The Gateway to the Cinema: A Look at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase

By Michael Haffner
In Culture

You don’t have to live in Hollywood to be a filmmaker, actor or actress. Cinema St. Louis’ annual film festival has proven this point since 2000. The St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase has always been a festival centered on films and filmmakers from the St. Louis area or on stories that focus on our beloved city. However, as technology has made it much more accessible for filmmakers to get behind the camera and actors and actresses to get in front, there has been an influx of local talent in this city who see the festival as the first step to showcase their passion.

The 2016 St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase runs from Sunday, July 17 to Thursday, July 21. For those new to St. Louis’ cinematic universe, let’s take a look at what to expect and what events to look forward to this year.

DOC SHORTS 2 - Renewed

Photo still of “Renewed” courtesy of Cinema St. Louis

The Historic Home of the Festival
Held in one of the most renowned buildings in the city, The St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase gives filmmakers an opportunity to see their films on one of the biggest and best screens imaginable. The Tivoli Theatre was first built in 1924 and still holds the era’s vintage elegance after all these years. All of the films shown at the festival will take place in the stunning main auditorium through the duration of the festival. And when you leave the auditorium on Thursday night, you can head down Delmar to another historical attraction for the closing night party: The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill. Don’t worry … you won’t be asked to perform Chuck Berry’s iconic “duck walk” to get in the door. The awards ceremony is free to attend and complimentary Kräftig Beer will be available. So, head on down and toast this year’s talent.

Creativity Consoles
Art can be more than just a pretty painting that you hang above your couch—much more, in fact. For some people, artistic expression can open a door to a new chapter in one’s life. The healing power of art plays a central theme in many films at this year’s festival. Three of the films in the “Doc Shorts 2” program on Sunday evening revolve around how art can be a form of therapy. “Maddening: Stitching a Story,” “Other Worlds: Confronting Anxiety Through Art Therapy” and “Renewed” all focus a documentary lens on individuals who have found new lives through the presence of art. Who knows, maybe these films will inspire you to tap into your own creative juices.

Scary Selections Haunt the Lineup
There is always a program each year dedicated to horror films and thrillers, but this year there will be more spooky offerings haunting the Tivoli than usual. Aside from the 105-minute program on Sunday night, there are two other chilling programs later in the week. On Monday, a man must decide whether to make a bargain with the devil in the feature film “The Tempter.” Then on Tuesday, a 99-minute program entitled “The Dead Zone” will include an adaptation of a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novella (“The Parasite”), a story of a man who lives in two worlds (“Equidistant”), and a survival story set against the zombie apocalypse (“Dead Nightmare”).

Female-Driven Features
There aren’t many feature-length films in this year’s lineup, and so, it makes it all the more unique that two are directed by women who are making their feature-length debut. Local actress and filmmaker Vanessa Roman presents her years-in-the-making feature “The Importance of Doubting Tom”—a riff on the classic Oscar Wilde play, “The Importance of Being Earnest”—while veteran producer Chelsea Zotta delivers a drama about a man who reevaluates his life after a car accident in “I Miss Me.” It’s always exciting to hear from new cinematic voices; especially from two women in an industry that tends to be more male-driven. “The Importance of Doubting Tom” screens Sunday, July 17 at 6:45 and “I Miss Me” screens Wednesday, July 20 at 7:00.

All 12 of the programs will screen at the Tivoli from July 17-21. The programs range from full-length fiction features and documentaries to multi-film compilations of fiction and documentary shorts. For more information and to buy tickets in advance visit cinemastlouis.org

*Full disclosure: The writer of this article directed one of the short films mentioned.

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