Festival brings audience and filmmakers together

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By: Ryan L. Gruenewald
Staff Writer

Celebrate the passion, the commitment and the creativity of the independent filmmaker at the 6th annual River Bend Film Festival.

The three-day event begins Thursday, April 3, with the Indiana premiere of “Sand Castles” starring the prolific Hollywood film actor Clint Howard and Jordon Hodges, a Goshen native and former IU South Bend student.

Hodges not only acted in the film that was shot in Goshen, but wrote the screenplay and produced it as well. Local interest is so great that the premiere has been sold out and has compelled the festival to add a second showing to Saturday’s events.

Howard will host a Q&A after Thursday’s show, give a talk on life in the filmmaking industry on Friday and join in a panel discussion on Saturday.

“It’ll be interesting. He’ll have plenty of stories to share,” said Tim Richardson, festival director and IUSB faculty.

Howard will also be sitting down for a charity dinner with a portion of the proceeds going to The Gary Sinise Foundation to help wounded veterans.

Nearly 40 independent films from around the world, including Michiana, will be screened on Friday and Saturday.

Stephen Susco, writer of “The Grudge” movies and many other films, will present a workshop on screenwriting Saturday April 5, while Kate Chaplin will present the topic of directing for film.

The event will also highlight an exhibit of video art from IUSB’s new media students.

Richardson got involved in the festival in early 2000s with a not-for-profit group called Mid-America Filmmakers (MAF).

“I saw there was a demand,” Richardson said. “People were making local films, but where do you find venues to screen?”

The festival began under a different, much longer title and was screened in room 1001 at Wiekamp Hall.

“We started out focusing on local films but we quickly included films from anywhere,” Richardson said. “You don’t want to live in a fishbowl. You want to see what the world is doing.”

When the city of South Bend offered to host the event, the advantages appealed to the festival’s planners. The move would garner public attention and get the event out of the university setting where other entrants might assume a bias toward IU student work.

“There are a lot of opportunities if you are really into making films,” Richardson said. “But, the important thing to know is the film festival is not exclusive to filmmakers. It’s for audiences to be able to connect with filmmakers. You watch the film and then you can actually ask the person who made it questions.”

“We get a lot of films and unfortunately we can’t show all the submissions because of time,” said Joe Haase, program director and instructional media consultant at IUSB.

This year, the festival received the most submissions yet. Nevertheless, they chose to show fewer films than in the past to allow more of the films the chance to be seen.

“People don’t want to miss ‘Music City USA,’” Haase said. “They also don’t want to miss Friday night at The State, some really great films. ‘Satellite Beach’ stars Luke Wilson. It’s a mockumentary and is very funny.”

Kevin McInerney, MAF member, movie enthusiast and amateur actor, has attended the festival every year.

“Personally, I love it,” McInerney said. “If you look at an indie film, because, there are so many more constraints and so little funds available, people really put their heart into it.”

For prices and a detailed schedule of screenings and workshops, visit riverbendfilmfest.org.

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