Fairfield Film Expo Shorts | Plus …  Leon Lewis on Making Moviesin Fairfield, Iowa

A budding film community in Fairfield, Iowa, is generating buzz through a short film contest at the 1st Fridays Art Walk Film Expo, February 5-7, 2010. Winners will be announced Saturday, February 6, 7:30 p.m., at the Sondheim Theatre in Fairfield.

Contest coordinator Leon Lewis says “We have a lot of entries this year, which means the quality of the winners will be very good. The videos will speak for themselves.”

Leon is a filmmaker himself. With Michael Valentino, he wrote the rap music for the 2009 winning short film “Pure Transcendence,” available on YouTube.

Leon invites you and your friends to watch these amazing short. “Saturday Night we will be presenting the best of the best as far as short films go,” he says. “We will also be showing the runners up at several venues throughout the weekend. Runners up will be shown at Revelations and Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on Friday night. Saturday night we will show more at Revs, but the main event with contest winners will be at the Sondheim center.

Recently, I talked to Leon about movie making in Fairfield.

John Sorflaten: Leon, what got you into movies?

Leon Lewis: I’ve always had a fascination with movies. Growing up, my friends and I would make cheesy videos that we all thought were hilarious. Eventually, I came to understand how powerful the medium of film can be and really dove into how filmmakers and writers actually weave it all together. Finding out that a metaphor/message I had noticed within a particular video or movie was actually an intended creation of the filmmaker was very profound and inspiring.

What has been your experience with MUM’s communications arts program?

The program has given me the ability to really explore whatever I’ve wanted to. The structure of most all the classes allows for a lot of time to incorporate personal projects into the classwork. This allows me to work on projects that really interest me and at the same time allow for learning to occur. It’s a pretty sweet setup.

You and your buddy were winners in the 2008 Art Walk Film Expo. Tell us a little bit about the work required to make that musical extravaganza. It was a hit with the Expo audience!

It started out as an idea between my roommate and me. Mike had background in film from working in L.A. and had wanted to utilize his creativity and make something fun. I was totally on board. Our inspiration came from other YouTube videos and a Saturday Night Live skit.

We then started bouncing ideas for a music video about this quirky little town called Fairfield back and forth, and knew we had something. Mike then made the music on his computer and we spent a few days writing out lyrics and singing it. I felt a little awkward behind a microphone rapping because I had never done anything like it before.

 After some trial and error I developed a funny rapping voice that we both felt comfortable with. This also was the basis of the personality expressed in the video. On a side note, I am also the one singing the chorus … ha ha. We then just went out and shot it without much planning. We tried to shoot us doing things that related to what we were talking about, then Mike took the footage and turned out the music video in one night.

Mike is really the one who deserves the credit for directing and editing it, though. We titled it “Pure Transcendence" and threw it on YouTube. We have quite a few hits now, which still surprises us. Every once in a while I’ll get asked if I am “the guy in that funny rap video about Fairfield.”

What feelings do you have about Fairfield as a home base for making movies?

Connections and networking are a breeze here. There is a solid performing arts community, which helps with casting too. There are a lot of tools, and access to them if you ask around, here in Fairfield.

From your perspective as a budding filmmaker, what trends do you see happening over the next five years?

The technology has become far less expensive than what it was just 2 to 3 years ago. There are cameras now that can capture film-like footage. Tie inexpensive production with semi-professional $100 editing software, and you get a huge influx of high-quality work from independent filmmakers … which also inspires others to get into film.

Adding in the social media and communication technology side means indie filmmakers have a greater chance of success on their own. I could go into how new and original stories will become paramount, as well as explaining how indie filmmakers will have to work even harder to separate and market themselves from everyone else, but that is another conversation.

Basically, an indie film maker will be able to produce higher quality material on a much smaller budget, but they’ll have to work harder than ever to get their film seen and talked about.

How do some of our entries for the 2010 Film Expo reflect those developing trends?

You can see the above reflected in this year’s entries through the production quality. Almost all of the entries are very independent film makers, yet the quality is pretty darn good. This then relates to my other point on story, and how writers and directors need really good stories to push them in front of the pack. This is also reflected in the 50-plus entries we’ve received so far. Judging them is going to be tough.

Tell us about the categories you have and some of the more interesting entries they are getting?

We’ll have a winner and runner-up for each of these categories: Drama, Documentary, Animation, Super Short (2 minutes and under), Youth (age 17 and under), and Sustainability. All winners will get a Certificate of Achievement from the David Lynch Foundation. We even hope David Lynch will comment on a winner during our Saturday night presentation.

Tell us about your current project and what you hope for it in terms of audience impact.

My current project is working on a feature-length documentary titled Green Light. The film follows a group of friends, just out of college, who recognize the world’s need for real and influential change agents. So they try to become exactly that.

We showcase their journey to discover their connectedness to nature, sustainable practices/technologies already being utilized, and the means to spread these messages through social media. The goal is to show how anyone can change the world, it just starts with the individual.

We’ve held interviews with pretty much anyone related to these areas who has visited Fairfield. Next we need to do a little traveling. The film in itself is one big experiment in wanting to change the world … so we’ll see how we do.

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