UMKC students hope film festival will help put Kansas City on the map: PoPFilmKC sets high ambitions for summer 2012 debut
An international film festival organized this year by a group of UMKC film majors hopes to bring attention to the local film community.
Among them are juniors Morgan Christensen, Timothy English and Britt Melugin, who helped organize the Paris of the Plains International Film Festival (PoPFilmKC).
“We’re putting the emphasis on student filmmakers and independent filmmakers, so they’ll have an outlet to show their films,” English said. “We hope to someday be able to put Kansas City on the map when it comes to filmmaking.”
The festival was envisioned by Christensen, and English and Melugin were quick to jump on board.
PoPFilmKC organized Terror on the Plains for Halloween, which showcased horror films by students and professors, as well as Sam Raimi’s “Army of Darkness.”
“We’re still getting a feel for what to do,” English said. “But we had a good turn out for Terror on the Plains since it was our first festival. Everyone seemed to have a good time.”
Organizing the first festival was relatively easy.
The Mission Theatre (5909 Johnson Dr.) welcomed the festival and allowed the group free use as long as it paid the licensing fees and worked the box office.
“We just did this horror fest to get our feet wet,” English said. “We really lucked out with the venue and didn’t have any trouble orchestrating the event. It was easy to get people involved.”
In the summer, the group orchestrated “Summer Night. Dream. Freedom. Love.”
The festival was part of an international event and was held on the UMKC quad to showcase inspirational short films of different genres.
Films from around the world were shown on the same night in 12 different countries.
“This was kind of a kick-off for our own festival next summer, kind of a way to get our name out and start spreading the word,” Christensen said. “It’s also nice to have our festival associated with something so inspiring. This way we won’t be complete strangers to everyone next summer.”
That summer night, however, was not without conflict.
“We had to move our location because the sprinklers came on,” Melugin said. “It definitely made the night exciting, but overall people were pleased and excited to learn about our future projects.”
English said organizing the actual PoPFilmKC festival could be the biggest challenge yet.
“We’re still not sure what direction to take the festival,” he said. “We’re working on getting sponsors and getting other film leagues and schools involved.”
“I’ve been a film geek since I was a kid,” English said. “I just decided it was time to invest in my passion.”
English, 37, always had a strong interest in filmmaking, but it wasn’t until returning to school when he truly discovered his potential.
Before having kids, he wrote, directed and starred in short films but never felt he could pursue this direction.
“Before I started having kids, I really got into it [filmmaking],” he said. “My daughter came along and I thought I should get a real job.”
He began teaching early education until his children grew older and he knew something was missing.
“I always want to tell my kids to chase their dreams, but I didn’t feel like I could if I wasn’t following my own,” he said.
Melugin expressed similar feelings.
“I thought I should pursue a degree in something practical,” she said. “But I realized it’s just not fulfilling when I’m doing anything else. I do my best work when I’m doing what I love.”
Melugin described art as a reflection of the artist.
“Both anthropology and sociology are mirrors,” she said of her studies. “I chose anthropology because it informs how I write and how I see film. Sociology is what inspired me to pursue film.”
“Sociology is extremely important in film since film is a universal language.,’” he said.
Inspiration and ambitions
According to English, the definition of a good film is one that makes the audience feel.
“Whether it’s fear or joy, a good film needs to get the audience to invest some sort of emotion,” he said. “Get their blood going a bit.”
English has interest in mainstream filmmaking, but is most passionate about independent films.
“I love seeing films that studios haven’t gotten a hold of,” he said, “but then, I’m a typical sci-fi guy. Studio films or independent films, as long as they’re good, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”
Melugin feels much more strongly toward independent films, but can still appreciate studio films if they’re done well.
“I love seeing really good, well produced independent films do really well in the festival and/or mainstream markets,” Melugin said. “It’s nice when you can see and know that a director and screenwriter saw their vision through.”
English said his inspiration comes from his childhood in the ’80s.
“I go back to old Spielberg,” he said. “’Star Wars’ really inspired me to go into filmmaking, but then I discovered Tarantino and he changed everything.”
Melugin said she feels like she was always meant to be a filmmaker.
Whenever she imagined anything, she saw it in terms of films. Instead of simply listening to music, she saw it as a film coming to life.
“When I listened to music, I saw films. When I think of potential events, it’s all in film format,” she said. “Everywhere I go and everything I see turns into a film.”
PoPFilmKC is in the beginning stages of organizing a spring event before the debut of Paris of the Plains in the summer.
“In the future, we’re hoping to create small events every couple months,” English said. “Maybe have a sci-fi festival, women’s festival, kids festival. Different little festivals here and there so we can give everyone an outlet to watch films and have their films watched.”
The group is actively compiling resources so everyone can get involved.
“We see this getting bigger than UMKC,” English said. “We’re reaching all across Kansas City and have even been in contact with some European filmmakers.”
For more information, find PoPFilmKC can be found on Facebook: facebook.com/popfilmkc.