by Danny Rangel~
Give us the genesis behind Fringe Film. How was this project conceptualized? What was the driving force and the rationale behind creating Fringe Film?
As Founder of the first Fringe Theatre Festival in the U.S. (Seattle) and one of three co-founders of the New York International Fringe Festival, when I heard about Hollywood Fringe in 2009, I contacted Ben Hill to see what the what was. After bludgeoning him with a battery of questions regarding his goals and aspirations, I signed on in an advisory capacity to the inaugural HFF in 2010. I needed to be certain which god Ben and company were serving. Turns out it’s the same one I serve. The artist. Not the dollar. Neither of the previous festivals I founded were serving that same god, it turned out. So, as a result, one is now dead and the other is internationally loathed.
The first year I simply recommended and advised as well as ran one of the anchor venues at Theatre of NOTE. I’ve been a member of NOTE for almost 10 years now and I realized that, if done properly, we could make NOTE a more visible member of the Hollywood arts community and it worked out very well. The shows we chose first year were awarded significantly in various categories and every single one received glowing reviews from the papers and online critics. My and my team’s stated objective that first year was to select shows to host that reflected a diversity of geographic location, aesthetic approach, gender, ethnicity and style. It was a blast and NOTE still talks about the vibe of the first year’s entrants.
For the second year, I knew I didn’t want to run a venue again. It was fun and wonderful and all, and I’ve never had so much fun (especially with the incredible production team I’d assembled), but I wanted to experience something different for 2011. Ben and David McKeever and I met and discussed various options and it suddenly hit me. I make my living in the film industry so I asked them if they’d considered having a small venue dedicated to fringe film. Turns out they had, in fact, planned on doing that and we all agreed that I was the perfect choice to fulfill that goal. So, I guess you would say that the “driving force” behind creating Fringe Film was A) a personal need of mine to be still attached to the incredibly successful event, B) my sizable experience in the film industry and C) Ben and David’s brilliance in choosing to make the Hollywood Fringe Festival as open and accessible to all forms of artistic expression as possible.
For Fringe Film’s inaugural year, what was your definition of success?
Based on previous inaugural years for previous festivals, I would have been happy with 1/2 of what HFF achieved. First year festivals are defining. They establish the rhythm, the aesthetic, the very nature of each individual festival. It’s the most important year for a festival. And the very reason the founders need to know and constantly state which god they are choosing to serve. (This is the very reason why when the political decision was made at the very last minute in New York’s inaugural year to open the floodgates to artists whose work was questionable, it ended up defining NYIFF as the pseudo-corporate monster it has since become. Needless to say, I was the lone dissenting vote.)
The Hollywood Fringe Festival’s first year was a resounding success artistically, financially, socially and politically. The stars were (and still are) aligned to help guarantee a healthy future for a festival that could easily prove to be Hollywood’s best yearly collection of international artists.
Was there ever concern from you or others involved about adding film to what many people perceive to be a theater festival?
None whatsoever. Art is art. It doesn’t say anywhere in the marketing or establishing materials that the Hollywood Fringe Festival is strictly a theatre festival. It is primarily a theatre festival. And always will be. Defining first year, and all that. But Ben and company hope to eventually include many other disciplines as well. Film is just the logical first step since it’s Hollywood and all. Besides, I would venture that in this town, at least 60 to 75 percent of theatre makers are filmmakers and vice versa. In fact, our anchor film this year was, as it turned out, produced, written and directed by an established fringe theatre artist. Damaso Rodriguez with Furious Theatre Company. And, ironically, I chose the film as the anchor film before I knew anything about the filmmaker. It was only after I’d chosen the project that I researched the artists involved.
How does being in Los Angeles change the way you approach Fringe Film? Are there heightened expectations for this kind of project?
I have heightened expectations for every project I’m attached to, so, yes, I guess. there are heightened expectations. But, no more or less than any other project I choose to involve myself with. The bottom line, in theatre, filmmaking, visual art, dance, music, you name it, is the vision of the artists involved incorporated with the execution of that vision. So, being in Los Angeles changes nothing for me. Artistic expression is an international language that, luckily, I understand pretty clearly. I was raised in the arts. Surrounded by them my entire life. And my entire life has been and continues to be enmeshed in artistic expression. Be it theatre, film, visual art or music. Art is God to me.
What’s different about Fringe Film? Why should the average Fringe Festival patron pay attention to Fringe Film when it returns next year?
We’re gonna give you something you’ve probably never seen before. Or, at least, make the attempt. In programming any festival, the organizer’s hands are somewhat tied by the submissions they receive. So there’s a cap on knowing where it is exactly a festival is headed at any given moment. But, the wise programmer also knows to let the festival take its own individual shape. The main difference between our festival and other local festivals, I think, is that HFF[film] will make every attempt to bring forth shorts and features which, odds are, will never be seen at any other festival. Many film festivals like to fancy themselves as cutting edge, and, I suppose, they once were, but the aesthetic I plan to serve at HFF[f] has nothing to do with marketability, star power or gratuitous “indie cred”. It has to do with what’s on that screen and if it served and/or pushed its genre artistically. A film doesn’t by any means need to be dark or edgy or mumblecore or anything. It simply needs to be complete in itself and honest with itself and the viewer. All genres are welcomed and, hopefully, represented.
What’s been your feedback on Fringe Film thus far?
It was a resounding success on all counts. More than I could have dreamed of. The filmmakers, the audience, the organizers, everybody was quite vocal about how much fun, eclectic and unexpectedly moving the experience was. Ben and company went all out to technically make the festival the best it could be. The screen they provided was gorgeous (and HUGE in that tiny venue), the projector and sound system were top of the line. And I personally loved the underground vibe the venue provided. I mean, it’s basically a cinder-block storefront on Santa Monica Boulevard that turned into an intimate womb when the doors were closed. I received exactly zero complaints. And to see the expression on the filmmaker’s faces when they saw their work screened and witnessed was worth everything to me.
What’s your vision for next year’s Fringe Film? Is there anything you hope to change/improve about this year’s festival that you’ll be sure to remember in 2012?
Better signage. We were right at Fringe Central next to the beer tent. Which totally rocked. But I want a glittery marquee next year with a changeable sign to announce what film is playing next and at what time. But, I think I want to continue meeting and greeting and taking tickets. I really dig knowing who’s seeing what when. It connects me with the event in a way I hadn’t planned on. The same was true when I ran NOTE at the first festival. But I specifically didn’t want to be attached to my venue this year so I could see other works. That changed immediately once the festival started and I really kind of like being planted there.
I also want to start the submission process earlier this year. Like October/November. That way we can probably tap into more international filmmakers. Once I close the show I’m currently in at the Pasadena Playhouse I can start making that happen.
See you next year at Hollywood Fringe [film]!