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Arts and Entertainment

Springfield's Inaugural "Rated SGF" Film Festival

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(Poster design courtesy Rated SGF Film Festival)
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"Rated SGF" isn't Springfield's first film festival, but Lillian Stone, Communications Director for the Downtown Springfield Association, calls it "the first of its kind. Something that's really special about this festival is that, with a lot of festivals filmmakers will enter newer films as a form of competition. But we like to say that this festival is less of a competition and more of a celebration"--and a source of potential discovery for audiences. "We've hand-picked each of the films because we think that they will resonate well with our audience."

Jonna Volz is an MSU alum, actor, and the driving force behind the new Film and Media Association of Springfield. "The other typical festivals," she says, "will basically be the first time you've ever seen the films for the most part."  And often the entered films can only be seen at that specific festival--there are prohibitions against exhibiting them elsewhere before the film festival gets them. "We have people submit (films), and whoever we select, they get VIP treatment.  We bring them here.  Very specifically, one of the main filmmakers, actors, producers, somebody will be here with the film to talk to you in person about the filmmaking experience."

There are four exhibition periods or "blocks" taking place during the Rated SGF Festival on March 31st: a block of locally-produced short films from 1:00 to 2:3o pm; and two full-length features: "Saturday Church" from 3:30 to 5:30 pm, a modern musical, and at 7:00 pm, "A Ghost Story."  There's also a bonus screening from 10:00 am to noon of the non-musical 2016 Disney remake their 1977 musical fantasy-adventure film "Pete's Dragon." Says Lillian Stone, "We are really excited about this one. The director of 'Pete's Dragon' (David Lowrey) is actually going to be in person at the festival. He directed 'A Ghost Story' as well.  He'll be available for an in-person Q and A after the screening of 'A Ghost Story.'" 

Concurrent with the showing of "Pete's Dragon" from 10 to noon, the festival kicks off with a workshop for local filmmakers, conducted by MSU Assistant Professor of Media, Journalism and Film Rich Amberg, and Josh Pfaff of Locke & Stache, a local film-production company.  Pfaff is a recent MSU graduate who produced some award-winning short films while a student in the Electronic Arts Department.  Jonna Volz says the workshop will cover "the beginning to the end: the beginning of filmmaking, pre-production, production/filming, and then post-production--how to get your movie made."

Lillian Stone calls the musical "Saturday Church" "one of the most inspiring films I've seen recently.  It deals with a lot of hot issues: gender identity, grief, loss, diversity."  Jonna Volz goes into more detail about it. "It's about an African-American family in New York, and a teenage boy who just lost his father and is dealing with that grief, as well as trying to figure out who he is. He ends up finding acceptance and love and friendship in the LGBTQ community, and learning how to accept who he is, and also get acceptance from his family."

Stone describes "A Ghost Story" as "a big feature.  It came out last year and received a lot of indie acclaim." Jonna Volz notes that one of the film's stars is Oscar nominee Roonie Mara. "So definitely our festival has a cool indie vibe which I think is very important for film festivals, in addition to having something like 'Pete's Dragon'," which allows the festival to include what she calls "a family-friendly element."

Volz adds that her group, the Film and Media Association of Springfield, is a new organization. "We're about to launch and let the community know that we're up and running.  We're replacing what used to be the Film Alliance. So it's a new group, new branding, to network, educate and inspire."  Volz put together the Rated SGF Film Festival selection committee.  They received submissions of shorts and features from both local filmmakers and producers as well as nationally and overseas. There were also what she calls some "really cool" documentaries submitted, which Volz says gives the festival "inspiration on directions to go for next year, and then to connect them with other film festivals that we know about.  We already have people (for whom) the timing wasn't right for this year--lots of people from Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Peru, that are saying, 'Hey, we want in next year!'  It's exciting.  It's going to be a bigger festival next year."

In addition to the $15 (per event) to $45 (all-day/all-inclusive) festival tickets, Lillian Stone says they're offering discount-priced tickets for the "Pete's Dragon" showing: $5 for children 10 and under, and $10 for parents.

Advance tickets to the Rated SGF Festival are ONLY available online at http://ratedsgf.com, but they will be available at the door at the Fox Theatre on the 31st.  Since the festival is only using the lower orchestra-floor seating in the Fox, capacity is limited to 400 persons.  There will also be live musicians on hand "that we think fit well with each film."