Enzian Theater to shrink FilmSlam

Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase will also be altered

Enzian Programming Coordinator Tim Anderson and FilmSlam Producer Jen Vargas address attendees at a 2015 Slam. (photo by Cameron Meier)

From The Orlando Weekly, October 26, 2018

Maitland’s Enzian Theater plans to cut its FilmSlam presentations from 10 to six annually, remove FilmSlam winners’ automatic qualification to the Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase, and replace the Best of Brouhaha program with a new Florida shorts block at the 2019 Florida Film Festival, according to Programming Coordinator Tim Anderson and FilmSlam Producer Jen Vargas.

FilmSlam – Orlando’s best-known showcase of local, low-budget, independent short films – has been cut for December, so the program will resume in January. The five other Slams will occur in March, May (FemmeSlam), June (Orlando United), August and October (HorrorSlam).

Other changes are also coming to Brouhaha, which, for 27 years, has presented locally produced short films. This year’s event, to be held November 17-18, has discontinued the longstanding policy of automatically accepting films from certain Florida high schools and colleges. Instead, each school is allowed to submit 15 minutes of content free of charge, but those films will be judged by the Brouhaha selection jury based solely on quality.

The same goes for monthly FilmSlam winners, which will be allowed to submit to Brouhaha free of charge but without a guarantee of acceptance. However, that change will take place in 2019 and does not affect next month’s Brouhaha, which will still feature 2018 FilmSlam winners that are less than 10 minutes.

An even bigger change for Brouhaha is the possible reduction of the screening program itself, from four blocks over two days to as few as two blocks on just one day, though Anderson stresses that next year’s selection committee will not necessarily adhere to a number but will instead be guided by quality.

Florida filmmakers – including micro-budget and student moviemakers – have come to rely on FilmSlam and Brouhaha to gain exposure for their films, so this reduction in screenings will likely turn heads. The reasons for the decisions are varied and involve more programs than just FilmSlam and Brouhaha.

“Much of what … we did is to elevate the programs, all the way through to the Florida Film Festival,” says Anderson. “The FilmSlam decision was made for several reasons, but the two key ones are: First, reduction in the number of Slams allows Jen [Vargas] the ability to have a larger pool of entries to craft content of the highest-possible caliber for the programs and flex her programming muscles a bit more. Second, this frees up Enzian for four additional special programming slots, which will allow the programming department to pull off more special event content like the recent CatVideoFest, the SNAP! event with the Cecil Beaton documentary and the upcoming Brewmaster doc and panel.”

Another reason for the changes is the introduction of a new Florida shorts program for the 2019 Florida Film Festival. This will replace Best of Brouhaha but will allow not just shorts made in Florida, but ones about Florida that were made elsewhere.

“A jury will no longer select a 90-minute Best of Brouhaha program for the Florida Film Festival,” starting this year, Anderson says. “One grand-jury award winner and one audience award winner will be guaranteed entry into the new Florida shorts program at the 2019 Florida Film Festival. These changes were made based on years of feedback from local filmmakers.  As, you know, many local indie filmmakers find it difficult to get their films in Brouhaha due to the limited number of open slots after school curation is complete. By eliminating all [automatic] curation in 2019, we hope more people will enter the Brouhaha next year.”

Enzian’s hope of more Brouhaha submissions could potentially be dashed by the elimination of the Best of Brouhaha. That program provided an incentive for filmmakers to submit to Brouhaha and FilmSlam, knowing their films had a decent shot at the Florida Film Festival. In addition, FilmSlam attendance could suffer, as the chance to vote your film into Brouhaha was one reason cast and crew attended the event.

“On the surface, this seems to eliminate any future desire to submit a film to FilmSlam, knowing that it can’t proceed with [a reasonable] possibility of a shot at the Florida Film Festival,” says one filmmaker whose movies have played multiple Slams. “I don’t see how reducing the number of FilmSlams is going to increase quality, especially when filmmakers are disincentivized on the back end, because for many people without budgets or named talent, we have no shot at getting into the Florida Film Festival through the normal channels.”

This view is seemingly not shared by Anderson, who says the changes will boost the quality of all of Enzian’s Florida-related programming. He and Vargas also stress that films that play FilmSlam and Brouhaha do still have a chance of being juried into the Florida Film Festival.

“By eliminating the Brouhaha [judges] picking [the Best of Brouhaha for] the Florida Film Festival six months before the event, we allow a newly created Florida shorts selections team the opportunity to cull the best, freshest and most spectacular programming from … Brouhaha films and from direct entries to the Florida Film Festival. Part of what has been discussed in programming is the duration of time that might pass between when a film might win a FilmSlam and finally end up at the Florida Film Festival, which could be as long as 17 months. We’re trying to close that gap a bit and make sure that filmmakers have a fair shot at getting their newest films in the Florida Film Festival. … It’s also giving more filmmakers more chances to get into the Florida Film Festival, as we can always retroactively contact a filmmaker that played Brouhaha and tell them we want their film for the Florida Film Festival even if it didn’t win the grand-jury award.”

Vargas says, “When Tim and I first discussed the upcoming program changes, I put myself in the place of our filmmakers. I know our filmmakers will take issue at first, and I know there will definitely be pushback. After 13 years of FilmSlam participation, this is a significant change. I’m hoping our Facebook Q&A on November 13 with Tim will help answer questions and quell any concerns. The great news is our very popular themed months in May, June, and October aren’t going anywhere!

“We absolutely need to see more Florida-made films and a Florida filmmaker presence at the Florida Film Festival. That’s always been my personal goal with FilmSlam. Hopefully this change will set our filmmakers up for more success and maybe even inspire more ambitious storytelling,” she says.

Anderson says, “The end goal is the one that everyone wants: the best films in the Florida Film Festival, made in Florida or about Florida.”

© 2018 Orlando Weekly / MeierMovies, LLC