Fort Lauderdale — Filmmakers, writers, outcasts, rejects and their supporters across the country have united to create the Fort Lauderdale Underground Film Festival (FLUFF) in response to what they feel is an underserved population. Founders of the group include local filmmakers Michael James, Erynn Dalton, John Cavanaugh and Jarrod Canepa. The unique criteria for entering FLUFF is simple- festival hopefuls must include at least one rejection letter from another film festival. Unlike other festivals, viewers attending FLUFF will decide who wins and who loses; however, a celebrity panel of judges will be on hand to present awards not entrusted to the less-esteemed members of the audience.
James, a television producer and former newspaper editor said, “It has become very clear that independent festivals who once claimed to support low-budget filmmakers have become too commercial and are now more interested in generating profits than promoting struggling artists.”
According to the FLUFF organizers, part of the problem is that other film festivals tend to classify any movie with a budget under $5 million as an “independent film.” FLUFF was formed in order to preserve the spirit of independents that has been lost, since festivals increasingly ignore those films made with community efforts and far less money.
“Millions of dollars in capital is great to have when making a movie,” Dalton states, “but there are many talented producers and directors that are making movies for under $10,000, at times even less than $1,000, who deserve to have an outlet. That’s what we are providing.”
The idea for FLUFF came about after the organizers of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) snubbed a number of locally-made, low-budget films in favor of foreign films and films with larger, six or seven-figure budgets. “FLIFF invited local filmmakers to show their low-budget productions throughout the year and then disqualified them from the main festival because of those showings,” Canepa says. “This is the kind of behavior that is far too typical on the film festival circuit and is down-right inappropriate.” Canepa is the writer and co-star of the locally-produced feature film “Hunting for Herschell.”
Dalton adds that FLIFF has yet to provide her with a rejection letter for her and Cavanaugh’s short-film “Wannabe,” which was entered for FLIFF 2003. “FLIFF was more than happy to cash my entry check in a timely manner- you would think they could afford a first-class stamp to send a letter saying ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ FLUFF may not be the most financially-endowed film festival, but we're going to make darn sure our applicants get proper rejection letters,” she says.
Although organizers concede that the 2003 event will be nothing more than the showing of a few films and the dispensing of a few kegs of beer, they hope the interest generated now will lead to a much larger festival next year. Cavanaugh said, “We may not show the best films in town, but we have plenty of beer. One of the essential elements of the viewing experience is the suspension of disbelief. With movies like this, beer can only help a film’s chance of winning something.”
FLUFF is seeking a home for the festival and has developed a wide range of possibilities, including everything from a 40-foot retractable screen in the middle of the road to small theaters and local churches. “We’re asking that building owners help us out and donate some space for a day in early December so we can give smaller filmmakers a chance.”
While most of the low-budget productions in the festival will have never seen celluloid, organizers don’t feel that is a hindrance. “I don’t feel you necessarily have to shoot on film to make motion pictures,” James says. “In fact, I feel the challenge of the digital medium inspires the filmmaker to utilize the so-called limitations of digital to their benefit — they have learned to work with digital and have made some really great pieces of entertainment that deserve to find an audience.”
For more information about FLUFF or to enter a film, visit their web site at www.FLUFF2004.com or call 954.530.2806.
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