It's Wednesday night, and 60 adult booties are planted firmly against a hard gallery floor in Wynwood. No, they are not part of an experimental art installation. They're spectators at the Indie Film Club Miami's monthly get-together, which spotlights the work of local film types, this time in the Alejandra von Hartz Gallery.
Founders of the club include Diliana Alexander, Miami's unofficial film scene queen -- a golden-haired woman who works behind the scenes at damn near every red carpet premiere and film festival. You'll usually spot her clutching a clipboard against her colorful gossamer dress backstage. Along with fellow movie dynamos Jose Jacho, Kate Avery, and their Miami film fiend friends, she developed this monthly meetup as a way for local cinephiles to come face to face and share their passion for indie shorts, features, local films, foreign films, and everything in between. Local artists share their recent or developing projects, and anyone curious about the Miami art scene can stumble in to soak up some local color (and a cool bottle of beer).
There's an eight-foot-wide projection screen at the front of the room, $2 cups of wine and free cheese at the back, and abstract art on the walls in between. Guests range in age from 20 to 75, or thereabout, and most ethnic backgrounds are represented. Admission is free. Soon after we arrive, the lights dim and the screen shows a barrage of images that turn out to be a trailer for Skum Rocks, a Spinal Tap-type film with one shocking twist: It's about a real band. A real ridiculous band, from the looks of it.
Next, we see a breathless trailer from a miniscule-budget movie made in Los Angeles by local filmmaker Adam Schlachter. He explains that he made the film after a series of movie deals fell through for him in LA. He told himself, "I know enough to make a movie without a script and with no money." A week later, he was in production.
He says he spent less than $1,000 to make a full-length feature which is essentially a string of unscripted vignettes, connected almost as an afterthought, about the harshness of life in the City of Angels. His finished film, ;Hollywood Whores, will screen at the Regal South Beach Cinemas on April 12, but Indie Film Club attendees are getting a first peek at its content.
Indie film club organizer Jose Jacho with director Bill Grefe
On the agenda next is a montage of footage from a bunch of vintage B-movies: flicks about vicious alligators, others about swamp monsters, and still more about poisonous snakes. It's all spun together to pay homage to the filmmaker behind those great cinematic contributions: William "Wild Bill" Grefe, the director of 25 feature films including the legendary Death Curse of Tartu, and Mako: The Jaws of Death -- and who just happens to be here in the audience.
According to the montage, the man had actors running across live and snapping alligator "bridges" in his movies. "They call me the original guerrilla," Grefe says, noting that in filming Death Curse of Tartu, "Most of the stuff I shot was on 35 mm, which is very expensive. And when you got no money, it's tough, so you can't do as many takes as you'd like, you can't get quite the performance out of the actors that you want. You just gotta keep moving as fast as you can and most of the films I shot, I did in 10, 15 days. Hollywood would spend 80 or 100."
He mentioned that he's hosting a seminar on indie film production at the Sunrise Civic Center on Saturday, March 31. where he hopes to give some youngsters insight from his experience. "When I started there were no independents. I was like the lone wolf out in the forest out by myself," said Grefe. "It's so great to meet all these filmmakers. God bless them, I think it's terrific. They all kind of get together once a month and show each others' films. I've always been a champion of Florida filmmakers."
Later in the night came a short film called The Birthmark, produced by Touch Paper, a group that includes two filmmakers, a director, and a smattering of performers -- all pioneered by well-rounded Miami performance artist Becky Flowers. For this film, the screen is divided into six frames, each of which features a piece of black-and-white drama; a woman dancing, a man scowling at a red spot on a woman's cheek, a woman scrutinizing her face in the mirror. The five-minute short is part of a trilogy that aims to channel Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story by the same name.
Becky Flowers (left), writer and director of one of the short film The Birthmark.
"What I responded to about the original story was the character Georgiana's pursuit of perfection," said Flowers. "Initially she didn't find her birthmark a problem. But then when she became married, she grew to hate it, so much so that she begged for its removal. In the original Hawthorne story, she drinks a potion and she dies. In our adaptation, instead of dying, she becomes perfect, like a Stepford wife. She needs everything around her to be perfect to be completely satisfied."
After the films, all the local film buffs, artists, and the art-curious stood around talking about the films that screened and handed out business cards for everything from professional makeup to financial consulting. Gallery owner Alejandra von Hartz herself was present at the screening, and said she's overjoyed to host the club each month. "We welcome every initiative that involves art," she said.
Organizers Diliana Alexander, Jose Jacho, and Kate Avery
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Nearly as much fun as the screening itself was the gathering afterward at Wood Tavern, a chic and cozy lounge with huge cushy couches and candlelight inside, and picnic tables under a canopy of strung-up lights on the patio outside. Apparently, the migration from gallery to pub is usual for the Indie Film Club. The club will meet again Saturday for its "I'm Not Gonna Move to L.A." meet-up at O Cinema from 12 to 3 p.m. For updates about the club's upcoming activities, follow it on Facebook.