FilmGate Interactive monthly festival encourages Miami filmmakers to stay local

Photo by Alec Schwartzman on

More than a hundred people packed O Cinema Wynwood last week for an “Indie-Pendence” Day celebration.

 The event was the latest installment of “I’m Not Gonna Move to L.A. (NOLA),” a monthly short film festival from Knight Arts Challenge winner FilmGate Interactive that champions local filmmakers, helping them display their work and connect with the broader community.

“NOLA is the longest-running local short film series in Miami,” said Tina Francisco, the filmmaker coordinator. “Since we started [in February 2012,] we’ve shown over 250 films. It’s a great platform for local filmmakers”

On the first Wednesday of every month, FilmGate Interactive invites the community to take part in the experience, which includes a “percolator” to pitch ideas to the audience, networking opportunities, vintage movie trivia, live local musicians, and, of course, the screening of shorts produced by local filmmakers. At the end of the screenings, every audience member gets a fuzzy ball to throw at the director of their favorite film. The director with the most fuzzy balls wins the audience award, a free year’s membership in FilmGate Interactive. The membership benefits include discounted production insurance and rentals, and production support. Guest judges choose a winner as well.

Wednesday night’s six films came in diverse styles and genres. Gabriel Rhenals’ “Leo’s Love Letter” focused on the struggle to find the right words when talking to a loved one. Herb Abrams’ “One Last Box,” ending with an expected twist, revolved around a couple moving out of their home and mourning the loss of their child. Andrew Garcia’s “Hollow Bodies” took an avant-garde approach to exploring love and its transcendence of boundaries. Steven Fritschle’s  “A Message in Rap: Cerebru” documented the activity of Carol City rapper Cerebu and his crew. Jason Lyzniak’s “Plain Vanilla” grappled with existentialism in a post-apocalyptic zombie world. Ruth Reitan and Matthew Rubino’s “Hard Corn” also dealt with an apocalypse’s aftermath, but focused on themes of Russian sexuality and isolation.

“One Last Box” received the audience award. The judges, Andrew Strycharski, director of Florida International University’s film studies program, and Alejandro de Onis, director of digital strategy at Knight Foundation and former director of digital strategy for Skylight Pictures, chose “Hollow Bodies” as their winner. “Hollow Bodies” will now screen at the “Best of NOLA at FilmGate Interactive 2016” in February.

After the screenings and awards, the audience and filmmakers mingled over drinks to live music.

“We started inviting local bands that are film-friendly,” said Diliana Alexander, FilmGate’s executive director. “Even though it kind of feels like this free-for-all Japanese game show style craziness, we make sure everything has a role in helping someone make a film.”

The event’s name, NOLA, has an interesting history of its own. While it may evoke New Orleans for some, the origins are wholly Miami.

“One night while we were programming local films, we listened to this local artist named Fernando Perdomo,” Alexander said. “One of the songs on his album was ‘I’m Not Gonna Move to L.A.’ We thought it was a perfect name because we wanted to encourage artists who want to work out of the system to stay regional. They don’t have to move to Los Angeles or Louisiana … Unfortunately and ironically, [Perdomo] ended up moving to Los Angeles, but the name stuck.”

NOLA’s August edition will feature a screening Billy Corben’s short film “Collision Course: The Murder of Don Aronow.”

Alec Schwartzman is an editorial intern for Knight Foundation. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @AMSchwartzman.