Interview: Nat Dykeman on the Upcoming Lake County Film Festival

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CHICAGO – The Lake County Film Festival is in its 7th year, and the person behind it is Nat Dykeman. Running from March 4th through the 8th, the festival will highlight several emerging filmmakers and run associated special events. interviewed Executive Director Nat Dykeman on what to expect at this annual film presentaion, and he broke down some of the features, documentaries, short films and a film that is actually being shot while the festival takes place. All of The Lake County Film screenings take place at The College of Lake County.

The 2010 Logo of the Lake County Film Festival.
The 2010 Logo of the Lake County Film Festival.
Photo Credit: The Lake County Film Festival What is the origin of the Lake County Film Festival, what was the genesis of the idea and how did it grow over the years?

Nat Dykeman: In 1996 I started working at Dog Ear Records, a music/movie store that had been around since 1974, and was estimated to be one of the first 100 stores in the country to start renting VHS tapes. In 2002 I bought the store, and drastically increased our collection of what was called ‘indie’ films, but would now be considered ‘Indiewood.’ An increase in demand followed, and I decided to start the festival to try to bring the ability to see these films on a bigger screen and in a community fashion into the area. 

The festival grew quickly by leaps and bounds, starting as a double feature in 2004 and jumping to over 50 screenings in 2007. Attendance been climbing steadily upward, except for some stagnation when we switched the city of our base of operations from Libertyville to Grayslake. 

HC: What films (categories and titles) are getting the most buzz pre-festival and why?

ND: On the narrative side, ‘My Movie Girl’ has recently had what look like pretty successful screenings at various festivals recently. And right after its world premiere, we have ‘Coasting,’ which already had some very strong reviews posted. ‘The Scenesters’ just played at Slamdance last month. Plenty of films are from alumni as well, including ‘First Breath of Tengan Rei’, ‘Friends (With Benefits)’ and ‘Night Before The Wedding.’ 

On the doc side there’s ‘The Greening of Southie,’ from the filmmakers who made the very successful King Corn which we played at a monthly screening a couple of years ago, ‘Typeface’, from Kartemquin Films, ‘Shadow Billionaire’, which has had a very successful festival run and ‘It Came From Kuchar’, which was an award winner at Chicago Underground. 

HC: What type of film movement in the last 10 years has made this festival possible? How important are festivals at your level for the grass roots of emerging filmmakers?

ND: The release of the DVX100, the emergence of low/no-budget filmmaking, social networking and YouTube all had nothing to do with the start of the festival. The festival actually pre-dates YouTube. Our first year was only on 35mm. As the festival progressed there was actually a natural shift into low-budget filmmaking. Those were the screenings that were better attended. Those were the filmmakers that were eager to show their work. 

I can’t say for certain how important festivals are for filmmakers exactly. They seem to act like it’s important, and I’ve been thanked profusely many times by many appreciative filmmakers. We’ve had filmmakers directly book gigs worth thousands of dollars from a screening here, and we’ve had films secure distribution from their screenings here, so I feel like films at the level of the festival can gain from screening here. 

Personally, as a producer, my goal will be to start at big festivals, and then move on to play as many regional festivals as possible. We’ve shown a couple films that have played at over 100 festivals, and I’d like to see my film be one of those. 

HC: How do you think film has changed in the generation since the invention of home tape machines, computer editing. smaller cameras and YouTube?

ND: I think there’s a widely held belief in most fields – including music, writing and film – that new technologies create a double edged sword of a lot more people being able to create work, which also makes more work that you have to sort through to find the things that you like. 

Nat Dykeman, Executive Director
Nat Dykeman, Executive Director
Photo Credit: The Lake County Film Festival

HC: With more and more people having access to developing their filmmaking skills, do you foresee a creative uptick in the next 10-20 years, or will filmmaking still most likely be in the hands of the media corporations?

ND: With all of the ‘people power’ going on, I have yet to see any medium successfully taken away from corporations. But I definitely see scenarios where both styles work hand in hand. People read blogs, smaller news sites and bigger sites, and obviously they go to the movies to watch films, but also watch web videos as well. The question is how much feature-length filmmaking will be able to work into the other business models, or break into theatrical in a bigger way. 

HC: You are currently producing a film called ‘QWERTY’. What progress are you making and how will the festival aid and highlight that progress?

ND: There are several events connected to the festival that deal with QWERTY

On Saturday, March 6th at 2:30pm we’ll be doing a staged reading of the script. It has gone through some changes since 2007, and most of the actors that are playing the actual parts will be reading their roles. 

On Saturday, March 6th at 6:00pm we’ll be doing additional casting. These are either for roles that only require a line or two, or have no lines at at all. 

On Sunday, March 7th at 2:00pm we are filming a scene that requires a large crowd. We are trying to enlist the help of people at the festival. Afterwards they will have their pick of seeing any of the films playing for free.

HC: Outline the additional events taking place at the Lake County Film Festival besides exhibition, and how can people get more information on the events?

ND: We have always focused mainly on exhibition. We will have a singular panel this year on no-budget filmmaking. We’ve got an Oscar viewing party on Sunday Night. Obviously there are always filmmaker Q&As after the films whenever possible. 

The best bet for finding more info is to go to our website [click link below]. From there you can view the PDF file of the printed program we distribute, or link over to B-Side’s interactive schedule. 

The Lake County Film Festival runs from March 4th through the 8th at The College of Lake County. Click here for more information and tickets. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2010 Patrick McDonald,

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