Hemet Film Festival: “Necessity Breeds Creativity”

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Noemi Saucedo | Contributor

During a sunny Saturday in Southern California, the first official Hemet Film Festival took place at the Historic Hemet Theatre on Florida Ave. On November 11th, 2023, audiences filled the red theater seats for a day spent watching movies directed by local filmmakers. The types of short films shown were all under 25 minutes long and covered a range of categories- from experimental to documentary style. In the small disregarded town, artists came together to celebrate their work on the big screen. Read about the event, films shown, and how to get involved in this article!

The crew behind this event is a group of lifelong friends, some of them Hemet locals, who wanted to create something special in their cherished little town. In the Hemet Film Festival Podcast, the event is referred to as co-founder Daniel Maggio’s “heart-child” and his passion for film is very evident. A former film student in San Jose, Maggio made his first movie The Unknown Superhero at age 13 alongside his teacher Jimbo Marshall. (The plot follows a middle-schooler who gets superpowers after eating the cafeteria mystery meat… absolute gold.) Next up is Stephen Siemens, the creative mind behind the animated cinematic universe called Mushboom, which was showcased at the festival. Siemen’s co-founder bio on the festival’s website states that his lifelong pursuit is contributing to cinematic artwork. Another figure is Gabriel Diaz who hosts the Hemet Film Festival Podcast, Diaz radiates excitement and genuinely communicates with local creatives; his enthusiastic responses convey a fondness for art and community. Moving on there is Hemet native Wesley Houdyshell Wesley found his passion for filmmaking when he worked on the feature-length sci-musical Marty’s Magnificent Day-Glo Dream-A-Thon featuring music from his older brother’s band Hippie Cream. Lastly there is Myles Gilbert who is a friend of Daniel’s from the San Jose film school. All in all, each of the festival’s founders has contributed in a meaningful way to bring the event to fruition.

The Historic Hemet Theater is truly a gem, the building itself was constructed in 1921, making it over 100 years old! Many Hemet locals may have recognized the painting at the center of the stage during the film festival. This nostalgic feeling is attributed to the remembrance of Gary’s TV and Video, which was once an active shop in the town with a building known for its painted logo and colorful mural depicting Hollywood stars and iconic movie characters. In recent years, the store unfortunately closed and the building was later torn down. The artist of this iconic mural was commissioned to recreate his piece for the festival, giving some nostalgia to the locals and keeping the tradition alive! The venue itself is a wonderful gathering place for residents to come together and enjoy movie screenings or even live music. Currently, the theater hosts “tribute-mania” with cover bands for artists like Led Zeppelin and Queen! There is a yearly Rocky Horror Picture Show on New Year’s Eve and many other great opportunities to support the theater.

FEATURED FILMS

This event wouldn’t be possible without the filmmakers dedicated to crafting their unique pieces. Each genre segment was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, where everyone got a chance to speak about their intentions or influences that went into creating their picture. Listening to creative minds speak about the films they executed reveals some of their inner worlds. Although this article will not cover every short film shown during the festival, a program of the showings is available on the official website. (Linked below: https://www.hemetfilmfest.com!/)

Animation/Experimental: A notable piece in this portion was Quad Girl At the Waterpark directed by Marissa Hernandez. The narrator uses poetic language to express feelings of heartbreak and other ruminations, the climax occurs when the narrator finds respite in her pair of roller-skates and an abandoned waterpark. When speaking about the video, Hernandez highlighted the importance of keeping your body moving and introduced skating as not only a hobby but an act of self-care. Battle of the Millennial Mind directed by Jazzy was a strange and enticing piece, the animated segment uses audio from interviews at a party documented on a Fisher-Price tape recorder. Featuring a drawing by iconic artist Daniel Johnston with a speaking role, this comedic video mixes satire and existentialism. Lastly, an experimental silent piece named A Film Called “Holly” played distorted visuals accompanied by a live score on piano. Director Michael Haight reveals after his riveting piano performance that the footage was actually from his younger sister’s hallucinogenic salvia trip, certainly leaving an impression on the crowd.

SoCal Filmmakers: Following the animation aspect of the previous block, Hunter Hawkin’s Bowlers Up is a creative short combining music, animation, and… bowling?! The plot here centers on a group of competitive bowlers whose chances at winning are determined by the music being played in the alley. The vibrant colors, interesting backdrops, and costume changes made the movie so entertaining and gave it depth! Moving into the realm of dark comedy, Jason Nichol’s Chef’s Kiss is reminiscent of Food Network cooking shows but with an unexpected twist revealing where the chef finds only the freshest ingredients. Nichols also plays drums in a band named KhanPhro and The New Creatures!

Student Showcase: The students in Hemet got a chance to shine with their segment. My short film called My Last Teenage Summer was shown during the student segment; my concept for the video was to create a digital journal entry documenting summer break in the year I was nineteen. One standout in this area was a film called STET by Demir Koksal which was reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s cinematic style. STET follows an aspiring writer who faces a tough critic attempting to dissuade his efforts, the piece was snappy and entertaining. Another student film, Gian L.C’s Forever Seniors is a comedic horror video about students trapped in their high school. The style of this movie follows a vlog template and the teenager’s antics quickly stirred up laughter in the audience.

Made in Hemet: Diving into the “Made in Hemet” section, Rick L. Baker’s double horror feature Sweet Little Thing and Go Away exhibited the talent and creativity of the director, who is also a makeup artist by trade who hosts a haunted house in town every Halloween season! The talents of another local creative are shown in Straight to the Moon, a dazzling silent short film shot on 35mm film directed by English teacher Nathan San Filippo of DeNoche Films. In Straight to the Moon, a set of newlyweds utilize a VHS tape for instructions on how to celebrate their honeymoon rendezvous. Moving forward, director Owen Newborn’s A Synonym for a Friend incorporates Downtown Deli & Coffee as a familiar backdrop for a touching interaction between two strangers coming together to solve a crossword puzzle. The simple plot lies upon a deeper meaning within this exchange and the nine-letter synonym for a friend. Closing out this list is independent filmmaker Donovan Mesa’s Hemet is Heaven. This experimental piece melds a documentary-style approach with an existential component of an artist becoming mentally fused to their work. Donovan’s screening was a trailer for his feature-length film which took him two years in the making and can be found on Youtube! The vast and diverse nature of the movies shown was a truly inspiring aspect of the night.

Southern California is a very fruitful place for creatives, a little looking around can open you up to individuals whose imaginations fly off the page. An event like this one shows young or inexperienced filmmakers that their work is worth being seen. Making movies doesn’t require a huge budget or advanced editing skills- all it takes is an idea and a camera. The Hemet Film Festival positively exemplifies a new outlet for talent and creativity within the community. Keep up with the dates for next year’s film fest and learn how to submit your movies on their Instagram page @Hemetfilmfestival and check the official website for updates!

Sources Cited: https://www.hemetfilmfest.com/2023directory

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