by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week KRL took a moment to see what’s going on in the local film scene by chatting with Fresno Filmworks board member Jefferson Beavers.
KRL: What is Fresno Filmworks?
Jefferson: We like to say that Fresno Filmworks is your local source for independent film. We show movies every second Friday of the month at the historic Tower Theatre, and we also put on the annual Fresno Film Festival each spring. Filmworks likes to show current independent and international movies that you can’t see at the local multiplex, and we also like to show documentaries and multicultural films.
KRL: When, how and why did it first come to be?
Jefferson: Filmworks started in March 2002 with film screenings in 16mm at the Fresno Art Museum, and we moved to The Tower Theatre in 35mm that summer. The Tower is a beautiful art-deco theater that has been very good to us, and we’ve called it home ever since. As for why we got started, the original Filmworks board members saw a real need for an alternative to the big-box commercial theaters in town. Over the last decade, our all-volunteer board has worked hard to fill that cultural gap every month.
KRL: What is your position with Filmworks?
Jefferson: I’m one of 18 Filmworks board members. I serve as the communication director, and I also work on development. Outside of Filmworks, I teach journalism and film studies at Fresno City College, and I’m a freelance journalist.
KRL: What kind of films are made here, and are there a lot of films made locally?
Jefferson: Central Valley filmmakers really run the gamut of styles. Drama, comedy, horror, documentary, animation. Mostly short films, but some full-length features. A little bit of everything, really. Filmworks has a short film competition every year at the Fresno Film Festival, where we solicit shorts from all over the world. We typically pick about 15 or so shorts out of about 150 submissions, and we always give a little extra look to the locals. On average, I’d say we show three or four films with some kind of local connection at each festival, so the competition’s tough.
KRL: Are there a lot of local filmmakers or film companies in this area?
Jefferson: Just in Fresno, there are a bunch of groups for filmmaking and video production. The newest and most interesting, to me, is CMAC TV. That’s the Community Media Access Collaborative, downtown at the old Fresno Met building. They’re basically a member-based public-access media production facility, and they broadcast both on the web and on cable. Once you become a member and get trained, you can check out equipment, create programming, and volunteer on other people’s projects too. Filmworks just became a CMAC member, and we hope to be producing our own content soon. Also, there’s good work being done at Gotta Love Fresno and at Windsong Productions, especially in the area of ongoing web TV series and mobile video. And then there’s the Fresno Film Commission and the Fresno Filmmakers Alliance, and many innovative small production companies. The film and video community seems to have a lot of overlaps within these organizations.
KRL: What other kinds of events is Filmworks involved in?
Jefferson: In addition to our monthly movies and our annual festival, we also co-sponsor the Swede Fest. Two local filmmakers, Roque Rodriguez and Bryan Harley, created the Swede Fest in 2008, and they put on the event twice a year, in May and November. A “sweded” film is a low-budget remake of your favorite Hollywood movie, inspired by the Michel Gondry film Be Kind Rewind. Local filmmakers basically use their friends as actors and a bunch of cardboard props to make their own two-minute version of a movie like The Avengers or The Matrix. Then all the filmmakers, the crews, and their families come out to The Tower Theatre to see the films on the big screen. We love it!
KRL: Tell us more about the Fresno Film Festival.
Jefferson: The Fresno Film Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2014. Filmworks puts on the festival each year in April as a three-day celebration of film and film art. We show about two-dozen short and feature films over the three days. But we also do Q&A sessions with visiting filmmakers, panel discussions with local experts, and of course a party or two.
KRL: Why do you feel that the film industry is important to Fresno?
Jefferson: The Central Valley is such a paradox. This region has such a great bounty of food and natural beauty, and it has true and deep linguistic and cultural diversity. But it also has significant divisions between the haves and the have-nots, and far too many economic and cultural divisions to mention. I think film can be a powerful visual way not just to entertain, but also to tell people’s stories, to artfully say things that can’t easily be said just with words. If Filmworks can help tell those stories and further that cultural understanding by turning someone on to an issue they’ve never thought about before, then I think we’re doing our job in the community.
KRL: How can the community support local film?
Jefferson: Come out and support Fresno Filmworks at The Tower Theatre! In August, we’re showing two important documentaries. On Friday, Aug. 9, we’ve got the thriller We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, which tells the story of Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, and looks at the future of government secrecy in the Internet era. Then on Sunday, Aug. 18, we’ve got a special engagement of the drama The Rep, which looks at the future of independent movie houses all across North America, and the unique challenges they face in a world of digital distraction. Also, you can check out our friends at Fresno Reel Pride, as they put on their 24th annual LGBT film festival on Sept. 18-22.
KRL: Where can you be found on the Internet?
Jefferson: You can visit our website at FresnoFilmworks.org for our screening schedule and an archive of our past movies. On the site, you can also subscribe to our weekly e-news and our blog. If you’re into social media, you can like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @FresnoFilmworks.