By Patty Fantasia
The Vegas Indie Film Fest or VIFF! as it is more frequently referred to, celebrated the opening of its 4th annual event on Wednesday, May 1st with the World Premiere of the sci-fi thriller “Territory 8, which was written and directed by popular local filmmaker Kelly Schwarze, at the Orleans Cinema. Starring Michael A. Tushaus, who also composed the film’s music, there were a number of other familiar faces from the Las Vegas filmmaking community who took part in the production including: actors Will Edwards and Stu Chaiken and crew members Michael Su and Sean Jackson. The latter two received much acclaim last year at the festival when their respective films “The Adventures of Loop & Rhett” and “Bubblegum & Broken Fingers” were screened at the festival.
Once the audience was settled VIFF! Founder Derek Stonebarger welcomed the crowd and commented, “This is probably one of the fastest growing film festivals in the world.” Aside from its increasing popularity VIFF! is also developing a reputation for excellence as evidenced by being named as one of the top film festivals by MovieMaker Magazine. Also on hand at the opening was Chad Clinton Freeman, who has been involved with producing the event since the beginning.
“Territory 8” was a wonderful selection to kick off the festivities with. The production values were strong, the script was well written and fast paced and every aspect of the movie reflected quality. Plus, it was filmed in Las Vegas. At the Q&A following the screening the cast and crew spoke about the family atmosphere created during shooting and how much they enjoyed working on this project.
“This is a huge privilege and a huge honor,” writer/director Kelly Schwarze commented when asked how it felt being the opening night film. The project took 1 ½ years to write and then another year to shoot and edit. Filming took 20 days and was mostly done consecutively with the exception of a two week hiatus during which sets were built. Approximately 45% of the production was shot at The Indie Film Factory, which Schwarze and his wife Charisma launched last year after raising funds through a crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign, while other scenes were shot at a bottle reclamation plant in Las Vegas. Kelly explained that his concept for the film started with two characters and added that he’d wanted to challenge himself by doing something different in a new genre. However, he has no plans for a sequel and has instead begun working on a crime drama even though “Territory 8” has already generated interest from distributors. Kelly believes that securing distribution will be a long, complicated process though so it will probably be a while before a deal is done. In the meantime the DVD began being pre-sold that evening and it was announced that the first 1,000 copies sold will be autographed by the cast.
Director Kelly Schwarze
Tushaus shared that he started composing the score from rough cuts after production while director Kelly Schwarze got the edit together. He compared it to creating another character in the film. This was DP Omar Gomez’s first feature although he had done short videos beforehand and he is a well known Las Vegas photographer. Next up he plans to work on a crime thriller with Tushaus that will be shot in Michael’s hometown of Hastings, Nebraska. Tushaus’s co-star Heung Wong also shared that his challenge was speaking English which is not his first language. When asked if he knows martial arts he responded, “I love Bruce Lee a lot.” Justy Hutchins, Colin Ward, Corey Taylor, Michael O’Neal, John P. Baniqued, David F. Silva, Chuck Prater and Brooke Siffrinn rounded out the talented cast.
The final highlight that evening for Schwarze was being presented with one of VIFF!’s special and unique Golden Bulb Awards for the Best Microbudget Film.
VIFF! Golden Bulb Award
On Thursday May 2nd VIFF! continued with the 48 Hour Film Project Award Screenings featuring a number of short films and the Nevada premiere of the feature “Two Hundred Thousand Dirty”: starring Coolio. The festival switched locations to the downtown Arts District on Friday, May 3rd where there was a First Friday Filmmaker Party held at theatre7. The venue continued playing host on Saturday, May 4th with two sessions of the Int’l/Nevada Short Film Block: #1 featured “Hole,” “Holiday(s),”, “Broke,” “Showdown at the Hipster Saloon,”, “A Short Film” “Death by Chinese Junk,” “A Virus Called Fear” and “Jagerbar” while #2 showed “Ray Bradbury’s Kaleidoscope,” “Shade of Blue,”, “The Color of Christmas,” “Reign,” and “God of the Machine.”
The weekend wrapped up at theatre7 on Sunday, May 5th with the World Premiere of “Corpse Grinders 3” from local film legend Ted V.Mickels, who was in attendance for the screening before continuing on at the Indie Film Factory on Tuesday, May 7th with a special Directors Notes – Workshop hosted by Director Sean Jackson.
VIFF! concluded with two special Purple Carpet Screenings at the Orleans on Wednesday, May 8th beginning with the Nevada Premiere of “Liars, Fires and Bears” followed by the closing feature film “Matt’s Chance,” featuring actor Edward Furlong who was in attendance at the theatre. Prior to the first film there was a special presentation honoring Las Vegas Producer/Director David Schmoeller during which he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. Schmoeller’s latest film “Little Monsters” had its North America Premiere at the Palms Brenden Theaters on Thursday, May 9th at 7pm.
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient David Schmoeller
Aside from the screenings and award presentations several after parties were also held throughout the event at a number of local establishments including the Marquee Nightclub & Lounge, McMullan’s Irish Pub.