Screening series helps filmmaking flourish in South Florida

Photo courtesy of Filmgate Interactive.

When it comes to horror films, I’m a hater. The flincher. The guy who screams, grabs the person next to him and closes his eyes when the blood starts to flow and all hell breaks loose. Yet despite my trepidation (or irrational fear), I’m going to go, eyes wide open, to O Cinema in Miami when Filmgate Interactive hosts the Horror Edition of NoLA on Oct. 7. And you should, too!

NoLA–which stands for “I’m Not Gonna Move to L.A.” and is promoted under the hashtag #stayMIA–is a monthly short film competition that gives local filmmakers a platform to showcase their work, as well as an opportunity to network. I attended my first NoLA event earlier this month, and I had a cinematic blast. I even signed up, albeit accidentally, to pitch a film.

A Filmgate screening. Photo courtesy of Filmgate Interactive.

On the night that I attended, NoLA featured a talented selection of filmmakers: Danniel Rodriguez (“Bro”), Facundo Perez (“Chi-Chi and the Hammer”), April Dobbins and Zilong Liu (“Cutter”), Connor West (“The Jockey”), Michael Krychiw (“Adam and Eve… and Bill”), Yule Nunez (“Technical Difficulties”), Ronald Baez (“Adriana’s Blind Date”) and Zhenzhen Ma (“Choice”). The competition was fierce but hyper-friendly, and it was Dobbins and Liu who won the Audience Choice Award for “Cutter.” The pair’s short film tells the story of a ruthless and brutal Rwandan militant turned American social worker, who tracks down and haunts victims’ family members. The twist: the genocidal murderer is a woman.

The unexpected horror and beauty of “Cutter” represents the kind of filmmaking you won’t find in mainstream movies, where women and the character roles they inhabit are rarely, if ever, the fully fleshed out, complex characters they should be. Filmgate’s NoLA events and the ingenuity of local filmmakers like Dobbins raise the bar for the entire industry by showcasing what Miami has to offer the world.  

“Filmgate has provided a nurturing, creative environment for me,” Dobbins said. “Most of us are indie filmmakers. We’re submitting our films to tons of big festivals across the globe. Personally, I’ve been rejected so many times that I felt like calling it quits, but Filmgate is like this warm, fuzzy space for creatives. They want to bolster local filmmaking, and they really care about who we are and what we have to say.”

In addition to the NoLA showcase, these evenings also feature an earlier session called Percolator, which is an open platform for local artists to share their ideas with the community. On a first-come, first-served basis, aspiring and established filmmakers, producers, actors, writers, musicians—anyone—can sign up, get some coffee and pitch their ideas to an audience of their creative peers.

Filmgate Interactive Executive Director Diliana Alexander.

Perhaps in part due to the success of NoLA and Percolator, Filmgate Interactive, a Knight Arts grantee, has grown into the largest filmmaker and actor collective in Florida, and it has big aspirations for Miami’s film industry. 

“We pride ourselves on being inclusive” and providing “a platform for short content producers and young filmmakers,” said Diliana Alexander, Filmgate’s executive director. Over the course of three years, Filmgate has screened more than 300 short films, and the organization also offers production support and education labs. “We make sure to introduce this new talent to industry professionals and expand their opportunities. We provide support from production insurance to meeting cast and crew needs, in the process enabling more South Florida filmmakers to tell our stories.”

With Knight funding, Filmgate has also hosted some of the world’s most original content creators, including those that are experimenting with new technologies to tell immersive and interactive stories. “MIT Open Documentary Lab, POV Digital, the National Film Board of Canada, Lance Weiler and other pioneers in the interactive narrative, [documentary] and journalism fields have come to Miami,” said Alexander. “We ask them to walk us through their projects, giving us access to their creative process and the new [technology] behind their projects. We set out to inspire and educate Miami creatives.”

In honor of Halloween, October’s Horror Edition of NoLA will feature short films inspired by some of these technologies, as well as other Filmgate programs. South Florida-based filmmakers Martell Harding (“Knock Knock”), Brian K. Napier (“Keys Disease”), Christopher Irarrazabal (“McClintock”) and Alfredo Hueck (“Lady in White”) will serve a dose of Miami-inspired horror films. For this admitted “flincher,” this particular NoLA event will cause some anxiety–but mostly admiration for an organization that is making filmmaking a viable industry in South Florida.  

I’m Not Gonna Move to L.A.: Horror Edition will take place Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at O Cinema’s Wynwood location. Tickets are available online.