An Interview with P.J. Starks About the River City Festival of Films 2012 – By Duane L. Martin

The River City Film Festival is going into its second year now, and recently I had a chance to talk with the festival’s creator and independent film maker P.J. Starks about the festival, and what all it takes to put the whole thing together.

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DLM: So let’s start out by having you give everyone a refresher on who you are and a little about your background.

P.J.S.: I’m the writer/director of HALLOWS EVE: SLAUGHTER ON SECOND STREET and the award winning short film A MIND BESIDE ITSELF, both of which have received great reviews. I was Co-Producer on MURDER IN KENTUCKY, a short film by David Breckman (writer/director of Monk). I have also been Co-Editor/Director of Photography on REMAINDERED, a short by Lee Goldberg (writer/executive producer Diagnosis Murder, Monk and The Glades). This summer I am Associate Producer for two other indie projects; a midwestern giallo called THREE TEARS ON BLOODSTAINED FLESH (currently in post-production) and a web-series THE BOOK OF DALLAS (currently shooting). I’m also the Creator for The Indie Film Series at Kentucky Wesleyan College and the Co-Creator/Event Facilitator for The River City Festival of Films.

 

DLM: Tell us about the origins of the River City Festival of Films. When did you first get the idea to do the festival, and what inspired you to make it happen?

P.J.S.: I was pushing A MIND BESIDE ITSELF in the festival circuit and received an invitation to screen the film at a festival in a town smaller than Owensboro. Why didn’t Owensboro have its own film festival? That question bugged the shit out of me and so I mapped out my ideas on a piece of scrap paper. Isn’t that where all great ideas are concocted? I sat down with my wife Katrina and a former colleague (who is no longer involved) and we brainstormed together. I divided up all the responsibilities and we ran with it. Mainly by the seat of our pants.

 

DLM: How did it go the first year? Was it better than expected, or not as good as you’d have liked?

P.J.S.: The first year was insanely better than I had anticipated. The weekend we had slated was also the same weekend as three other major events in the area, so I was sure that barely anyone would show. That our festival would shrivel up and die that same day. I was wrong! Our turn out far exceeded my expectations, nearly 1000+ throughout the day long event. What amazed me the most were how many passerby’s came strolling in just to talk with the filmmakers and to get information from our vendors. It was really awesome to see. Creating awareness and transparency for the filmmakers and artists was one of my main goals for the festival, so it made me very happy to see that taking place.

 

DLM: What did you learn from putting the first festival together that’s helped to smooth the process of organizing the second?

P.J.S.: The hardest part about the first festival was securing the venue. Because the first year went so well Kentucky Wesleyan College stepped up and offered their campus to host year two. The rest of the festival was asking the questions, “what do we need and who can help?” Once we figured out the layout and what all was going to be needed in the event space. I set up meetings and had a lot of sit downs to garner the support needed to pull it off. It was stressful, but a good stress. Year two won’t be as difficult with the connections I made during the process of year one. Especially now that our location has already been secured. A lot of the thanks go to both Tamara Coy and Rich Borowski from KWC. It’s because of their progressive thinking and passion for events like these that this is going to be possible.

 

DLM: What ways do you go about promoting the festival, and which ways do you think are the most effective?

P.J.S.: We have zero dollars to spend when it comes to marketing and advertising. The film festival is also a charity event where all the proceeds will be donated to a local not for profit. The internet so far has been the best tool. I’ve made quite a few friends and connections along the way the past several years making films. It’s because of the support of sites such as yours and so many others that I’m able to spread the word. I’ve also contacted all the surrounding film offices and indie film groups in the surrounding states to garner as many submissions as humanly possible.

 

DLM: What about the entry fee? Has anything changed with that this year?

P.J.S.: There is ABSOLUTELY NO submission fee. Our goal is to help support independent filmmaking and charging them money just isn’t in the cards right now. Will there be a fee in later years as we grow, it’s very possible. However, those fees will go to whatever charity is attached. This is currently not a money making venture. Not while I’m in charge anyway. Any filmmakers reading this can send their DVD screeners to the following address:

The River City Festival of Films – KWC
c/o Tamara Coy
3000 Frederica Street
Owensboro, KY 42301

There is no form to fill out and the deadline is before September 1st, 2012. We accept all genres; both shorts and features. Did I mention there was no fee to submit? Last year we only screened short films. Now that we’re in a bigger, better and nicer facility it has opened the door to allow features as well. We’ll have two screening rooms. That kicks so much ass you have no idea.

 

DLM: What ways does the festival bring in money, and where does that money go?

P.J.S.: As I mentioned before the festival is also a charity event, all the proceeds go to a local not for profit. We bring in money through ticket sales. The festival is free to enter and the event space is free to walk around. All films will be screened in block formats. Each block will be $4 and if you have a student ID you can get in for $2. Good luck doing that at the local theater.

 

DLM: Which aspects of putting the festival together are the hardest, and which do you enjoy the most?

