The Oscar-laden film Titanic, with its $200 million price tag, is to some Hollywood at its best, albeit gaudiest.
However, you don't need $200 million, or even Hollywood, to make a film. Sometimes a mere $10,000, coupled with an ounce of ingenuity, can do the trick. But with theaters today filled to the brim with star-studded, big-budget movies, what becomes of all those independent, low-budget films crafted by aspiring new directors?
For some, their only outlets are the major, or not-so-major, film festivals that are held each year in cities such as New York, Toronto and Chicago.
Now, add Charm City to that list.
Baltimore will host the first-ever Johns Hopkins Film Festival from April 16 to 19, an event festival coordinators hope will become an annual occurrence. The goal of the festival, according to one of its organizers, is not only to bring back a "big time" film festival to Baltimore--once home to the now-defunct Baltimore International Film Festival--but also to provide a forum for feature-length and short films the public wouldn't otherwise see.
"Lots of these films wouldn't get a chance to get out to the public, or they just won't be distributed properly," said Gil Jawetz, the festival's director and a recent Film and Media Studies alumnus, who directed Hopkins' first film when he was a student here. "For these filmmakers, the Hopkins Film Festival offers them a chance to get some feedback and to hone their craft."
For a number of the filmmakers, this will be a first showing of their work.
The festival kicks off at 7 p.m. on April 16 at the Baltimore Museum of Art with the local premier of I Went Down, a feature-length film from Ireland that made a big splash at Sundance.
The four-day festival, sponsored by a number of Hopkins departments and the Alumni Association, will include nine feature-length films and more than 40 shorts. Screenings will be held at the Baltimore Museum of Art and on the Homewood campus at Shriver and Gilman halls. Most programs will include a feature, a selection of shorts and a post-screening discussion with the filmmaker.
The festival is free for Hopkins students, faculty and staff; $3 per show or $15 for a festival pass for the general public.
The films were selected by Jawetz and festival coordinators Teddy Chao, president of the Johns Hopkins Film Society, and Tasha Brown, coordinator of the Film and Media Studies Program.
Chao said the film committee began organizing this event in October 1997, but it wasn't until last month that they realized there was no turning back.
"Up until then, it was all groundwork to see what kind of responses we would get from the film community," said Chao, a junior double majoring in film and media studies and in computer science. "But we realized once we sent the acceptances out, we're having a festival."
The process of organizing this event began by canvassing independent production studios and "getting the word out" to the film community, Chao said. The committee also set up a Web site where interested parties could find out more about the festival and fill out an application form.
Chao said the committee received more than 90 videos of features and shorts from not only local filmmakers, but from those in Ireland, India and Vancouver. Using the Internet, he said, was an invaluable way of "tapping into the global market."
The festival will take place during Hopkins' Spring Fair, a weekend-long mixture of food, activities and events on the Homewood campus.
Piggybacking onto Spring Fair, Chao said, seemed like a good way to attract people to the film festival. Yet, he hopes people won't be in "too much a party mood" when they're watching the films.
"I honestly hope that the crowd is constructive of independent film," Chao said. "But I'm hoping the weather will be nice so that people will walk around and then decide to pop into see some of these movies."
The film I Went Down was provided by The Shooting Gallery, a New York-based production studio that has produced films such as New Jersey Drive, Laws of Gravity and the critically acclaimed Slingblade. Brandon Rosser, The Shooting Gallery's senior vice-president, graduated from Hopkins in 1990.
"I was happy to hear that Hopkins was putting on its own festival. I wish it could have happened when I was there," Rosser said.
Rosser stressed the importance of festivals for films that aren't backed by major Hollywood studios.
"For a movie like Batman, the studios can spend tens of millions on advertising. We don't have that kind of money," Rosser said. The biggest advantage of a film festival, Rosser said, is that it generates free word-of-mouth advertising. "People will talk about these films after they see them and create a buzz distributors can't ignore."
Both Jawetz and Chao hope a success this year will turn this into an annual event.
"I think the bottom line is whether the Baltimore community is large enough to have a full-scale film festival every year," Chao said.
"But if the theaters are only half packed, that's fine with me," Chao added. What's important to him is that people--no matter how many turn out--just have a good time, watching what he considers "some really great independent films."