Short. Sweet. Film Fest started when Michael Suglio, who was watching a few bands play at the punk club Now That's Class (now No Class) some years back, realized that hosting a film festival in an informal, club-like atmosphere would be a good idea. While the festival began at Market Garden Brewery, it’s outgrown that space, and this year’s iteration of the event will take place from March 1 to March 5 at Atlas Cinemas Shaker Square.
“I’m always surprised how many more films are submitted each year,” Suglio says one recent evening over a few beers at Forest City Brewery. “Each year, I think it’s our best yet. To be very sincere, one of the things that’s very rewarding is that we get more and more films from Northeast Ohio. We’re showing 226 films this year, and about half are from Northeast Ohio. The number goes up a little each year. We’ve gotten so many more films from all the colleges. You have Cleveland State and Tri-C and Case and Kent, and all of them are turning out films now.”
Another thing helping increase submissions is a competition that the festival launched last year.
“You have 30 days to make a film under five minutes based on a prompt you pull,” says Suglio. “That escalated that number of local films.”
A committee sifted through some 600 entries to select the films that will screen at the year’s festival. Opening night will feature what Suglio calls a “potpourri” of local films and films from all around the world.
“Opening night will offer a good representation of the festival,” says Suglio.
Student films will fill two screens on Thursday, March 2, and Friday, March 3 will feature local films and LGBTQ films. The program for Saturday, March 4, will feature comedy and drama pairings, animation, music videos and horror. There is also a late-night horror and experimental program. Several of the award-winning films will screen on Sunday night.
One highlight includes a screening of The Breakwater by local filmmaker James Williams.
“It takes place in the lighthouses off Lake Erie,” says Suglio when asked about the film. “Northeast Ohio has those, and it’s so neat that someone made a film all about that.”
Suglio also identifies Boss of the Toss as another highlight.
“It’s about a high stakes game of cornhole) Suglio says. “It’s very Cleveland and features all Cleveland actors. I feel like cornhole is a very Midwest thing.”
This will represent the festival’s first year at Shaker, and Suglio says he’s enjoyed working with Atlas.
“I hope to stay at Shaker because it’s a family-owned business,” says Suglio. “I pitched so many crazy things, and they never say no. They just say, ‘Let’s just figure this out.’ That’s what is so wonderful about Atlas. This year’s festival will be more accessible to everyone. There’s free parking, and the ticket prices are lower now too.”
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