Culture Report: A Community on the Verge at San Diego Film Week
The third annual festival produced by San Diego Film Consortium is growing a film scene from the inside out.
This weekend marks the third annual San Diego Film Week, and while film festivals can seem almost as prolific as beer festivals here (rest assured, nothing is as prolific as beer festivals here), what makes San Diego Film Week stand out is both its relative infancy and its dedication to grassroots, local filmmaking and the year-round legwork involved in developing a film community.
“It’s to provide a venue for local filmmakers to showcase their work, network with each other, find others to work with and go on to make more films,” said Jodi Cilley, founder of San Diego Film Consortium and San Diego Film Week. It sounds like an insular model, but Cilley ultimately wants to build a sustainable, resourceful and highly talented film community from the inside out, and to build that, the community needs to take care of itself first. “The long-term goal is to increase the quality and quantity of locally produced films, TV and web content and increase funding distribution, networking, educational and screening opportunities for San Diego filmmakers,” she said.
Cilley started San Diego Film Consortium in 2012, after a decade of teaching filmmaking to local colleges and high schools, as well as working on her own film projects. It started with screenings of local films, and eventually, after several years of the Film Consortium’s accessible community education programming and resource development, the group was able to stitch together its first festival. This year’s third annual festival includes multiple panels, over a hundred films and videos, parties and more.
A standout in the documentary shorts category is “Rounding Third,” which features the La Mesa Senior Softball League. “I used to drive by this little league field on my way to work in the morning, and I immediately recognized that there were a bunch of seniors out on the field, in their uniforms, all in position and running around,” said filmmaker Alejandro Castro. He recalled wanting to watch a film about the team, to learn a little more, but thought nothing more of it.
“Fast forward 15-plus years later and I was taking a filmmaking course and one of our assignments was to make a short documentary,” Castro said. He instantly knew he’d make the documentary about the senior softball league. “I went to the field one morning and started chatting a few guys who were in the parking lot. They pointed me to this guy and then that guy pointed me to another guy. Everyone was exceptionally warm and accommodating and that day I arranged to come down the following week and shoot the film,” Castro said. “I literally produced, filmed, edited and did the music all by myself. But without those lovely people at the senior league, I wouldn’t have anything.”
The short film is inspiring and fascinating, with rich characters who carry the story and simple, comprehensive footage of a beautiful community. Picked up as part of the KPBS Explore Project, “Rounding Third” premieres during the KPBS Explore Showcase on Tuesday, April 16, along with Jonathan Hammond’s documentary about The Big Kitchen, and more.
Castro’s experience in San Diego film circles has been largely positive and inspiring, though he wants to shine a light on the difficulties that arise when creative people work for free. “There is this expectation from way too many filmmakers here that working for free is sustainable, and it’s not,” Castro said, acknowledging his own part in this system by having voluntarily worked without receiving payment, too. “As long as people keep doing that, the quality of work suffers, the film suffers and in the end, the film community feels the repercussions. I think if San Diego really wants to attract bigger talent and productions, people around here need to start learning to get out of that habit and realize their worth.”
It seems San Diego Film Consortium’s long-term plan is on the horizon, if not here already, so growth is underway regardless: “I’m most excited to see all the new faces that are a part of Film Week this year,” said Cilley. “We are screening so many films from filmmakers that were never part of our events before and that just shows me how much our community is growing.”
- Here’s the full schedule of programming, ticket and pass information and more. This visual schedule is a good overview of how to plan your time. Events and screenings take places at venues across town, including MOPA, Landmark Hillcrest, the Whistle Stop, Digital Gym and more.
Blooms, Saturday Night Sage, (Kate) Bush and More News for the Culture Crowd
- The downtown library hosts Soo Dhawoow, an evening of Somali art, poetry and photography, on Wednesday, curated by local poet Fartoon Hagi-Mohamed.
- On Thursday, Mesa College Gallery launches a new exhibition, Subterranean, with a reception celebrating the over 40 artists and their 60-plus works. The show runs through April 25.
- Cory Doctorow appears at the downtown library via the Library Book Shop, on Thursday, in celebration of his new book, “Radicalized.” (U-T)
- Ntch Magazine, a locally linked lifestyle, sustainability, fashion etc., publication, celebrates its third issue with a party at Little Dame Shop, this Friday.
- SDMA kicks off its traditional spring event, Art Alive, with the Bloom Bash party this Friday night, and a full weekend of programming. The hallmark floral exhibition throughout the museum is on display each day, Friday through Sunday. Panama 66 has been closed all week in preparation, so this had better be good!
- On Saturday, Quartyard celebrates its four-year anniversary with a massive block party, evARTS. (San Diego Downtown News)
- Baby Bushka is the all-girl Kate Bush cover band and dance party straight out of your dreams, Saturday at the Casbah.
- Upcoming exhibiting artist George Awde lectures on Tuesday, April 16 on the SDSU campus, with the full “In Transit” exhibition officially launching on April 18 at SDSU Downtown Gallery.
- Unfolding is a group exhibition at Visual SD, opening Saturday and featuring Andrew Alcasid, Mary Jhun Dandan, Laurie Nasica, Sofía Silva and Melissa Walter.
- I’m excited about the Record Store Day programming at Vinyl Junkies on Saturday, including poet Noah Lekas reading from his new collection, “Saturday Night Sage,” and performing with the band Creature & the Woods. (Reader)
- Also, CityBeat has a great roundup of some more Record Store Day highlights around town.
- Saturday is also the Alpine Art & Music Festival if you feel like heading out to the tucked-away town. From the Alpine newspaper: “This will be Alpine’s cultural jubilation! You won’t want to miss it.”
- On Tuesday, April 16, VOSD’s Sara Libby moderates the San Diego Foundation’s screening of “No Small Matter,” at MOPA, followed by a panel discussion. The documentary touches on equity in early childhood education. The event is free but an RSVP is required.
- Call for submissions: 1805 Gallery and and Porto Vista Hotel will install a new exhibition soon in the hotel’s vending machine. Send in your art, poetry and other small, original pieces by May 1 or just get your dollar bills smoothed out and ready.
- The city is considering equity programs for cannabis, which brings to the surface a murky past of racism and marginalized communities disproportionately criminalized for prior activities related to the substance. (CityBeat)
- Michelin fever continues with news of chef Steve Brown returning to town with the intention of “gunning for a Michelin star,” according to Eater. And not to be a total killjoy but it all makes me think of “Waiting for Guffman.”
- This sampling of hard kombucha offerings features exclusively local booch-ers and the line “Everybody in da club getting probiotic!” so it’s a win-win. (CityBeat)
- Ownership of the Stone Brewing’s Berlin venue has been transferred to a Scottish company. (West Coaster)
- On my to-do list before it closes on Saturday is Michael James Armstrong’s exhibition at Quint Gallery.
What’s Inspiring Me Right Now
- One of the best writers San Diego has to offer is Jean Guerrero, whose memoir “Crux” was released last year. Just announced: her article in Wired was selected for inclusion in the “Best American Essays 2019” anthology.
- I am inordinately obsessed with trail women. Heather “Anish” Anderson is named one of National Geographic’s 2019 Adventurers of the Year, owner of several key Fastest Known Times (the ultimate and often only measure in hiking and trail racing), but this article paints her as unbelievably relatable. “You work through a lot of things when you are out spending a lot of time in nature and in communication with yourself,” Anderson said.