P.J.S.: The most difficult part is sacrificing the time to make sure all the elements are in place. I shouldered a lot of the responsibility in year one, without the help of Katrina I don’t think the first year would have been as successful as it had been. Not nearly as organized anyway. Going into year two I had originally told both Katrina and Tamara that I really had no desire to be “the man in charge”. Both of them said the same thing, “if you don’t take it on then who will? There’s no one else and you know it!” Convincing me to stick around I told Tamara that we needed to assemble a team and divide up the responsibilities to make sure everything could be done effectively. Tamara isn’t the only new member to the festival, Claude Bacon, another local supporter, came aboard to help find sponsors and give assistance where it’s needed. He provided us our HUGE screen last year and is stepping up in a big way this year. I suppose what I enjoy the most is networking with the filmmakers, helping promote what the artists are doing locally and regionally and giving back to the community I grew up in. It’s a good feeling to do something and know that at the end of the day it’s going to make a difference in someone’s life.

 

DLM: Does the festival tend to focus on one particular genre or do you have a variety of genres that you show?

P.J.S.: Our event encompasses many different genres. Last year we screened everything from suspense/thriller to comedy and even some foreign films. During my push to get the word out I was contacted by a group out of Spain who wanted to send us films. Being as we have a large Hispanic population in Owensboro, this gave us the opportunity to not only screen world films but also cater to a whole new demographic. It was very exciting. If there is a filmmaker out there wanting to get their work screened, at no cost, then please send us your film.

 

DLM: When people come to the festival, what can they expect? How it is laid out and scheduled, is there any other entertainment other than the films, are there food and beverage concessions, classes, panel discussions, etc…?

P.J.S.: They can expect to have a lot of fun, learn something about the art of independent film through one on one interaction with the artists themselves and they can expect to see the best indie films our region has to offer. When you first enter we have all the vendor and artist booths in our Events Floor, which connects to Screening Room 1 that will screen all the short films. Screening Room 2 will be located upstairs and that will show all the feature films. As I said before the films will be screened in blocks. Several shorts or just one (based on total run time) will be shown in hour long blocks with a small break in between and the features will hold a block all their own. Each block is only $4 and $2 if you have a student ID. Other entertainment will include live music, the vendor and filmmaker booths, an information area, video areas displaying local artistry, Question and Answer sessions with filmmakers and seminars/master classes about various aspects of independent filmmaking. This year we will have concessions; this drinks, candy and food. We will also have a coffee shop open as well. Last year we had no concessions, so year two will be done right!

 

DLM: People have a chance to meet with many of the film makers at this event. How does that work? Is it a semi-formal Q&A sort of a thing, or just a casual meet and greet?

P.J.S.: All writers, directors, actors, production companies and the like that are in attendance will be available to talk in the Events Floor. This area is no charge to the public. It’ll give those coming into the event a chance to pick the brains of the creative minds behind the projects. The Q&A’s will be designated at certain times and mainly take place with the filmmakers of a specific project after it screens. The seminars will be scattered throughout the day. Those types of events will be scheduled to be a little more formal.

 

DLM: Are there any awards given to the best films?

P.J.S.: This is something that we’re still working on. There are no hard and fast plans for awards, but I would like to have something in place before our doors open. This is an area that is currently being discussed.

 

DLM: So give us all the info. When and where is the festival taking place, costs involved, how to submit your film to the festival and all that other good stuff.

P.J.S.: The River City Festival of Films will take place on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 in the Winchester Building on the campus of Kentucky Wesleyan College here in Owensboro, KY. The doors open at 10 am and the day wraps up at 10 pm. The films will be shown in blocks that cost $4, $2 with a student ID. All the proceeds will be given to a charity at the end of the event. There is NO FEE is send us your DVD screener. To help us out send a production release with the film, tell us the synopsis and important cast and crew. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Again you can send the screeners to:

The River City Festival of Films – KWC
c/o Tamara Coy
3000 Frederica Street
Owensboro, KY 42301

 

DLM: Do you have a website for the festival that people can check out?

P.J.S.: You can and should take a look at our Facebook at www.facebook.com/TRCFF to find out more information and become a fan. Once you become a fan you should share it with everyone you know! We have an official website that is currently getting an overhaul, but you can periodically check it out at www.rivercityfestivaloffilms.com. As we get more information, schedules, films and things they will be added to the official site.

 

DLM: Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?

P.J.S.: This event was originally conceived because some of us believe that a community such as Owensboro deserves even more artistic value than it currently has. Filmmakers in our area and region need venues to screen their works to the public and sadly they are few. That is why this event exists. It’s for the filmmakers and the fans of filmmaking. There are more than cakewalks happening here in Owensboro and I’m out to prove that. It’s because of progressive community thinkers like Bacon, Coy and Borowski that creative individuals, like me and so many others, can help see their ideas come to fruition. To all the filmmakers out there, PLEASE SEND US YOUR FILMS. And if you’re interested in our free book space please contact me at starks.pj@gmail.com or veritecinemafilms@gmail.com.