Success in the world of independent films usually means cult followings, word-of-mouth notoriety and distribution of bootleg videotapes.
Local indie filmmakers will get a higher level of recognition, however, when the Rosebud Film Festival lights up the screen of the Rosslyn Spectrum Theater.
Rosebud, sponsored in part by Arlington government, means indie filmmakers will see their creations projected onto a movie screen, not just on a television. Audiences, too, get a taste of films that might otherwise escape notice, and can get a taste of the festival at the second Rosebud Open Screen Incubator on Wednesday, Dec. 11.
“There’s a great and growing talent pool of Washington region filmmakers,” said Jeff Krulik. “Having an organization like Rosebud is really critical to keeping the people inspired and making it feel like it’s worthwhile.”
In indie film circles, Krulik earned notoriety with his 1986 film “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” a 16-minute look at the goings on in the parking lot before a mid-1980s Judas Priest concert in Largo, Md. He joins other local filmmakers taking control of the reels at the Open Screen Incubator.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S program is the second of four incubators, leading up to the annual Rosebud festival in the spring. The competition draws over 100 entries each year, narrowed down to 20 for the two-day festival.
The open screenings, co-sponsored by Arlington Cable Television and the Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division, create additional opportunities and help provide filmmakers with an outlet for their work, as well as heighten community awareness of Rosebud and the local independent film scene.
The series provides invaluable exposure said Bob Walters, whose films have been featured in the open screenings each of the last three years.
“I’m a long-standing artist on that incubator series, which is nice,” he said. “Basically it was a venue for me to build and build and build an audience base.” Rosebud, he said, is “a hotbed of indie filmmaking.”
FILMS AT this screening center on the theme, “For Kids of All Ages.” But one theme still guarantees a variety of approaches, said Chris Griffin, the festival’s co-director.
Featured works range from “The Big Tomato Show,” an animated short made by animator Renee Shaw along with three local 10-year-olds, to a dramatic film about children retaliating against physical abuse, “Line of Fire.” Gregg Watt’s film, a Rosebud award winner two years ago, looks at “kids that are being severely disciplined, and they take matters into their own hands,” Griffin said.
Krulik brings his latest installment of his “Parking Lot” series. “Harry Potter Parking Lot” was recognized at the festival in 2001, and will also run at Wednesday’s screening. He and his partner John Heyn went to a parking lot outside a concert by Judas Priest, pointed their camera at concert goers and filmed whatever happened.
They knew that “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” was an interesting film, but had no idea it would spread as far as it did. “It just kind of developed this cult reputation, being passed around and bootlegged,” Krulik said. By the early 1990’s, heavy metal and indie film fans had spread bootleg tapes of the film from D.C. to California.
For his second “Parking Lot” film, Krulik applied the same formula to a concert on the other end of the music spectrum and “Neil Diamond Parking Lot” was born. “We just wanted to goof on our success, if you can call it that,” he said.
Now, Krulik will show off “Harry Potter Parking Lot,” a line up outside a J.K. Rowling book signing in the District. About 600 children had gathered on the sidewalk to wait for the “Harry Potter” author’s autograph, and Krulik said he saw some of the same behaviors that made the first two films so entertaining.
“Fans are no different at any age,” he said. “It’s almost like a tribal gathering.”
KRULIK BEGAN FILMING with borrowed cameras from a public access cable channel. Without sponsorship from Hollywood movie studios, many independent filmmakers use similar strategies to reduce expenses.
Tight budgets present certain advantages, said filmmaker Walters. “I love working at this level. I know that’s so anti-Hollywood, but I love working at this level. I don’t want to tell a bigger story, I want to tell a better story,” he said.
Walters’ film “Hearts” was one of six featured at the first Rosebud Open Screen Incubator, a horror-themed showcased Wednesday, Oct. 23. It was the first in a four-part story currently in production. Walters said each film will tell a different part of his story, each from a different perspective.
“Hearts” is evocative of Alfred Hitchcock, Walters said, limiting what the audience sees by only showing what the main character wants them to see, and questioning the psychological workings of the man. “That’s really claustrophobic in a way, and readily frustrating in a way, because you can only live through him, which is what I intended,” Walters said.
The first incubator showed the diversity of the local film scene, said Walters, since each film approached the theme from a different angle. Some works, including Jorge Bernardo and Mark Marshall’s “Grave Consequences” and William Hanff’s “Happy Creek,” drew laughter from the audience, while Jill Johnston’s animated short, “The Sweet Kiss of Gravity,” was “stunningly beautiful” and “disturbing,” Walters said.
ROSEBUD FESTIVAL began 13 years ago under the leadership of Natasha Reatig. She ran the festival until 1998, when she decided to focus her efforts on her own film career and handed Rosebud to Arlington Cable Television. Griffin said the festival has continued to grow each year.
Jim Byers, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division, which provides monetary and logistical support for the film festival, said that nurturing local filmmakers is consistent with the goals of the county. “Rosebud of course has a long history in the Washington area, and it’s a critical outlet for emerging filmmakers,” he said.
The deadline for Rosebud submissions is Sunday, Feb. 2. The festival takes place the weekend of April 12-13. The final two incubator screenings take place Wednesday, Feb. 19 and Wednesday, March 12. All events are held at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theater.