Patrick McGuire considers himself a mentor. And the non-profit entrepreneur's devotion to filmmakers and their work is easily detected.
Eight years ago, the two-time Emmy Award-winning executive producer and his wife, Cyndi, founded the Altarnet Film Society (AFS). Its local branch operates in tandem with AFS groups in Tulsa, Okla., Nashville, Tenn., Grand Rapids, Mich., and, soon, New York and Los Angeles. Their hope is to put money back into filmmakers' pockets while producing high-quality short films and discussion platforms for audiences.
"Once we build to 20 chapters or more, running monthly, we can pay [the filmmakers] ... maybe they'll use that money to make another film. We'll see a lot of cross-pollination as we assemble a film community," McGuire says.
Apart from his day job the AFS creator is currently mid-production on two short films McGuire is organizing arrangements with venues around the Springs, hoping to establish monthly screenings at north side, downtown and eastern locations.
But how can he be sure such a movement will catch on in his town? McGuire points to a grassroots approach, and insists that the environment he wishes to create won't be elitist or pretentious.
"You don't have to be an art major to enjoy these films," he says. "We think that there are a lot of film enthusiasts here, and my prayer is that people will come together and interact and take risks and see if we can go to that next level."
McGuire intends to stick with what he claims are "positive values" that have been successful in Altarnet's Damah Film Festival, which, he says, focuses on diverse spiritual perspectives. The short-film gathering, now in its fifth year, "tapped into a demand that we weren't aware was there," McGuire says.
"There's been a tendency in the independent film world to go super-edgy. We try to stay away from the negative stuff," he explains.
That's not to say AFS is aiming for cheery, wholesome or conservative programming. Controversial topics and mature subject matter are still present, just with fewer four-letter words and dark clips resembling excerpts from Tool videos.
McGuire intends to show Space Available, a 16-minute drama set in 2025 that confronts issues such as euthanasia and spying in response to an exploding population crisis, at Friday's screening. The July 14 lineup also includes four films that are each under 10 minutes in length: two dramas, one animation and a mockumentary.
After each film, audiences will engage in a brief discussion. At night's end, they may give feedback via short surveys and, in some cases, directly to the filmmakers; on Friday, John Bucher, Aaron B. Smith, Steve Grieson and Dave Anderson are scheduled to appear.
"These are evocative films," says McGuire. "I only have a problem if a film fails to evoke anything. I want people to think and engage with the film."
McGuire feels that the overall quality of independent films has progressed by "leaps and bounds" with the digital revolution. Now, he says, the independents need to focus on story development.
"Originality left Hollywood years ago. Big corporate companies won't take risks," he claims. "We've heard people saying, "We can do this here we don't have to go to Hollywood.'"
Altarnet Film Society of Colorado Springs Friday Flix Series
4732 Barnes Road
Friday, July 14, 7 p.m.; additional shows scheduled into September.
Free, donations accepted; visit altarnet.net or call 264-0500 for more information.