The independent film revolution is upon us. Thanks to ever cheaper and widely available technologies, just about anyone -- with or without film school creds -- can make movies. Of course, the democracy fizzles out at the distribution level, which is why your neighborhood megaplex prefers to rake in the dough with big blockbusters. But the Gadabout Traveling Film Festival, featuring 20 shorts in under two hours, is bringing fresh, unpredictable work to the masses in more than 30 cities.
"Being a filmmaker myself and not having an outlet to show my films -- that's what led me to start thinking of holding screenings. I kind of took it upon myself to start looking around for venues," says Eric Ayotte, producer of the festival.
Gadabout was spawned in New Paltz, New York, where Ayotte had been hosting local showings of his own and others' low- or no-budget films. Last year, armed with work from a small group of filmmakers from New York, Boston and St. Louis, Gadabout hit the road.
"Just from doing the tour last year and getting the word out, submissions started coming in from all over the country, and a few from other countries, too," Ayotte says. The number of venues willing to host Gadabout has nearly doubled since last year as well.
Gadabout is also evolving from a film fest into a multimedia event. Along with the screenings, it features a 'zine distribution and a live set from indie rock band the Macaulay Culprits.
Not surprisingly, this year's film entries are more political in nature. But Ayotte's main criterion in selecting the films was finding a diversity of voices. "Independent film and media are the only real resources for free speech," he says. Some of the films are documentaries, some are narrative-based, and some are boldly experimental. The two longest pieces are each around 11 minutes long, while some are only about a minute in length.
Selections include Home Again, a grainy black-and-white documentary about residing in a 1965 Chevy school bus, and Mini Driver, a fictional work filmed in Portugal about a woman whose Austin Mini-driving habits change when she meets a dark and handsome VW driver. The Price of Getting It Up explores challenges faced by three well-known New York City street artists, wanted by the city's Vandal Squad, in their efforts to put on a gallery exhibition. And Space on the Verge of Extinction focuses on Atlanta's urban sprawl -- to which Phoenix audiences will very likely relate.
Ayotte says he was excited to promote other people's films. "Each film brings something different and unique," he says. "All of these filmmakers have the same motivations in mind. They do it because they enjoy it, not because they want to make money."