October is peak season for movie fans in Memphis, as the 11th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival lights up the screen at Studio on the Square (October 9th through the 16th). With around 100 films (roughly 30 of them feature length), produced on budgets ranging from $10,000 to over $1 million by filmmakers both near and as far away as Seattle, the festival will bring what Indie Memphis executive director Erik Jambor calls a "level of intimate accessibility" unlike any you'll find on a random trip to the cineplex.
Having founded the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in his hometown of Birmingham, Jambor moved to the Bluff City last spring after a year in Oregon and is the first and only full-time staffer for Indie Memphis. He brings an obvious affection for the independent film industry, but also a vision for reaching an audience beyond the cinephiles who typically fill festival seats.
"The film festival is about the discovery of new artists," says Jambor. "You're catch-ing filmmakers as they're beginning their careers. Before they become the next Steven Spielberg or Spike Lee. Or the next Craig Brewer.
"We look for stories that are interesting and compelling. It's often the characters that are most important. It could be as simple as a couple of friends sharing a weekend, discussing the world." Jambor emphasizes that "stylized" films are also hits at the festival. You can, in fact, see a zombie movie screened by Indie Memphis.
Jambor mentions the unique cultural history Memphis enjoys — particularly surrounding its music — in describing what makes the city a natural center for a growing film festival. "It's exciting to find ways to tie into [that history] with the festival," he says, "to use that creative inspiration that the city has provided musicians going back decades and decades, and making Memphis a place where independent filmmakers can gather to show their work. It's how we can capitalize on what makes Memphis unique, and developing relationships and connections [with filmmakers outside Memphis] that can lead to future collaborations. We want to inspire filmmakers from other regions with what we have to offer here."
Various ticket packages — including a pass for the entire week — will allow filmgoers to sample different styles, lengths, and formats. With the annual awards cere-mony scheduled for Sunday night, Indie Memphis will coordinate the schedule over the festival's last four days to highlight this year's honorees, providing a chance for many to see a film they might have missed in years past.
Jambor emphasizes that brief window of opportunity to see these films, so different from the Hollywood blockbusters that hit thousands of screens nationwide on the same weekend. "I'm most interested in things that affect me personally," he notes. "We'll run films at the festival that might not be interesting to a million people, but it might be your next favorite movie. We encourage people to explore, [and we aim] to have a broad enough program that something will appeal to everybody."
Among this year's features, Jambor anticipates at least eight regional premieres and three more Tennessee premieres. New to this year's festival will be post-screening conversations between filmmakers, follow-ed by question-and-answer sessions with a film's audience. It's part of the accessibility Indie Memphis is emphasizing as part of its mission.
Says Jambor, "We have a lot of films that will make you come out and want to talk about them. We want to create ways audience members can keep talking. It's not just the experience of being in a dark room."
For more info, and to purchase tickets, visit www. indiememphis.com.