There are several facets of a film festival, but in one respect, the festival can be split into two areas: there's the excitement of film buffs taking in day after day of independent cinema and then there's the filmmakers who show up in town to well, watch other people watch their films. Oh, and those filmmakers are hoping that the big names also in attendance take notice of their work.
This year's BendFilm features the most significant gathering of industry powerhouses in the festival's existence. The most notable name appearing is Tony Safford, head of Acquisitions Worldwide for Twentieth Century Fox, which means he's been behind films like Little Miss Sunshine and Thank You For Smoking. Before getting into the world of acquisitions, Safford was the program director at the Sundance Film Festival. So yeah, this guy knows how the festival world works - and filmmakers are certainly hoping Safford takes a look at their flicks.
Also appearing is Dan Wieden, of Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency which is best known for its Nike ads. He'll be speaking about his life in advertising on Saturday in the Franklin Crossing building (1pm) - and filmmakers might want to pay attention to that one as well - there's plenty of film work in advertising.
Portland's creative team of Arnold and Jacob (pronounced Ya-cub) Pander, better known as the Pander Bros., are ready to show off their first-ever feature-length film and they've decided to do it here at BendFilm. If anything, the fact that the Panders are showing the world premier of Selfless here in Bend is a sign of regional filmmakers acknowledging the potential of our independent film festival.
"We'd heard such great things about BendFilm and there's something to be said about these more boutique festivals. They're driven more by interesting films than commercial interests," says Jacob, who wrote and directed Selfless, a film shot almost entirely in his hometown of Portland.
Selfless plays like a big-budget psychological thriller, when in fact it's a low-budget independent film - but it's still very much a psychological thriller. The film focuses on identity theft and through a deftly woven narrative the Pander Bros. investigate the idea of identity as a whole as they toss their lead character, Dylan Gray (played by Portland actor Joshua Rengert) through all sorts of hell. In a word, the film is unsettling - twisting reality in a relatively realistic premise and for a first-time effort, it's a promising showing by the Panders, who are already established graphic novelists and visual artists.
But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the film for a BendFilm attendee is the fact that it was shot in Portland and Pander allows the city to play a role in the story. Gray is a green architect (how Portland is that?) and a good deal of the film's imagery focuses on the new buildings in the Pearl District and viewers will likely identify a few landmarks.
"We thought it would be an interesting thing if we made something that didn't show any of the old Portland. We made a choice to never show any bricks in any shot," Jacob says. He refers to the city they create as "neo-Portland."
The Panders, as well as lead actors Rengert and October Moore, are coming over for the screening and will also be present at a special release party at the Summit Saloon and Stage. This sort of world premier party for a regional film seems to play right into the BendFilm mission - bringing in more innovative films accompanied by their equally innovative creators. Oh, don't forget the parties - those are good too.
Selfless plays Thursday at 7pm at Regal 5 and Saturday at 4pm at the Tower Theatre.
When filmmaker and cinematographer Chris Kas moved to Bend from Los Angeles three years ago, he may have left Tinsel Town behind him, but he certainly didn't abandon his filmmaking aspirations. Since arriving in Central Oregon, he's produced a film each summer, and this past season's project has landed him in his first-ever BendFilm appearance.
Kas, who holds down the title of "cinematic maverick" at Rage Films, has in the past produced works that show his quirky sense of humor and his love of the horror film genre. His BendFilm entry, "Capture the Bunny" falls right in line with his previous work.
"It's disguised as a horror film but in the end it's pretty funny," Kas says of the seven-minute film that takes place entirely in the basement of a Westside Bend home that opens with the macabre image of a woman tied up and gagged in a chair. And despite that daunting opening, the film does turn out pretty funny. Like many other local productions, Kas used only local resources (actors, crew, etc) to make the film - and says there is a lot more cinematic talent in town than most people realize. And also in line with the other locals worthy enough to have a film accepted into BendFilm, Kas is certainly grateful for the opportunity.
"Since I live in Bend now, I really want to be involved in BendFilm," Kas says of the festival. "I would love to do whatever I can to help bring more movies here and make it possible to make the entire film here."
In the meantime, Kas is also developing a television show tentatively titled "Frame Wranglers" about an impossibly inept documentary crew that goes out looking for, among other creatures, Bigfoot, which sounds pretty damn hilarious. But if you need a taste of Kas' humor, check out "Capture the Bunny" this weekend and you'll have a pretty good idea.
"Capture the Bunny" plays 8:30pm Friday and 10pm Saturday at McMenamins.