It’s the kind of Rochester film festival that would have been inconceivable more than a decade ago.
When local filmmakers and film lovers decided to host the first-ever Apex Short Film + Music Video Festival, they had no way of knowing how many, if any, submissions they might get.
It ended up being an avalanche.
Many, obviously, were not very good, but it showed the degree to which many budding artists hoping to be the next Tarantino were searching for audiences for their short films. In the end, organizers ended up with 400 entries — so many, in fact, that organizers are planning a second festival in the spring.
From that inundation, a panel of judges selected more than 50 short films and music videos to be shown at Saturday’s all-day festival. The event runs from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. at C4’s Creative Salon, 324 First Ave. SW, Rochester. An all-day pass to the event costs $10.
Given the large quantity of films and videos, judges used an efficient thumbs up or thumbs down to decide whether a submission would get a screening at the festival.
“We were very selective,” said Avai d’Amico, a Rochester filmmaker and festival coordinator. “We’re only showing the best of the best.”
Typically the province of large urban areas, such film festivals are cropping up in mid-size-to-smaller cities with the help of social media and the democratizing trends in film-making.
Such trends were evident at the past Sundance Film Festival, where one film was shot with an iPhone, d’Amico said. Today, anyone armed with a smartphone and a laptop can make their own film.
“When I was a kid, I needed to save all my money to get a really expensive computer that would be powerful enough to edit video,” he said. “And now, pretty much anyone can do it.”
Technology also aided organizers’ efforts in getting the word out about the festival. As soon as they got an Apex website, apexfest.org, up and running, submissions began arriving, not only from Minnesota but from all over the world. For aspiring filmmakers, such festivals mean exposure for their work, an opportunity to present their films to a larger audience.
Twitter also proved to be an invaluable marketing tool.
“It is the No. 1 reason we were able to get as much content as we were, because we set up Twitter accounts for the Apex festival,” d’Amico said. “And a lot of other film festivals have been re-tweeting our posts, saying, ‘Hey, we’re accepting films.'”
The festival will include three Q & A panels scheduled throughout the day featuring filmmakers from Rochester and Minneapolis.
D’Amico said the films average about 10 minutes in length, with the shortest ones running a minute and a half and the longest a half an hour. The festival will be following a format of showing two films for every music video. Attendees will rate the films according to a five-star system, and awards will be given to movies in different categories.
But while technology has been a boon in spreading the the tools of film-making, it has also led to the predictable production of a lot more low-caliber, schlocky fare. But that’s the virtue of a short-film event. If viewers don’t like the film they’re viewing, they can take comfort in knowing their pain will be short-lived.
And then there’s always the possibility that the next Spielberg or Scorsese might be a short film away from discovery.
“If we show a film that people don’t particularly like, just hang out for 10 minutes. We’ll be showing a different film,” d’Amico said. “Eventually, when some of these people get really famous, we’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember when we saw their first film screened in Rochester.'”