Borscht 7: Founder’s recap

Arts / Article

By Lucas Leyva, Minister of the Interior, Borscht Film Festival

This is exactly what running Borscht feels like:

In the last six weeks, we rallied almost the entire independent film community in South Florida to come together for the first time, poached veteran crew members to work on small passion projects during the height of one of the busiest season in Miami production history, and brought back the brightest creative stars the city has created (pulling them away from projects such as FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” a feature film for Disney, and the Royal Shakespeare Company) to collaborate in the creation of 26 short films.

Hoarding all of the filmmaking talent in the state was not enough to create the films- so we reached out to collaborators from other artistic disciplines such as choreographer Rosie Herrera, visual artist Jillian Mayer and video game programmer Samuel Lopez de Victoria. Each film was paired with a local musician, creating relationships that are already blossoming into further creative projects. In short, we amassed the most exciting collection of young Miami talent ever- a cross section of nationally recognized artists with connections to the city, most of them under thirty years old, and created short films by, of, and for the city.

In addition to the creation of the content, we planned and executed 12 events over three weeks, including robot death matches, theoretical space launches, concerts, pool party screenings and our main night on April 23rd which transformed the Knight Concert Hall at the Arsht Center into a vibrant coral reef (courtesy of Coral Morphologic) that showcased 3 hours worth of our original work (19 of our commissioned films plus 5 submissions) to almost 2,000 people packed into the theater (unfortunately, almost 500 had to be turned away).

We estimate 6,000 people attended our events total, most of which were free.

When we told the Arsht Center we planned to give away our tickets, but give people an option to pay $20 if they wished, we were laughed at. Only 500 were set aside for purchase- however these seats completely sold out long before the screening, far exceeding our expectations.

The films, the events, the support from the community and the “Miami New Wave” at large caught the attention of the national media, resulting in coverage from taste-making publications such as Vice, Complex, Papermag, IndieWire, and Coolhunting all of which acknowledged the idiosyncratic independent film movement in Miami.

In November, we received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to “further Miami’s reputation as an independent film center.”

We fundraised like crazy in January, and in February we got to work.

All of the films and events were completed in six weeks, for less than the cost of the average 30-second commercial on television, with a staff of five.

Our work is just beginning, but if these first six weeks are any indication, Miami is on its way.

The next step is to submit our completed films to the top international festivals in the world, where we believe the specifically Miami stories will be able to compete with any films in the world.

If Gusman lets us turn it into a haunted house, we will throw a one-night event on Halloween. If that doesn’t work out, we will return in winter of 2012 with not only short films, but several commissioned feature films to show Miami and the world.