The big screen at the Count Basie Theatre, seen here during a live broadcast of the 2014 World Cup, will serve as the home screen for a film festival scheduled to run in July. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Kept on a restricted diet for the past eight years, Red Bank-area fans of independent movies will finally get to binge again this summer.
An outfit called Indie Street — in conjunction with Red Bank RiverCenter, three major entertainment venues and even the borough middle school — is planning screenings of as many as 30 films over five days in July.
Reminiscent of the Red Bank International Film Festival, which fell apart amid infighting in 2007 and briefly decamped to Monmouth University, the Indie Street Film Festival is an outgrowth of a filmmakers’ cooperative founded by a crew that includes Jay Webb, a 34-year-old film producer and Ocean Township resident.
Indie Street aims to create a new distribution channel for low-budget films, one that bypasses established paths fraught with hurdles and “creative accounting,” Webb told told redbankgreen. With great improvements in online streaming technology in recent years, there is now an opportunity for “talented storytellers to have sustainable careers,” he said. Participating filmmakers agree to use social media and other outlets to promote not only their own films, but those of other co-op members.
The festival, the group’s first, is a way to showcase the creative output of members and others, he said.
“We’ve been talking about some sort of festival to distribute content and bring attention to this model,” Webb said. “Red Bank has the infrastructure. Really, the town is a beautiful fit for this type of event.”
The festival, scheduled to run from Wednesday, July 6 through Sunday, July 10, will use the Count Basie Theatre as its base of operations and anchor screen. Bow Tie Cinemas, on White Street, will give over one of its two screens for some festival offerings, and the Two River Theater will also host screenings.
Even the Red Bank Middle School, which has an enviable auditorium with a balcony, will also be in the mix, said Webb. With 400 seats, the school “gives us a lot of flexibility, because it’s hard to predict which films will sell out, and the Bow Tie venue has only about 100 seats, he said.
Basie CEO and president Adam Philipson told redbankgreen that he was eager to get behind the project.
“I’m a big fan of creating events that involve more than just the Basie,” he said. “Something like the Edinburgh Festival just lights up the town.”
The Basie will host opening- and closing night ceremonies and film screenings, and is planning related events involving live music and comedy, Philipson said. There will also be a tie-in to the Basie’s Project FX for young filmmakers, he said.
Red Bank RiverCenter will promote the festival. Executive director Jim Scavone told redbankgreen that the event is a fit with the organization’s mission to showcase the town’s businesses and bring visitors into town. It also fills a void in the doldrums of the post-Fourth of July calendar while giving visitors who might otherwise head to the beach a reason to consider spending a day in a cool, dark theater, he said.
Film submissions are now being solicited via the Indie Street website, and the festival program is expected to come together in late May, Webb said. Prizes will be awarded in four categories: narrative feature, documentary feature, “Jersey-themed” films and an honorary “story over budget” category for films that overcome financing limitations.