Change coming to FilmSlam

Enzian parts ways with host Jen Vargas, but she has other ideas

Enzian Programming Coordinator Tim Anderson and FilmSlam host and programmer Jen Vargas address attendees at a 2015 Slam.

From The Orlando Weekly, September 27, 2019

Maitland’s Enzian Theater announced yesterday that it will relieve FilmSlam volunteer host and programmer Jen Vargas of her duties and instead utilize its interns under the supervision of Enzian Programming Coordinator Tim Anderson, the former host of FilmSlam. However, Vargas says her involvement with the event will not end.

“Please join us on October 6 at 1 p.m. at Enzian Theater … as we conclude this year’s film slam [sic] showcase, and say farewell and thank you to volunteer and host Jen Vargas,” the Enzian said in a prepared statement. “Beginning in January 2020, Enzian staff will put a fresh spin on its ongoing, local independent film showcase by enhancing the brand, streamlining the program’s marketing and increasing local filmmaker outreach. Staff also plans to incorporate interns into the programming, scheduling and hosting of the program.”

FilmSlam began in 2005 at the Downtown Media Arts Center (DMAC) and moved to Enzian one year later. It has been held there since, run by different hosts, including Anderson, who helmed it for six years prior to handing it to Vargas. But because it was not created by the Enzian and has always been a volunteer-run event, ownership of the FilmSlam name has been disputed. Indeed, Vargas says she will retain the rights to the logo and social-media accounts, and suggests her version of FilmSlam is here to stay.

“When FilmSlam’s original founder, Jason Neff, brought the idea to Central Florida from the West Coast in 2005, the vision was always clear,” Vargas says. “FilmSlam has always been championed by us, the filmmakers. This will never change as long as I’m around, and I’m not going anywhere. FilmSlam’s physical venue may change, as it will again in 2020, but our dedication to community and giving a platform to Florida’s independent filmmaker never will. We thank Enzian Theater for their partnership these past 13 years and look forward to what’s next.”

But Janie Pope, Enzian’s director of development and public relations, stresses that FilmSlam will remain at Enzian.

“Since 2006, when Enzian took ownership of the program per DMAC’s request – and willingly, of course – we’ve been operating FilmSlam in every way,” Pope says. “So we’ve had volunteers that have coordinated it, and also we have paid for it and hosted it at our facility as a venue. And our staff has put the segments together.

“I am under the understanding that Jen created all of the social-media accounts except for the Facebook page, and she did that during her time as a volunteer, host and coordinator for the program for us, but since she did create them and she’s interested in continuing her own program, both Elizabeth [Mukherjee] and I were comfortable with her keeping the accounts that she created because, at the end of the day, we’re going to continue doing the program that we’ve been doing, and if Jennifer would like to do her own local indie showcase, she’s welcome to. And we just consider that to be more opportunities for filmmakers locally.”

And what’s the legal situation regarding the name?

“To be honest, there really isn’t one,” Pope says. “FilmSlam is similar to a poetry slam or a film festival, and while I do recognize that it’s been used in the sense of a formal … noun [as] the name of our event series, it existed before us when DMAC created it, and it has been called FilmSlam this entire time. If Jen chooses to use that, we aren’t gonna do anything other than support her endeavor to provide local filmmakers opportunities for programming. We are going to continue calling ours FilmSlam, and we are doing a rebranding just so that it’s clear that it’s Enzian FilmSlam. And the only thing I could ask from Jen is, if she should choose to continue her program, that she not use the Enzian name. That’s where it gets legally confusing.

“FilmSlam with the two words pushed together in the logo: It’s my understanding that was created by DMAC, so we have been operating that,” Pope says. “But Enzian does not have any sort of copyright or legal ownership of that in particular, and neither does Jen. So we felt much more comfortable using our brand and continuing with that, and if she chooses to work with the logo that has been in use up to now, then that’s her prerogative.”

The logo controversy might become moot, however, as Anderson confirms that the Enzian will be redesigning the logo and thereby creating a new copyrighted image.

In addition to a change in leadership of Enzian’s FilmSlam, Pope stresses that the event will focus more on filmmaker education.

“I can’t think of a better way to initiate students into the organizational side of festival planning” than by involving the Enzian’s filmmaking interns, Pope said in a prepared statement. “As Orlando’s local art-house theater, Enzian and its film slam [sic] program is the perfect setting for students to gain experience in the independent film industry. In 2020, Enzian will celebrate 15 years of hosting this ongoing event for local filmmakers. It’s the perfect time to kick things up a notch, and we’re excited for what is to come.”

This is the second major change in FilmSlam in the last 12 months. It follows the Enzian’s announcement in October 2018 that the event would shrink from 10 presentations each year to six and FilmSlam winners would no longer automatically qualify for November’s Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase. (However, winning films are still automatically forwarded – without a submission fee – to Brouhaha jurors, who review them for possible inclusion.)

The 2020 dates for Enzian’s FilmSlam will be Jan. 19, March 8, May 17, June 14, August 9 and Oct. 11.

Copyright 2019 © Orlando Weekly / Cameron Meier

See this related article concerning the changes in 2018.

 

Update

The final FilmSlam of the year was held October 6. The Enzian said goodbye to FilmSlam host and programmer Jen Vargas while inviting attendees to return to Enzian next year for more slams. Janie Pope, Enzian’s director of development and public relations, also revealed a new logo (left). The Enzian event is being rebranded as Central Florida Film Slam.

Vargas insisted again that she would be taking the event with her to a yet-to-be-announced venue in 2020. Indeed, in social-media posts, Vargas is describing her event as the “one and only” version. At Sunday’s Slam, she and former FilmSlam host and programmer John Theisen invited attendees to support Vargas’s version in the future. However, Vargas’s statement that Enzian’s “new program will not be a FilmSlam program” is incorrect. In fact, that event is moving forward with “Film Slam” in the name, with Enzian interns and staff members running it, and with a greater emphasis on educational outreach. It is scheduled for January 19.

Vargas will be keeping the social-media accounts that have been associated with FilmSlam, according to both her and the Enzian. So if you wish to follow the Enzian’s Central Florida Film Slam, you must do so not on the existing FilmSlam pages but instead on the official Enzian social-media pages and at Enzian.org.