When Jim Turner and Matthew Stevens meet at Kimball's Twin Peak Theater on a recent Saturday morning, Stevens sinks into a chair and hides a wide yawn. "Sorry. I was up 'til 5 a.m.," the 23-year-old admits. Working, not playing, he adds.
Turner, 41, gives a knowing nod.
As director and co-director, respectively, of the upcoming Indie Spirit Film Festival, Turner and Stevens have been working their way through a monstrous to-do list.
"Even the parts that sound easy like watching films are a lot of work," says Turner. "We have over 320 hours of film, and you can't watch each one just once. By the time you get to the end, you can't remember the first one."
Turner, just to be clear, isn't complaining. In fact, he and Stevens want to do this again and again, until the indie festival already the biggest in the Springs looks ready to outlive them both.
Turner's a contractor at Peterson Air Force Base, but he knows a bit about this type of event he's volunteered at several Sundance and CineVegas film festivals. Stevens works as general manager of Kimball's Twin Peak Theater.
They met through a friend with the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival. But when they started working together last summer, it wasn't as if they imagined creating a three-day, seven-venue festival on their own.
"When we started doing this, we approached several people in the community who we thought could help us, and they gave us the cold shoulder ... like, "Who are these guys with the pipe dreams?'" says Stevens. "We said, "OK ... we'll just do it ourselves.'"
So they solicited entries, reviewed films, lined up venues, tested projection equipment, designed posters, organized volunteers, printed schedules, and prepared receptions, award ceremonies and more.
"One thing we did learn is that no one has ever written a book about how to do this," says Turner.
Have they discovered a niche for Film Festival Planning for Dummies?
"Yeah, that's five years down the road," says Stevens, laughing.
In the meantime, most of the surprises have been good ones. For instance, the biggest surprise came when they put out their call for films via withoutabox.com.
"We thought maybe we'd show a dozen or so of the best," says Stevens. "But instead of receiving 50, we received over 335."
So the guys did the only thing they felt they could do: They booked more venues and expanded the number of films to 84.
The films, many of which are making the festival circuit, range from don't-blink shorts to full-length features. They include comedies, documentaries, thrillers, dramas, animated films, foreign films, horror flicks and even some avant-garde entries that defy categorization like Gods of Light, Idols of Mud, an experimental short with no dialogue, about three people escaping reality.
"We want to put on a festival that every segment of Colorado Springs can enjoy," explains Turner. "There's probably not a single film that everybody will like, but there's something for everyone."
One of their special subcategories is movies by or about Native Americans, which Stevens and Turner thought would play well in the West. For every seat filled in those screenings, a portion of the ticket price will go to One Nation Walking Together, a local nonprofit that sends food, clothing, educational and medical supplies to Native American communities in need.
"We wanted to have a little something that set us apart from other festivals," Turner says.
They've also wanted to bring people to downtown Colorado Springs. So far, they're doing their part.
"We have individuals coming from Portugal, Canada and Mexico City to watch their films being shown here," says Stevens, "We've even got one filmmaker coming from Los Angeles for a five-minute short."
In fact, more than two dozen filmmakers will be on hand at the festival to meet audiences and answer questions about their creations. There will even be some Colorado faces among them. At last count, approximately 10 films had Colorado links.
One of those films, The Bilbee Boys, was written, directed, co-produced and edited by 24-year-old Springs resident Mathew Nelson and filmed entirely in the area, with local talent. Its screening at the Pikes Peak Center on Sunday will be the first time he's seen the feature in a theater setting.
"You know, I was actually thinking about it last night," Nelson said last week, "and it's going to be scary seeing my name that big."
Nelson has seen the film, about three young brothers vying for a pretty girl's attention, so many times that he cringes when thinking of another viewing. But he looks forward to having others watch it.
"To put your film in front of an audience and get some honest feedback is important for any filmmaker," he says.
Tom Parkin says he looks forward to showing Broken Fences, the film he co-produced with Troy McGatlin and Steve Salada, a former Springs resident.
"The biggest thing an independent film can have going for it is to create a buzz, and ... that's the great thing about film festivals," says Parkin.
Turner and Stevens hope their festival will feed Colorado's film community and encourage would-be filmmakers to try the art.
"Last night I got an e-mail from a gentleman who said, "I have no idea how to get started in filmmaking. I love films, and I want to break into this. What do I do?'" says Stevens.
They're hoping to meet him at the festival. And perhaps they'll be wishing they had that book to sell.
Says Stevens: "I've already started the first chapter: "Say Goodbye to Your Personal Life.'"
"Or, "So You've Decided to Throw Your Own Film Festival: Get Your Head Examined,'" Turner adds.
They laugh together, then slowly pack up their things and head back to work.
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