Starting out as a filmmaker can be intimidating, because there is no clear path to follow. "Everybody that I know that creates film has a hard time getting motivated because they don't really know who to show it to," Witte says. "Yeah, you can throw your stuff up on YouTube, but it's not really very intimate, and you don't get sincere feedback."
So they decided to create Open Screen Night, and have hosted these monthly events for over a year. They showcase film trailers, music videos and short films, and give the filmmakers a chance to talk to the audience about their projects.
Open Screen Night, and other similar events, including the Bug's Emerging Filmmakers Project, an early MasterMind winner, create a platform from which filmmakers can grow, Witte says. "I think there's a lot of raw talent, and there's just so many people that are just ready," he adds. "I feel like, with events like this, we see people that are regularly submitting, and they're really kind of honing their skills."
Doors open at 7 p.m. at the Oriental for filmmakers to submit work or just network for an hour; the screenings begin at 8 p.m. with the Fast Five, a series of five films under five minutes that could be promos, music videos, short films or trailers. Then Prime Time begins, when the organizers show films up to fifteen minutes long.
Since Witte and Emsick also want the audience to participate at Open Screen Night, they've added activities like caption contests and Rewrite Theater, when contestants get a three-minute silent clip and dub voices over it.
At the end of each night, awards are given to the best film. Judges narrow the field down to three finalists, and the audience chooses the winner. "We don't really put too much stock into who wins," Witte says. "If you're showing up for winning, you're going for the wrong reasons. But it's just kind of fun and adds a little bit of a competition element to the night."
The next Open Screen Night is Tuesday, September 25; tickets at the door are $5 (or $7 for those 18 to 20).