SHIFT-ed: A Two-Part Look at the Smoky Hill Independent Film and Television Festival
KKWU students were involved in launching a brand new arts celebration in the City of Salina during the late Fall of 2017 – the Smoky Hill Independent Film and Television festival (SHIFT).
Kansas Wesleyan’s Manager of Student Media, Paul Green began organizing the effort at the start of the semester, and assigned students in his Digital Publications and Media Production I courses the work needed to put together an event which featured film and television producers from across Kansas.
The two-day event was held on the KWU campus October 13th and 14th, a Friday and Saturday, with two special guests featured as keynote presenters.
Leif Jonker, a filmmaker and digital video producer from Wichita was on hand to talk about his experiences as a brand-new film producer and director when he created “Darkness”, a graphic and bloody vampire movie, when he was in his late teens. Jonker’s film has grown to encompass a cult following around the world, and is widely-considered to be a solid example of the “splatter” genre of horror films. Jonker entertained attendees with stories of the challenges he faced working with a cast and crew of untried amateurs, many times shooting footage in freezing weather or dealing with no crew at all when no one wanted to show up on a scheduled production day.
Matt Orsman, also known professionally by his moniker “Mirthquake”, is a digital graphic artist and designer who lives and works in Mulvane, just a few minutes’ drive south of Wichita. A horror film aficionado, Orsman also has more than a little experience in the film industry. Working as part of a team out of Wichita, he helped design some of the digital interface special effects graphics used in Marvel’s “Iron Man” superhero film. Orsman spoke about the opportunities and challenges that exist for traditional graphic artists and designers in the film industry, examining jobs from production design up to and including merchandising and promotional support.
In addition to the keynote presentations featuring both Orsman and Jonker, KWU Communications Professor David Silverman was on hand to speak as part of a panel discussion about the impact of the horror genre on movie-making, and its role in helping to push forward a vital independent cinema movement. All three men were joined in that panel discussion by Salina teen, Isaiah Marcotte, who as a sophomore at Salina Central High School created his own “grindhouse” homage called “Sphere Cycle”.
Marcotte spoke about the challenges of actually shooting on film, as opposed to using a more convenient form of digital camera technology, telling the audience he wanted to achieve as authentically as possible that special “film feel” he experienced watching older movies with his family. The three spoke for more than an hour, and answered questions from the audience before wrapping up and making way for the next event of the evening.
At midnight, students and the public were treated to a special showing of George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, a black and white film credited with being the inspiration for almost every zombie movie that followed.
On Saturday, filmmakers from across Kansas were invited to submit work to be featured in the official SHIFT “screening room”, and offered the chance to attend and speak about their work. Lawrence, KS filmmaker Savannah Rodgers was one of those whose work was screened, and she answered questions and spoke about her inspirations and motivations for making independent film projects.
Check back next week, when we return with another installment of the SHIFT film festival, and pop you some links to some of the work of those that contributed material to the SHFT screening room event!