In the documentary Hearts of Darkness, director Francis Ford Coppola says: "To me, the great hope is that now these little eight-millimeter video recorders are coming around and some people who normally wouldn't make movies are going to be making them, and suddenly some girl in Ohio is going be the next Mozart and make a beautiful film with her father's camcorder, and for once, the so-called 'professionalism' about movies will be destroyed forever and it will become an art form. That's my opinion."
Coppola's vision seems to affirm the many independent art films that -- even in the face of the Hollywood blockbusters that continue to strong-arm the movie industry --are standing up to be seen and heard these days.
Spokane, believe it or not, can claim its own share of independent screen art creators. This Friday, the E Gallery will be home to the Eside Film Festival, which is giving local upstart filmmakers a chance to share their cinematic visions.
Katherine Graham, who runs Art Cinema at The Met, supports the upcoming festival. "I like the youthful aspect of it and the enthusiasm, the young, new energy," says Graham. "It's great to have local talent get a start."
Eric Gollinger, who works as the projectionist for Graham's Art Cinema, has directed the upcoming festival. In the short-term, he hopes that it will help media students get jobs locally, and, in the long-term, increase public support for local filmmaking.
"There's an abundance of people in the area studying acting, theater, filming -- different aspects of film creation," says Gollinger. "But there's also a lot of 'gloom and doom' for them, as they have to move away [from Spokane] to really make it. I think the festival's a great chance for these young artists to get their foot in the door."
It's also a great chance for the local film audience to see something different, in a town full of movie theaters that usually cater to the mainstream only.
"Local film interest needs to be nurtured. It's a flame in the wind: There's some resistance, but in fact, there may be no resistance, except that we're used to the status quo of old," says Gollinger. "Maybe we just need to organize and network and stick together."
This year's festival program will feature various film shorts, trailers, works-in-progress and documentary excerpts by local artists and aspiring filmmakers.
At the festival, local indie film gurus such as Eric Gollinger, John Montalvo and Mike Oehler will show their latest projects.
Among the presenters are also Andy Kumpon and Wayne Spitzer, co-directors of Allied Fighters Productions who will be showing a clip of their short film, Shadows and Fog, which they hope to submit later to the Horror/Sci-Fi Channel for wider exposure.
"This isn't a hobby," says Kumpon of his work with sci-fi filmmaking, "this is a passion."
Ramsey Denison, a communication student at Eastern Washington University, will present a documentary on the local but now defunct 2MT gallery, which was a hang out that occupied the corner of Jefferson and Second Ave. The E Gallery, which will house Friday's festival, is the reincarnation of 2MT with the addition of a restaurant. Denison's project is a solo effort, mastered from what he calls a Macintosh video-editing suite in his own home.
As for the subject of his documentary, Denison says: "In the conservative community of Spokane, 2MT was a place where offbeat people with different interests could go to do whatever the hell they wanted. It was less about selling art than it was about the experience of creating art together, about some really offbeat characters doing really offbeat things."
Spokane's Michael Oehler will present a video documentary on the WTO riots in Seattle, complete with interviews and up-close shots blocked out periodically by tear gas and water spots.
The perspectives of Oehler and the other local filmmakers may not be mainstream, but their innovative and provocative work with handheld camcorders provides a very different angle on the usual events and issues.
Denison, perhaps, says it best: "I enjoy the creative freedom of independent filmmaking. I can take my camera, hold the boom mike and just go out there."
The Spokane Film Festival begins at 8 pm on Friday, Sept. 22, and will run until approximately 1 am at E Gallery, 410 W. Sprague. Tickets: $1.50. Proceeds from the festival will support future festivals, and also help pay medical expenses for Bob Schleuffer, director of the past two Spokane Film Festivals, who has been disabled by a recent stroke. Call: 456-3821.