In its second year, the Capital City Film Festival reels in new ideas
Sure, the Capital City Film Festival has movies. But it
also includes a full day of speakers, courtesy of TedX Lansing and the
Media Sandbox Capstone Series, as well as the dramatic poetry of Kinetic
Affect and the retro rhythms of Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle. And
let’s not forget the nightly musical performances from acts like
Greensky Bluegrass, Murder By Death, William Elliott Whitmore and
“It got to the point where we considered a name change,”
admitted Dominic Cochran, who cofounded the festival last year. “But we
just decided we didn’t want to depart from being a film festival at
heart. That will always be the heart and soul of everything we do.”
Besides, cofounder Jason Gabriel said, the different
aspects of the festival are all tied together: “Hopefully, the music
will help people find the films, and vice versa.”
In some cases, the lineup fell into place through what Cochran called “happy accidents.”
“For example, we had Greensky Bluegrass booked as the
musical act for opening night,” he said, “and then we got a documentary
submission about (the Lansing music store) Elderly Instruments. It just
made sense to put them together and make the whole evening a package:
See the movie, then go across the street and hear the music played
Similarly, when Cochran and programming director Dan
Hartley noticed that two of the festival submissions came from
filmmakers taking part in the American Film Institute’s Directing
Workshop for Women, Cochran and Hartley decided to reach out to the
program. That led to a Sunday afternoon showcase of AFI films being
added to the schedule.
“Nothing was preconceived, but I think if you stay open to
those kinds of things natural patterns sometimes emerge,” Cochran said.
“Kismet? Is that what they call it when things naturally come
The unofficial slogan for this year’s festival, according
to Gabriel: “Lose the disc.” As much as possible, the CCFF is going to
“Last year, when we had a BluRay player we were using for
some of the presentations, we killed it,” Gabriel said. “It was
brand-new. It lasted two days. We also had a couple of discs that played
So it’s goodbye to unreliable DVDs and hello to purer
digital presentations. Even the 24 teams competing in the new Fortnight
Film Festival, which gives Michigan filmmakers two weeks to assemble a
short movie, were told to shoot their projects with a digital camera,
make their edits and upload the file to the judges instead of burning it
to a disc.
According to Gabriel, the Fortnight contest has attracted
filmmakers from all over the state. They started work March 23, and
their finished productions were due last Thursday. The top 15 films will
be screened Sunday, with cash prizes for the first-, second- and
third-place entries. A decibel meter will help determine the winner of
the Audience Award at the screening, so Fortnight contestants are being
advised to bring as many fans as they can round up to the showing.
Gabriel and Cochran are pleased with the growth of the festival in its second year.
“We had more than twice as many films submitted as we did
last year — approximately 280 films,” Gabriel said. “Remember: We have
to whittle that down to 35.”
That meant hours and hours of screenings for Hartley.
“After last year’s festival I set a mandate for myself for 2012: to be
overwhelmed with great submissions.” Hartley wrote in a blog post on the
festival’s website. “So much so that narrowing it down to our
relatively short, four-day program would be a daunting task. … Maybe I should have been careful what I wished for last year.”
“We had to turn away so many great films,” Cochran noted. “It’s heartbreaking. But it’s a good problem to have.”
In the future, there may be more room on the schedule.
“This year, we’re already at the point where we can call
the festival a financial success,” Cochran added. “Even if we didn’t
sell another ticket — and the week before the festival is always the
busiest week, sales-wise — we’ve got plenty of seed money for next
So the tentative plan for the third Capital City festival
involves expanding to two weekends, with a few films possibly screening
on the weeknights in between. “We really wanted to grow slowly and
smartly, and we think next year’s the time to do it,” Cochran said.