Open Screen Night to feature horror shorts


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All is calm. The screen is filled with a bright blue sky, clouds drifting across it. The audience members sit in eerie silence as the sky begins to darken. The camera shakes as the wind picks up speed. The man holding the camera begins moving toward the storm, taking members of the audience on a whirl of terror and suspense. 

The short film "Tornado Chasing" was just one of several unexpected successes at FilmScene's first Open Screen Night on Sept. 14. 

On Oct. 26, in a celebration of independent film, FilmScene, 118 E. College St., and the Bijou will host the second showing of the three-part Open Screen Night Series. Iowa filmmakers are given the opportunity to submit up to 10 minutes of original work or discovered footage. Functioning like an open mike, sign-ups will be held one hour prior to showtime, and audience members will vote on the best submission at the end of the night. 

"We want to connect UI students to this series, as well as community members," said Bijou Programming Director Katherine Steinbach. "Everyone can share footage in a low-pressure, fun environment. FilmScene is providing a space for filmmakers and enthusiasts of many kinds to get their footage seen."

Steinbach initiated Open Screen Night in Iowa City after her experience with the independent theater chain Alamo Drafthouse while obtaining an undergraduate degree at the University of Texas-Austin. 

"It was always very fun and chaotic, in the best way," she said. 

The Open Screen Film Series premièred on Sept. 14 encouraging filmmakers were able to submit flicks of any variety. Steinbach said she was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the footage. The remaining two themes for the fall semester are "Homemade Horror Night" and "Music Video Night" on Oct. 26 and Nov. 16, respectively.

"I think the themes for these next two Open Screen nights are, above all, fun and certainly help to guide the evening into more of an event, with a mood and a framework," Steinbach said. "Also, we just want to pay attention to the kinds of short films that people make and have a lot of interest in."

Bijou Film Board Executive Director Leah Vonderheide said the series is not only a fun night for film enthusiasts, it can also serve as a good learning opportunity for independent filmmakers.

"It's not everyday a theater invites any and all filmmakers to screen their work in such a wonderful space,"she said. "FilmScene is unique in its dedication to fostering young, student, and amateur filmmakers. Seeing a public audience's reaction to one's work is a critical experience for a filmmaker."

In a world in which good books become movies and YouTube videos are a source of entertainment, Vonderheide said, visual art is a dominant feature in our society.

"Film is the most important art form. It allows people from all backgrounds to come together, literally, and look at the world in new and unexpected ways," she said. "Roger Ebert called film 'an empathy machine,' and I think he was completely right."

Beyond all the experience and knowledge Open Screen Nights can provide, FilmScene cofounder Andrew Sherburne stressed the importance of enjoying the simple things the event has to offer as well.

"This is a chance to get together, celebrate making movies, make connections, get feedback and, most of all, have fun," Sherburne said.

Bijou Open Screen Night
When: 6 p.m. Oct. 26 
Where: FilmScene, 118 E. College
Admission: $2 suggested donation 

Ghostbusters 30th-anniversary party
Trivia, costume contest, cartoons, drink specials, and Ghostbusters restoration screening
9 p.m. Friday

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