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Interview: Mike McNamara Hosts Female Filmmakers Night in Chicago

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CHICAGO – Every first Tuesday of the month means it’s time for the Midwest Independent Film Festival. This upcoming March 2nd, Executive Director Mike McNamara hosts Female Filmmakers Night for the first time at the festival.

Female Filmmakers Night was born from more women producing film, and Tuesday will feature a number of shorts on various subjects, co-sponsored by SAGIndie and Women in Film Chicago.

The evening kicks off at the Landmark Century City Cinema with a pre-show cocktail reception. The month’s Producers Panel, a presentation featuring industry insiders, will be conducted by co-sponsor SAGIndie, and the evening of shorts will follow thereafter. There will be a post screening discussion with the filmmakers, and a reception to follow at nearby Forno Diablo restaurant.

Co-Founder and Executive Director Mike McNamara Begins His Sixth Year at the Midwest Independent Film Festival
Co-Founder and Executive Director Mike McNamara Begins His Sixth Year at the Midwest Independent Film Festival
© Midwest Independent Film Festival

HollywoodChicago.com sat down with the co-founder and Executive Director of the Midwest Independent Film Festival, Mike McNamara, to talk about this ground-breaking programming event and what to expect for the rest of 2010 at the festival.

HollywoodChicago.com: Since this is the first time the Midwest Independent Film Festival has done this, what is the origin of the idea for a Female Filmmakers Night?

Mike McNamara: The is something we’ve been trying to put together for the past two years. To program films only produced in the Midwest and to add on that they will only be made by female filmmakers made it a big challenge, but also makes it even more rewarding.

HC: What are some of the highlights the audience can expect to see that night?

MM: We’ve got an impressive 90 minute shorts program that has a wide range of genres from illogical horror to relationship comedy to music video and even to animation.

HC: This year, we see Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) as the first female director to have a substantial chance to take home Best Director at the Oscars. How important, in your opinion, is it to have a female perspective in filmmaking?

MM: It’s important to include all perspectives. Male, female, Caucasian, African-American, all ranges of viewpoints. It’s important that we’re including all of them. So for someone like Bigelow to be the favorite for Best Director is incredibly important because it simply will lead to more opportunities and more financing for female filmmakers.

HC: This is your sixth year with the Midwest Indie. What have you been most satisfied with in terms of its growth, and how do you see it continue to evolve?

MM: I think what I’ve been most happy with in terms of its growth is just the quality of the films. Early on, in 2005, when we began to show some really good films, I thought we were going to have a tough time maintaining that high bar year round. But since 2005, we’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of quality and have been able to maintain it. Also the range of films we’ve been able to show, as emphasized by the upcoming Female Filmmakers Night, as this is the first event that I know of that is only showing shorts from that Midwest perspective. It’s a wide range of films, sold-out houses and a thriving community participation.

HC: The festival is recognized as being an essential place for filmmakers and film fans to mingle. What can a first time attendee expect on a typical Tuesday night?

MM: You’re going to have a jam-packed evening. And it’s an evening that can be whatever you want it to be. If you want to just see the film, that’s available, and you’re going to have a great night. If you want to meet filmmakers, learn about the scene via the Producers Panel, that is there. If you want to find cast and crew for your own production, the community is attending. It can be both a social event or a film event.

HC: You recently wrapped up your Best of the Midwest Awards for 2009, the second year it has been a separate ceremony. How important is it for this type of awards recognition to the Chicago and Midwestern independent film scene?

MM: The response we’ve received for the BMAs has been unbelievable, and what really became important is that if we’re going to host an awards show in Chicago, you want to do it at the highest level. And I feel we’ve been able to do that. It has the high end event, packed housed, star power and presenters flying in for the rewards. It also highlights films that have the talent that can stand up to New York and Los Angeles.

Patrick McDonald and Mike McNamara at the Midwest Indie
Patrick McDonald and Mike McNamara at the Midwest Indie
Photo credit: Heather Stumpf, Midwest Independent Film Festival

HC: You are a major proponent of independent film in the Midwest and beyond. How do you define “independent” in the age of YouTube and ever-shrinking attention spans and competition from other media?

MM: It’s tricky, but I define independent that is anything not a studio film. While I think that avenues like YouTube is wonderful for short filmmakers to get their work out there, it has shortened the attention span of the filmgoing audience and has made it tougher for film venues to get people into the theater.

HC: You recently oversaw an event for the Midwest Indie at  the Sundance Film Festival. How important was it to establish a presence there and what were some of the highlights of the night?

MM: I think the most important thing is that there was a home for Chicago and Midwest Filmmakers, we became an anchor that they could grab onto. Whether you have a film out there or not, whether you’re an actor, writer or just someone who loves films, you should visit the Sundance Film Festival every year no matter what. At the event we sponsored, we were at capacity and we had a nice mix of Midwest filmmakers with others from New York and L.A. They all mingled with each other.

HC: Finally, what is upcoming in 2010 for the festival?

MM: On Tuesday, April 6th, we are having a special advanced screening of the “No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson,” one week before it makes its network premiere on ESPN. This is the latest documentary from Steve James, the filmmaker of ‘Hoop Dreams.’ We will be having our Advertising Community Short Film Night in October, and we’re also previewing feature films from 2009 that we’re hoping to bring to our audience this year, not only from Chicago, but from Michigan and Wisconsin, that will have their premiere in the summer and fall at the Midwest Independent Film Festival.

”Female Filmmakers Night” is on March 2nd at the Midwest Independent Film Festival, which occurs every first Tuesday throughout the year. Click here for information and tickets.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2010 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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