The New York City Independent Film Festival, founded by director and producer Dennis Cieri, announced its 15th annual week-long event that brings attention to the stories that need to be told. With a multi-decade cinema career, Cieri has mastered maneuvering the film industry first-hand, and aims to elevate other artists to discover cinema talent worldwide and connect it to the American film industry.
Having screened over 250 indie films annually since 2009, the NYC Independent Film Festival continues to spotlight independent filmmakers and give them the necessary support and attention from major film companies and cinephiles. As the executive director, Cieri has worked hard to prepare for the festival’s weeklong screening, open to the public from June 4-11 to bring well-deserved attention to independent films.
Untold indie stories
Cieri created the NYC Independent Film Festival because he saw a need to bring attention to and celebrate films that push mainstream media boundaries and don’t have the luxury of leaning on exorbitant amounts of funding. Most of the films entered into the festival are written, produced, financed, and made by filmmakers outside of the studio system. This festival is a way to promote their projects and give these filmmakers the opportunity for potential distribution and funding.
“I’ve been making indie films since I was 16 years old,” says Cieri. “I decided we needed a film festival that would concentrate on — and stay concentrated on — indie films.” Cieri believes that if people only ever watch the same kind of films made by the same popular directors, they will never be able to learn something new and from a unique perspective. “You can’t find new things unless you go and see what the indies are doing,” he explains.
The director’s cut
Cieri developed an appreciation for independent films through his own experience in the film industry, having directed and produced a wide range of projects since 2003. His most recent works include travel documentaries about Mexico’s hidden gem of San Miguel, Wisconsin’s indigenous culinary heritage, Belgrade’s booming cuisine, and other lifestyle pieces highlighting cultures and traditions worldwide.
Cieri’s multi-decade career as an artist has made him understand and appreciate what it takes to work one’s way through the industry, as he too has attempted to push boundaries with stories that had yet to be told. As he actively prepares for this year’s festival, he is finishing his environmental documentary “Lionfish,” which explores communities of divers fighting invasive species to save the coral reefs.
Makings of a film fest
Cieri is not alone in the endeavor to successfully run the NYC Independent Film Festival. After all, it takes a very large village to prepare and operate an event of this scale.
“This year’s NYC Independent Film Festival will take place in June, and preparations are well in full effect to ensure the event runs smoothly,” Cieri explains. “It takes about 125 people to make our film festival come together. We have 100 judges from around the world who watch quite a few submissions. Initially, we had around 1,400 submissions, but whittled it down to 200 movies that we will screen.”
Each year, Cieri and his team select a group of around 100 judges to ensure that the films are considered by a vast range of opinions. Prior to the 15th Annual Awards’ kickoff, judges of all backgrounds have already watched all movies selected for review. Critics, press, and fans will also be in attendance in addition to the filmmakers, providing several key opportunities to network at the event.
The NYC Independent Film Festival weeklong event will be located at the Producers Club in New York City on West 44th St. and 9th St, a historic bohemian enclave near the Theater District and Times Square with a bar and lounge, as well as five spaces for the film screenings. The events throughout the week will include film screenings, educational panels and presentations held by industry professionals, and live performances. The top films in each of the categories will be honored and showcased at the event and receive a 4-month InkTip Pro Membership.
“As an InkTip Pro Member, thousands of filmmakers can find and read your scripts, and you’ll be able to pitch directly to production companies every week. With over 3,000 options and 400 movies made, InkTip is the place for independent film,” Cieri shares on the festival’s website.
Tickets for this year’s NYC Independent Film Festival are now available for purchase. It is an opportunity to bring together people who share a passion for film and storytelling, and uplift filmmakers that make incredible projects with very few resources.
Cieri hopes the festival provides a showcase for the best independent cinema and can illustrate and encourage an appreciation for the work independent filmmakers have put into their projects. “This festival proves great films can be made on a modest budget, removing the sensationalism around a blockbuster film or actor and, instead focuses on the art of filmmaking and acting,” he says.