I just back from the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival in Des Moines last night. It is a week-long affair that runs through November 11 at the best movie theater in Iowa, the Fleur Cinema and Cafe.
It is becoming for independent movies what the Iowa caucuses are to politics – an important launch pad.The Iowa film-making community may be small but they are a committed, passionate bunch that support each other. The Iowa film-making scene post-Iowa Film Tax Credits still has strong vital signs.
The Wild Rose festival is extremely competitive with over 500 submissions in a multitude of categories, but many of films featured have an Iowa connection. They were made in Iowa or have directors or actors in Iowa. Kimberly Busbee, the artistic director of the Wild Rose, is a gracious and infectious host who has turned this love fest for films into something special.
Tanna Frederick, Best Actress Winner for her role in Queen of the Lot, said that,"this means more to me than an Oscar because it is from Iowa!" Queen of the Lot, directed by Henry Jagloom, opens in theatrical release next week in New York and Los Angeles. Many of the film makers who make the festival circuits described how the Wild Rose is one of their favorite festivals. Longtime director Ben-Hur Sepehr, winner of a boat load of awards for his dramatic short, The Desperate, said, "the Iowa audience is genuine." My genuine feeling is that this movie will be an Oscar nominee.
A film festival win creates buzz and momentum for other film festivals. The Wild Rose is now like the "Iowa caucuses" for independent films and featured several premieres. The publicity boost for the winners will be significant. If you can win in Iowa, you can win anywhere…
You should see increased exposure for multiple award winners like 16 to Life, an Iowa America Graffiti-like story of coming of age in McGregor Iowa. It was directed by Iowa's Becky Smith and stars Hallee Hirsh and Theresa Russell. This film has great acting, great music, has a great ensemble cast and was beautifully shot. It won Best Feature, Best Iowa Film, Best Music, Best Supporting Actress, etc.
This festival was about great actresses and women film makers. Becky Smith won Best Director over four experienced male directors. Watch for the meteoric rise of the aforementioned Tanna Frederick. She is a warm and engaging Iowa actress who has superstar potential. A couple other people to watch are Laura Carlson, lead actress from My Town Picture's Fortnight, and director Tim Connery from Dubuque. Tim's short film Quarter to 2 won a couple of awards and Tim announced he is shooting a feature in Dubuque later in November.
My movie Kora, about the epic trip around Mount Kailash in Tibet, won two awards for Best Documentary and the Certificate of Distinctive Achievement for Best Music. I did something I have never done. I choked up during my acceptance speech to be considered a peer of this group of great film-makers.
There was a lot of buzz about Molly's Girl that just completed production. The trailer of the film was premiered, just like they do at Comic-Con, and several of the cast and crew were on hand including Kristina Valada-Viars, Ellen Dolan, Fairfield's Emily Schweitz and Director Scott Thompson.