Az Filmaker Showcases 2014

Posted by phultstrand // June 29, 2014 // in Features // 0 Comments


by Hal C. Astell

One of the most frustrating problems inherent in following local film is how hard it often is to actually see the movies made here. Sure, many shorts are online at Vimeo or YouTube, if you know where to look, but not all and what about the big screen?

Well, for quite some time there have been three types of opportunity to see these films:

1. Local Film Challenges

These are competitions for local filmmakers.

A3F (the Almost Famous Film Festival) hosts a 48-hour film challenge every year and the top 20 submissions are screened for the public; this year at the AMC Arizona Center 24 Theatres. Occasionally A3F runs other challenges too. IFP Phoenix also runs three challenges each year with submissions usually screened for the public at the Phoenix Art Museum. There's even a local film challenge run at Phoenix ComiCon.

2. Film Festivals

Most Arizona film festivals, from the smallest to the largest, tend to screen a number of local films, both shorts and features. There are usually two selections of local shorts at the Phoenix Film Festival and smaller events like Filmstock and quirkier events like the Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival screen many more.

3. Premières

Many local filmmakers are now booking local theatres like FilmBar or Pollack Tempe to host screenings of their latest films. The catch here is that unless you're in the know, it's tough to find out about these before they happen.

But now...

4. Filmmaker Showcases

The good news is that there's now a solid fourth option to see local film on the big screen: filmmaker showcases. These are selections of local films curated by knowledgeable players in the Arizona film scene who want exactly what we want: the opportunity to see these films in public, in an enjoyable communal setting and as often as possible. The added bonus is that both the current filmmaker showcase events are held monthly, which means that you'll never need to wait long to get your fix.


Pioneering this option in the valley is Matthew Robinson of Dark of the Matinee, a locally run website about film, which calls itself 'the leader in fringe cinema'.

It used to be that while the site was a busy place for news and reviews, their focal point was a self titled podcast, which ran over a hundred episodes, but that sadly ceased to be late last year when his cohorts moved away from the valley.

Nowadays, while the news and reviews continue, the focal point has become the Arizona Filmmaker Showcase, which Robinson runs monthly at FilmBar in downtown Phoenix. The format is a couple of short films followed by a feature, with the qualifier that all were shot here in Arizona.

This event started back in March 2013 with the goal of highlighting the Arizona film community at a strong venue, recently crowned by the New Times, the Best Independent Theater in Phoenix for the third year running, and feeding it by giving local filmmakers the chance to get their work in front of an audience. 'That's what it's all about as a filmmaker,' Robinson told me, 'but it can be tough to achieve.'

I've attended a few of these events and had a blast. It's good to watch some of the films that Robinson has screened, move forward to become official selections at major festivals, such as Final Flight which played at this year's Phoenix Film Festival.

I asked Robinson what his proudest moment has been thus far and he cited the Arizona Filmmaker Showcase screening last September of Biology 101, an excellent local feature directed by Christopher R Smith. Coincidentally Chris, and his producer, Liz Bradley, constitute two-thirds of the hosts of the new radio show, Papago Presents: The Podcast, which I'm also covering in this edition of The WOD.

I remember the Biology 101 screening fondly, as I attended as Chris's guest, having just reviewed the film from DVD. Chris and Liz were nervous wrecks, watching people watch their film, but even with some technical difficulties, the audience loved it. In fact, the screening provided enough attention for the film that it led to a distribution deal. As Robinson rightly proclaims, 'It's the best outcome we could have imagined for a film we have shown.'

Over a year strong, Robinson plans to keep the Arizona Filmmaker Showcase running monthly at FilmBar with 'an eclectic lineup as always, that highlights the diversity of AZ's filmmakers.'

It's taking a break in May, but will return in June with another feature and supporting pair of short films. Which ones they will be is not set in stone at this time, so if you want your film to be considered, submit details from the AZ Filmmaker Showcase tab at the top of the Dark of the Matinee website or through the form that can be found on FilmBar's website by clicking on the News tab and then on the Introducing the Arizona Filmmakers Showcase! link.

Who knows, maybe your film will be the next to be picked up for distribution.


While Dark of the Matinee's Arizona Filmmaker Showcase has been running for just over a year, a second showcase began its monthly run earlier this month with similar goals but a slightly different format.

It's called FPS: Filmmakers of Phoenix Showcase and it's curated by Travis Mills, the überprolific filmmaker from Running Wild Films. The venue is the Hive in Phoenix, which can be found inside the Bee's Knees Boutique on 16th Street.

This is a smaller event than Arizona Filmmaker Showcase but it's cheaper, cosier and delightfully untraditional. While FilmBar is a movie theatre (albeit with a bar), the Hive is something completely different; it's an art gallery housed inside an open air quadrangle, in turn within a characterful resale boutique. Films are projected onto a screen that's a decent size for the venue.

The event's format avoids features in favour of entirely short material. The first month focused on narrative films, while May's selection was entirely comprised of music videos. The focus has the same restriction though: only films made in Arizona will make the cut. The selections run about an hour and tickets are a mere five bucks. It's worth that much just for the networking opportunities, entirely above seeing a set of local films in good company.

Mills is the most prolific director in the state, having helmed all three of Running Wild's features and most of the hundred plus short films they've made over the last five years. He has an eye for catching Arizona locations in his films, to the degree that they may well go down in history as a record of notoriously short lived Arizona buildings. Remember that gallery you once visited that isn't there any more? No doubt Mills shot a film there and immortalized it on screen. It's therefore not surprising that he found such a characterful venue to host this event.

In the course of making so many movies here, Mills has inevitably come into contact with a wide swathe of local talent, many of whom have worked with or for him on his projects. Just as inevitably, he wants to support those filmmakers who create work he admires.

As an example, he cited Josh Kesselman and Stephanie Lucas of Limitrophe Films, who he met last year and who together won a pair of awards at this year's Phoenix Film Festival: Best Arizona Short for Long Way and the Arizona Filmmakers of the Year award.

One of Kesselman's films, A Dog, was screened at the inaugural FPS event earlier in April, along with a varied set of others from names as recognizable as Sandy Kim, Kristin LaVanway and Robert Garcia, along with Mills himself and the program directors of IFP Phoenix, TJ Houle and Aaron Kes. Most of the filmmakers and a bunch of the actors were there in person, meaning that the hour of films was followed by another enjoyable hour of chatting afterwards.

I talked to Mills about his goals for this event. He aims for it to showcase some of his own work, even premiere new Running Wild shorts, but primarily wants to 'show the variety of movies being made here' and so 'encourage local filmmaking in general.' If you've been paying attention to Running Wild's projects, it won't be surprising to find that he's trying to 'put AZ film on the map'. He believes this will happen only if filmmakers 'continue to push their storytelling to a higher level' and he hopes that 'a consistent venue to showcase their work will play some small part in encouraging them to do so.'

As with the Arizona Filmmaker Showcase, you can submit your own work to Mills to be considered for a future selection at FPS: Filmmakers of Phoenix Showcase. Either find him on Facebook or drop him an e-mail at

Dark of the Matinee

Running Wild Films


815 N 2nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

The Hive (in the Bee's Knees)

2222 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

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