An evening of collaboration and celebration on the big screen
The contingent of independent filmmakers in North Carolina doesn’t exactly have it easy. With the loss of tax incentives, a lack of investors, and an understandable exodus of some filmmakers to other states with more opportunities, those who choose to call the Tar Heel State their home are truly a hearty — to say nothing of creative — breed.
That’s where the Triad Film Collaborative comes in. Founded by the Greensboro-based husband-and-wife filmmaking team of Ken and Melanie Comito, it’s an independent support system established “to provide a group for filmmakers, actors, writers, editors, and others interested in film for networking and for producing films with each other and for each other,” Ken Comito said.
The TFC will celebrate its first anniversary with a showcase of North Carolina-filmed short films Tuesday at RED Cinemas in Greensboro. It’s not only a chance to share their love of film with each other but with the community at large — and that it takes place in the midst of the holiday season makes it even merrier.
The selection consists of 18 short films produced during the last year and encompasses a variety of genres: Mama Said I Can Play (horror) directed by Shane Grissom, Suck (horror), directed by Gabe Tufano, Panophobia (psychological thriller) directed by Mike Allred, A Moment Behind (horror) directed by Chris Hauselman, Daniel & the Squire (fantasy) directed by Peter Bodin, A Grim Dinner (horror comedy) directed by Steven Hancock, Carol’s Blood (psychological thriller) directed by Comito, Roped In (psychological thriller) directed by Bodin, A Too Close Encounter (science-fiction) directed by Steven Hancock, Fire in the Forest (historical drama) directed by JD Mayo, The Sheep and the Wolf (psychological thriller) directed by Mayo, Order of Omega (psychological thriller) directed by Tufano, Artificially Intelligent (science-fiction) directed by Matt Amick, Inhabit (science-fiction/horror) directed by Hauselman, Knock (psychological thriller) directed by Jazmin Lucky, Entity (horror) directed by Ben Eliaz, The Phantom Couple (horror) directed by Bodin, and Infernum Foraminis (horror) directed by Bodin.
The short-film showcase is both applauded and appreciated by Rebecca Clark, executive director of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission. “We have a ton of filmmaking talent in the Triad,” she pointed out, “and I love and admire the fact that they choose to stay in the area to make their films.”
Clark said when the film incentive ended and replaced with a limited film grant in 2015; North Carolina lost a lot of talent to Georgia, where filmmaking is a $9.5 billion-dollar industry.
“It’s important to me that local filmmakers feel supported by the community,” Clark said. “Although my main responsibility of my office is to recruit filmmakers and money from outside the state, I like to help support this area’s filmmakers when and if I can — whether it’s finding crew or affordable locations to film. I’m really excited about this upcoming screening.”
“North Carolina fell out of the race,” Comito said. “It will definitely be a long, hard road just to get back to where we were prior to 2015.”
With new legislators in place, Clark said she hopes the upcoming year will bring positive changes to the film grant “or, ideally, bring back our former incentive,” Clark said.
“If we have a better incentive in place — one that’s more compatible with Georgia’s — we can get some of our crews back to North Carolina, keep our film-school graduates in North Carolina, and have big film business benefit the entire state, instead of just one or two regions.”
Comito, who fulfilled a lifelong dream with his 2011 debut feature In the Devil’s Courthouse, only directed one film in the showcase (Carol’s Blood) but worked in various capacities on others. That’s part of the cooperative spirit exemplified by these films. This is where they’ve chosen to live and make movies, and this band of brothers and sisters in cinema bring a genuine love and enthusiasm for what they do.
“The importance of being a member with a collaborative group for filmmaking is a great opportunity for any filmmaker,” said JD Mayo, who directed both Fire in the Forest and The Sheep and the Wolf in the showcase. “You can still be independent, get your film made, and meet people just like yourself. What I like about (the TFC) is that you can find people who have the equipment you need for your film if you’re a director and don’t have it.”
Mayo attends meetings once a month and loves networking and collaboration.
“The great thing about our showcase is that people can see how we all come together, being the group that we are, and make all the projects the director is trying to make,” Mayo said. “People are interested and want the experience to help out on a cool project and know that it will be done well. With our group, the Triad Film Collaborative, that is exactly what we are doing.”
Comito said the Triad Film Collaborative has “an enormous amount” of talent and creativity. He said when he created the group, he wanted aspiring directors, actors, writers or any others in the film industry could “try their hand at something new or different without fear of failure.”
“We have some movies in the showcase created by several first-timers — first-time actors, writers, directors, camera operators, you name it,” he said. “Some people fell in love with their new-found abilities while others realized it might not be the right fit for them. Either way, that’s a great characteristic of our group.”
As for the future, Comito hopes the TFC continues to grow in membership and in productivity so they can showcase local talent every year.
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The Triad Film Collaborative’s selection of short films will be screened 7:30 pm Tuesday at RED Cinemas, 1305 Battleground Ave., Greensboro. Tickets are $10.65. For advance tickets or more information, call (336) 230-1732 or visit the RED Cinema website. You can also visit Brain Juice Production’s website or on Facebook for more information.