Breaking into film is a tough business. Films cost in the millions of dollars to make, require the coordination of many people over an extended period of time, and are just as likely to bust as boom. Getting a studio or a distributor is an exercise in diplomacy and politics that seems so incoherent that a Haitian witch doctor’s assistance is within reason. For a first time filmmaker, many of these barriers are insurmountable. They make shorter, less expensive films, with lesser known actors, and a crew often including friends. Financing comes from their pockets and lasts until their credit cards max out. So much is spent creating a work that there’s very little left for promoting it. This is where the Zero Film Festival comes in.
Zero Film Festival features the work of self-financed, independent filmmakers. Films are shown in Montreal and Toronto, as well as New York, Los Angeles, and several other major cities. Six films will showcase in Montreal at the festival, all on the short and sweet side, but each one a tiny gem.
Local Montreal filmmaker Jack Hackel directs Dedspell. A trashy couple plays scrabble in their ghetto apartment. They don’t particularly like each other. Actually, it’s better to say they HATE each other. Their Scrabble game takes a turn when their chosen words suddenly start to affect each other. Promised as a “black comedy,” the film asks the all important question, “What am I doing with this idiot?” The cartoonish/graphic novel style draws on contemporary action films.
Another Torontonian, or… un… guy from Mitchell, Ontario, Zach Patton wrote and directed Today I Did My Laundry while his girlfriend Danielle Clayson produced. The film follows mediocre Richard as he finds out his beautiful wife is having an affair. This short took best film in the Festival des Films du Monde before Patton had finished his BFA in screenwriting. Talk about having some cred!
Spun by St. Catherine writer/director/star Chris Baker has a young man re-connect with his childhood crush Jenny via Facebook. Things aren’t going to go well, because no one is ever the same after an absence. Kid actors! Adult actors!
Finally, making the rounds at all the Zero festivals is seasonably creepy film The Bear Suit by South African Adam Donnelly (not to be confused with Canadian classic, Project Grizzly). A young driver picks up a hitchhiker wearing a bear suit. Things get weird when he’s asked to participate in a kidnapping. Gorgeous use of sepia color gives this one a nostalgic, almost moralistic feel. Atmospheric unease comes from music by independent noise makers the Make Overs.
The Zero Film Festival in Montreal takes place at Cinema du Parc at 7 p.m. on October 28. $5.