorable, including short films presented to small but appreciative audiences at weekday blocks; Don Thacker, Simon Pearce, Brendan Steere and Tracy Willet, Brett Kelly, Geoff Klein and Melissa Mira, Jon Keeyes, Ryan M. Andrews and his team, Mel House and Chris Warren gave especially informative talks (my apologies to anyone I left out...there were that many, and I loved every one of them).
- We sold out Return to Nuke 'Em High Vol. 1, raising $2,000 for the Niagara Arts & Culture Center (someone donated an additional $1,000 at the screening). Troma fans came from Philadelphia in a school bus. Lloyd Kaufman did a 45 minute Q&A after the film, then spent an hour signing items for free and posing for photographs with every one of his fans. I didn't attend the Troma after party, and I'll still never forget it!
- For the third year in a row, Paige Davis from Alternative Cinema gave a talk on DVD/VOD distribution. This time, she gave it at a separate venue, the Screening Room. It was well attended - by the visiting filmmakers. I counted one local filmmaker whose work we screened, and two local filmmakers who showed up just to learn about indie distribution.
- As thanks to our visiting filmmakers, we arranged a lunch for them at Scotch and Sirloin, it was every bit the fun, warm get together we hoped, a chance for everyone in town at that point to break bread somewhere other than the lobbies of the Amherst Theatre or Lord Amherst Hotel.
- The Dreamer Awards ceremony went well, even though I missed half of it racing home like a madman to retrieve four awards I'd forgotten at home. I will get to see the acceptances I missed soon. We presented Lloyd Kaufman with our Dedication to Indie Excellence Award, and Lloyd's wife Pat, our former NYS Film Commissioner, presented Buffalo-Niagara Film Commissioner Tim Clark and Director of Operations RIch Wall with our Local Service Award, and I presented Albert Pyun, in absentia, with our Indie Genre Spirit Award (Albert was unable to attend due to health issues).
- On a personal note, I loved seeing my friends Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen from Florida, and Gregory Kurczynski from Louisiana (all here for the short He's Not Looking So Great), and am glad they had a great time; and my daughter Kaelin had a great time all around, meeting people, bonding with people, and handing out awards. For an only child with no friends her age in the neighborhood, she has no idea how interesting her life is.
Over lunch at Niagara Falls, Don Thacker asked me what I get out of the festival. Exhausted, I fumbled something about wanting to build a lasting contribution to Buffalo, but I neglected the simple answer: that I love programming. It's exciting to discover a film you've never heard of before, to promote that film, and to present it to an audience. Many of these films will receive distribution, and the people who saw them here will associate Buffalo Dreams with them - our good luck. Meeting the filmmakers who made these gems was an added bonus, and I can honestly say that in my social conversations with Don Thacker, Simon Pearce, Jon Keeyes, brett Kelly, Bates Wilder, Mel House and Chris Warren I learned things I didn't know about filmmaking, fundraising and distribution. When Don wasn't watching films, he was "taking meetings" over the telephone in his hotel room. Real meetings, with distributors, sales agents and financiers.
Which brings me to the local filmmakers (most of them; I have to be careful not to lump them altogether). At the end of Buffalo Screams last year, Scioli and I realized that the self proclaimed "horror filmmakers" in Buffalo just weren't our target audience, because they've shown next to no interest in taking advantage of what this festival offers (unless it means seeing themselves on screen). It boggles my mind that 20 people I can think of off the top of my head didn't show up for Paige Davis's talk, or to interact with the smart, talented and successful /breaking out filmmakers who attended this festival. It's hard not to form an opinion about who's serious about their work and who wants to spend their lives in the small pond, and anyone who stayed away because of a personal dislike of me is a bigger goofball than I thought. There isn't one person who traveled to Buffalo the locals couldn't have learned something from. I laughed when one filmmaker told me that in his city he could never get his local filmmakers to show interest in his work because they were all too busy with the 48 Hour Film Festival, "the only thing they care about." Even more astounding is that most of the local filmmakers whose work we screened - people who had two free passes to the entire festival - didn't use them except to attend their own screenings. It's the fourth year I've witnessed this, and I see Chad Clinton Freeman faces the same issue at PollyGrind in Las Vegas. I'm just glad that this year we weren't even counting on local filmmaker support (and appreciate what we saw from Sam Qualiana, Chris Rados, Michele Beers, Julian Dickman, Rod Durick, Terry Kimmel, Bob Bozek, Kim Piazza, Armand Petri and others; Mick Thomas, Tim O'Hearn and Heather Black came up from Batavia for the entire opening weekend). Zero expectations, zero disappointment. But the kid who not only didn't attend screenings of films other than his own - even though talented filmmakers from Seattle and the UK watched his film - who tried to sneak in a whole posse of friends? Fucking embarrassing, man.
Our one failure was to connect with college crowd even with our change in venues, and that will be our number one priority for next year. Yes, we're already working on next year; it's the only way for me to avoid working 13 hours a day every day for two months again. :) I want to thank our volunteers: Dave Setlik, John Renna, Arick Szymecki, Paul McGinnis, Bill Brown and Jenn Brown; our sponsors: Fangoria, Off Beat Cinema, Medallion Media Group/TREEBook; Seeley and Kane's Books and Comics; Western New York Grip & Electric; Terror Technologies; and Stellar Entertainment; the wonderful staffs at the Amherst Theatre, the lord Amherst Hotel and the Screening Room; every filmmaker who submitted to the fest, every filmmaker whose work we showed, and especially every filmmaker who attended the fest; our die hard supporters; Paige Davis; and every person in Buffalo who attended at least one screening. Finally, thanks to my wife for putting up with me being absent for two months, and put up with me being frazzled when I was around.
The Screening Room Cinema Cafe presents THE BEST OF BUFFALO DREAMS:
Wed, Nov. 27th: MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH at 7 pm, ON AIR at 9:30 pm.
Sat, Nov. 30th: ANIMOSITY at 7 pm, JUDAS GHOST at 9:30 pm.
BROKEN WINGS will screen with JUDAS GHOST; shorts for the other three features are TBD.
Admission is $7.00 per feature, or $10 for a double feature.
We will be showing MY FAIR ZOMBIE, DUST OF WAR, ATLANTIS: THE LAST DAYS OF KAPTURA and IMAGO on Friday, Jan 10th and Sat Jan 11th, though the schedule has yet to be worked out.
This was a breakthrough year for us. Next year we EXPLODE.