We are excited to announce RAW's 2nd annual film festival! This year's film festival will have live music, performances, delicious food, VR experiences and of course, films from some of the most talented filmmakers. Check out our interview with creator/director of the RAW Film Festival, Nick Night, and see what this year's event has in store for its audiences.
Introduce yourself! What do you do? How did you get involved with RAW?
I’m Nick Night, creator/director of RAW Film Festival. I’m a practicing experimental new media filmmaker from Oakland, CA. I have an art school background, which is why RAWFF wound up focusing on high conceptualization and visual prowess. I was involved with for RAW in another capacity, my wife worked with them first and introduced me. One day at a RAW show in DTLA I had the idea that they should put on a film festival with the same ethos as their shows-a locally focused, multidisciplinary onslaught of great art!
How long have you been involved with film? How would you describe your involvement with the indie film industry?
Jeez, I got serious about filmmaking in the 8th grade, went to an arts charter high school, and took film classes at a community college as extracurriculars before graduating and heading to art school in Canada. So that makes 14 years now. I was so gung-ho about it for so long that when I moved to LA and the structure disappeared, I began to meander and shy away from industry filmmaking. I realized I hated set life and didn’t get much out of being a part of a large crew. I like wearing many hats and treating the medium like a multidisciplinary artist. I’ve never been a big self-promoter or networker, so RAWFF was a way of bringing myself back into the fold. Now as a curator, I’m interacting with the indie film industry from the other side. It forces me to have my finger on the pulse and stay involved. I’m constantly watching what great new filmmakers are putting out and having that context comes around to benefit my own practice.
How do you think the RAW Film Festival helps indie filmmakers?
The fact that we are locally focused makes a huge difference. With most festivals, everyone flies in for a few days then everyone goes their separate ways. Collaborations and mutually beneficial relationships are more likely to blossom in a natural way if everyone lives in the same place and can build a community. We have proof of this even after our first year. We premiered a short doc from a very new filmmaker Kayla Briët last year, about her relationship with her Native American heritage. April Wolf, head film critic at LA Weekly, happened to be on our jury. A few months later Kayla is on the cover of LA Weekly with a feature about Kayla and her film Smoke That Travels. Those are the kind of organic, mutually beneficial relationships we want to foster at RAWFF.
How do you believe indie film impacts the big screen and our modern day culture?
I believe more people are interested in and watching independent films than ever before, which is a great thing, but that it’s mostly due to the small screen. The large reach of content distribution platforms like Netflix allows much lower budget films to be exponentially more accessible. In our modern culture, we are much more likely to start watching a thought-provoking indie niche film because it shows up in our queue than go to the theater to see it. This has lead to a broader interpretation of what film can be outside of the cookie-cutter Hollywood narrative, as well as a greater thirst for formal and stylistic innovation within the medium. Then it can circle back to the big screen in events like Raw Film Festival that curate better than an algorithm and provide an enriched experience as a viewer.
What do you hope to see from the indie film community at this upcoming RAW Film Festival?
Turnout! We hope the indie film community comes out to support these local filmmakers and show that film festivals don’t have to be about politics and VIP parties. Let’s be genuinely interested in each other instead of looking for the next rung on the ladder. Another festival director once told me “young people don’t go to film festivals”. While I think he was mostly talking about HIS festival, I want to prove him wrong. Let’s show that film festivals can be about fresh, innovative content in an atmosphere that can’t be replicated by sitting in bed with a laptop, browsing through Vimeo. Lets build a local community that supports itself in a town dominated by a literal and figurative Hollywood. Let’s dig the underground!
Any exciting highlights this year?
It’s hard to choose what to mention out of the 40 AMAZING short films we are showing this year, but I’ll focus on the films we have supplemented by live performances or gallery installations. “We Together” is a dance film by Henry Kaplan that depicts a zombie reclaiming his humanity through hip hop dance. We’ll get to see a live rendition of that on stage this year! We have a doc from Iqbal Ahmed called “Bug Man” about an entomologist-turned-artist who lets his insect friends walk across the canvas to create amazing abstract paintings. He will be doing a live demo at RAWFF! We’re also showing a VR doc from Maria Clancy and Blake Montgomery, “Songs of the Vine” which explores the ceremonial chants of ayahuasca shawmans in the Amazon. There’s way too much cool stuff to list here, you’ll just have to check out the show! Our full lineup of films can be found at rawfilmfestival.com/program2017