Invasion of the film fests

Contests challenge entrants to showcase cinematic skills, originality

"Alien" took 16 weeks to film.

"The Exorcist" shoot lasted for seven months. "The Shining" persisted for nearly a year.

But participants in the Wild West Film Fest: Scare Factor Edition will have just 48 hours to plan, shoot and edit their project.

"It's the excitement of anybody can enter, and anybody can put together a short film and see it on the screen within two days," says Chris Dorsey, founder of the event.

The Lawrence-based competition is asking budding Hitchcocks to create a four-minute scary movie. Those participating will receive "top-secret criteria" for the film, which must be included in their final project.

Dorsey explains, "For the June event, we gave them the first line of dialogue, and it had to be 'What are you doing here?' For this one, we're talking about having it be an object and a theme. We've had multiple discussions about this. We may very well just draw it out of a hat (tonight)."


The completed pieces will be screened at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass.

Last June, the Wild West Film Fest recruited 21 entries for its inaugural launch, which took place at The Granada, 1020 Mass.

"It was a lot of fun seeing the quality of some of the films people put together," says Dorsey, a former KU student who works as a motion graphics artist in Kansas City. "People are nervous because they show up and they're not exactly sure how the audience is going to react. But we had a standing-room only crowd."

This season's competition costs $25 to enter, with contestants vying for a $500 prize.

"The idea is to scare the audience and the judges," he says. "The judges will rate the films based on audience reaction and overall scariness."

Judges include John Clifford, writer of the 1962 horror classic "Carnival of Souls," Kent Polisch of the Web site MindZero ( and filmmakers Jon Weimer ("Xeline") and Chris Downs ("The Shunned").

Past Event

Wild West Film Fest "Scare Factor Edition"

  • Monday, October 17, 2005, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Liberty Hall Cinema, 644 Massachussets Street, Lawrence
  • All ages / $6.50


"It can be a fun and challenging way to get your work seen and meet other filmmakers," says contestant Derek Mleynek, a Wichita-based director who has worked on independent features and reality TV shows such as "Trading Spouses."

Oddly enough, Mleynek doesn't consider himself much of a horror movie fan.

"I haven't watched that many, but I have worked on (the sets) of a few," he says. "I really don't know what the scariest movie I have ever seen is. My wife says the scariest movie she has ever seen is 'Identity' starring John Cusack. Mine is the time I was tricked into watching 'Shall We Dance.'"

Harvest of Arts

Scare Factor isn't the only film festival that kicks off today. It's one of three major events that include Lawrence's Harvest of Arts and FilmFest Kansas City.

In fact, signups for Scare Factor take place from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. today at The Granada during the rival Harvest of Arts Film Festival.


ThinkFilm Photo

One of the many living subjects of the documentary "Genesis" is captured in closeup.

"There's no real reason not to support each other," says Mark von Schlemmer, Harvest's creator/producer. "That's really what an arts community should do."

Now in his 14th year organizing the annual affair, von Schlemmer says the movie showcase is appropriately named because "it's like the harvesting of local filmmaking talent.

"There are still just a few companies that own most of the (Hollywood) outlets, so what that leaves us with is a lot of people making stuff and wanting to get it out there," he says. "So we're seeing more local film festivals."

Attendees can expect a wide-ranging array of projects from narrative to animated movies. Among the highlights of his free, noncompetitive festival, von Schlemmer cites "Jesus Malverde: El Bandido Generoso," a documentary from K.C. filmmaker Glenn Stewart.

"Malverde is the patron saint of smugglers and drug traffickers," von Schlemmer explains. "(Stewart) interviews police officers who reveal the story of this guy who has a shady reputation but is now on altars with other saints."

Past Event

14th Annual Harvest of Arts Film Festival

  • Friday, October 14, 2005, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Granada, 1020 Mass., Lawrence
  • All ages / Free


Over the years, von Schlemmer has seen interest in local filmmaking consistently expand. He attributes that to the availability of cheaper and better technology.

"More people are doing it because in our society we have cable or satellite dishes giving us 10 times more channels than we had 20 years ago," he says. "It's always been a very powerful medium. But now we're so saturated with it. Little kids are making films in elementary school. And these aren't just with a Super 8 camera and poorly lit scenes of the family. These are with digital cameras that can play something that can get blown up to 35mm and get played in a theater."

FilmFest KC

The organizers of FilmFest Kansas City stress a more international focus than the other Kansas-centric ones.

"We stick with our tagline: celebrating our cultural diversity through world cinema," says Butch Rigby, president of the event.


Special to the Journal-World

Police Dept. Specialist Santiago Vasquez discusses the the saint of smugglers in "Jesus Malverde: El Bandido Generoso," a documentary by Kansas City filmmaker Glenn Stewart.

For its 12th year, the festival is moving downtown to K.C.'s art district, which Rigby says "gives us a little more synergy." FilmFest runs today through Thursday at The Screenland Theatre,1656 Washington, Kansas City, Mo.

The 37 titles screened will begin appropriately with a piece titled "Genesis," a French nature documentary from the makers of "Microcosmos."

Also notable are "The 100 Best Kills!" and "The 100 Best Sex Scenes!" - compilations by Austin's Alamo Drafthouse that parody the AFI top 100 lists. As the titles suggest, "Kills!" features the most memorable deaths in cinema, while "Sex Scenes!" celebrates the best NC-17 moments between a man, a woman and various other combinations.

Rigby adds, "One of the more unusual film entries is 'Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party.' Tobolowsky is a guy whose name no one knows and whose face everyone recognizes. He's a character actor - Ned Ryerson from 'Groundhog Day.' But it is just a documentary that follows Stephen around on his birthday and lets him share some of his storytelling that he is known for amongst his friends."

FilmFest KC

When: 12:30 p.m. today through Thursday Where: Screenland Theatre, 1656 Washington St., Kansas City, Mo. More info:

FilmFest isn't entirely without emphasis on local filmmakers, though.

Don Maxwell's "One Kind of Officer," based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce, was shot entirely in Kansas City. Maxwell and his crew also will be in attendance at the screening for a Q&A; session.

"It features some absolutely incredible CGI work to recreate a Civil War battlefield in an airplane hanger," Rigby says. "We have so many talented people in this area when it comes to the independent film world."


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