CenFlo 2017

Festival to mark final year in Ocoee

From The Orlando Weekly, August 29, 2017

The 12th annual Central Florida (CenFlo) Film Festival, scheduled for September 1-3, will be the final one in Ocoee. The festival will move to Mount Dora, Florida, next year, says Founder and Director Bob Cook, who plans to make this year’s event his last.

“I am stepping down at the awards show as executive director, and a gentleman by the name of Brendon Rogers is going to take over. And Brendon’s idea was to move it to Mount Dora, and I’m all for it. I brought Brendon in, he’s much younger, and I think … we’ve taken [the festival] about as far as I can take it, and it needs younger and newer ideas.”

Rogers is a local actor and director of both stage and screen. CenFlo audiences might remember him as co-producer and co-star of Sonny Dyon’s Clarity, which played the festival two years ago. Rogers has proposed holding the 2018 festival on Labor Day weekend at the Mount Dora EPIC Theatre multiplex currently under construction.

The festival was held at the Osceola Center for the Arts in Kissimmee for three years before moving to Ocoee’s West Orange Cinema, at 1575 Maguire Road, in 2009. That cinema will host the event for the final time this weekend, with parties at the Fairfield Inn and Suites, across West Colonial Drive from the cinema. The three-day event is considered one of the top five annual film festivals in Central Florida, along with the Florida, Orlando, Global Peace and Love Your Shorts festivals. CenFlo drew a record 2,187 patrons last year, according to Cook.

This year’s festival will screen 76 films, including 10 narrative features and 10 documentary features (movies longer than 40 minutes). The rest are shorts organized into drama, comedy, foreign-language and student. The selection is light on animation and has no horror category, although some of the dramatic features and shorts could be labeled horror. Seven are vintage films with “special screenings.” More than 20 films were made in Florida, including 10 from Florida State University, three from the University of Central Florida and one from Full Sail University.

From left to right: Festival Founder and Director Bob Cook, festival videographer Tom Judd and special guest Robert Carradine.

CenFlo is known for filmmaker loyalty, and Cook says he expects about a dozen returning filmmakers this year among the 46 who plan to attend. Celebrity guests include Robert Carradine (who will attend a screening of Revenge of the Nerds), Lee Meriwether (Catwoman from the 1966 Batman movie) and John Ashton (who will attend a screening of Midnight Run). Other noteworthy selections include Treasure (the feature-film debut of local writer/director Chris Williamson,) the world premiere of Garlic & Gunpowder (directed by Harrison Smith and starring Felissa Rose) and New Comic Day (directed by Michael Seminerio). All the aforementioned guests will participate in Q&A sessions.

The festival, which will also include informational seminars and a Saturday fundraiser to benefit the victims of the Pulse massacre, will use three of West Orange Cinema’s theaters. Their capacities are 175, 98 and 65.

Tickets are $10 for a single film, $35 for an entire day of films, $100 for a three-day film pass and $200 for a “VIP all-access” pass, which gets patrons into all films and parties. For more information, including the entire schedule, visit www.centralfloridafilmfestival.com.

So what does the future hold for Cook?

“I’ve accomplished what I needed to accomplish,” he says, adding that he’ll be living part time in Indiana, where he’s taking over as operational director of a film studio. “So it’s hard to do both.”

Actually, it’s difficult to do even one of those tasks, according to Cook, who says Florida filmmaking is not what it used to be.

“We wanted to keep jobs here in Central Florida, and to a point we did that, but, you know, Florida is not the production entity I have tried for 12 years to make it. … I mean Miami is a lot better than it was, but, you know, Orlando isn’t the mecca that it could have been. Now with Universal and Disney both reminding themselves that they are full-time theme parks as opposed to being production studios, it’s very, very hard for the independent filmmaker.

“After nine years in Ocoee, we’ve brought in for the economical development to the city … almost $2 million, [but] one of the reasons why I didn’t fight for the city of Ocoee [to keep the festival next year] was they really didn’t seem as enthusiastic about what we do. [With] the new mayor that they have, Rusty Johnson, it’s just not pro-festival at all. So if you’re not showing enthusiasm, I’ll find someone who does.”

Though Cook calls the staff of West Orange Cinema “wonderful,” he says he’s not afraid to criticize Ocoee. “They can’t fire me,” he jokes. “I’m stepping down.”

© 2017 Orlando Weekly / MeierMovies, LLC