Last year the Zero Film Festival pioneered a slew of no-budget fringe celluloid gems (including one from Russia developed using battery acid) that set downtown warehouses abuzz. This year, transplanted creator Richard Hooban and assistant director Brad Bores bring you another hefty dose of rogue cinema, set to scratch that itch that Hollywood no longer acknowledges. This interview by Nolan Knight.
How did last year’s fest go? I know we covered it but what’s the final verdict?
Brad Bores (assistant director): It was a crazy week. We went into it on our first year and it was just trial and error. We had only done the film festivals and knew what we didn’t like about them. It was a learning process—some nights were amazing and some nights we said, ‘OK, we tried to do too much.’ All in all, for the first year it was a huge success for us. I think everybody had a good time.
Richard Hooban (founder): On one hand, Sundance, as a direct result of Zero Film Festival, now has a ‘no budget’ category for the first time in their history. On the other hand, ZFF isn’t as extensive as it was last year. I can’t build a community if no one wants to participate. I gave a year of my life, the last of my savings, and all of my heart and soul to building an open community event the likes of which Los Angeles hasn’t seen, and nine times out of ten in return what I get is a request for money. Everyone supporting ZFF in ’09 has my eternal respect and gratitude. The Great Recession revealed integrity and honesty. I am eternally grateful to—and hold deep respect for—everyone who has supported ZFF from the start. They know who they are.
I know you guys were taking donations for film equipment and materials. Did you receive anything good?
Brad Bores: Well, we built a screen. An Armenian guy downtown cut us a deal on that! That was kinda cool. PBR throws us some free beer, which is always great. Barefoot Wine threw in some alcohol too. Times are tough right now for everyone but, you know, everybody’s just really generous. Our venues work with us on what they let us do. Our sponsors—you guys!—are amazing. Indie Printing is downtown—they do all our printing. They are just so great. They do everything pretty much for free. It’s pretty great. We got a lot of sponsors and times are tough, so it’s all bartering right now. It’s pretty cool to work that way.
Did any films get picked up for distribution or financing for a wider release?
Brad Bores: A few films got picked up on DVD. Luke and Brie Are on a First Date got picked up. That was by Chad Hartigan. We actually released a short film compilation DVD through a distributor in France. It’s basically a ‘Best of’ from the short films of 2008.
What was the submission pool like this time around? Did you receive more films than last year?
Brad Bores: About the same. More international films this year. I think the word just got out with the year under the belt and some press. Then in August in Brooklyn, we definitely saw an increase after that from the New York City filmmakers. A lot of alumni went out and just shot another film—which we thought was pretty great. It’s just not that easy to go out and make another film.
You guys are including bands again this year, right?
Brad Bores: Yeah, we’re actually in the process of all that right now. Warpaint is playing our opening night on the Standard rooftop—Wednesday, the second of December. This year, the Downtown Independent Theater has the capability to have bands and they screened most of the films last year. As opposed to having an afterparty separate from the theater, we are trying to bring it all together since the Downtown Independent Theater is such a great space—you got the rooftop where you can do things, and you have a huge lobby. So this year, as opposed to putting several different venues together downtown and having people wanting to be in two places at one time, we’re gonna make it a little friendlier to the audience and the filmmakers who make it out here from out of town.
What’s in the program this year?
Richard Hooban: Films with polar bears eating Nikons! Music video premieres by Beach House, Yeasayer, Local Natives, ZFF alumnus Jon Clark—he’s now famous in Europe and Japan from the ZFF DVD release on Lowave. Saturday is the zombie flick made famous at Cannes because it was shot on zero budget. It’s nice—both Sundance and Cannes caught on to the movement a year after Zero set the pace for the next generation of indie cinematics. Filmmaker to be in attendance—he’s a perfect English gentleman, so ladies beware! There are so many films—I swear it’s one of the best programs in the world right now!
Are there any documentaries this year?
Brad Bores: Yeah, we have quite a few docs—some feature documentaries. We have a night at the Echo Park Film Center this year that focuses on filmmakers from the Middle East and/or films that were made about issues in the Middle East. We have a documentary called Rethink Afghanistan that was made by an L.A. filmmaker. It looks at the war in Afghanistan in a very objective way. It’s a great film. The director actually directed a film in the ’80s that won one of the first ever Razzie Awards—at one point he was actually a Hollywood director, and he directed a few films and realized it was all bullshit and started financing his own documentaries.
You mentioned opening night before. What’s in store?
Brad Bores: It’s gonna be on the roof of the Standard and they have the capability to project onto a building adjacent to the rooftop. It’s amazing—this huge, huge projection goes right over the top of the pool there. So we’re gonna have a nice, non-traditional setting featuring short films and experimentals and a lot of just strong visual films so people can hang out, have a drink, sit by the pool and watch. We’ll have the DJs going and Warpaint is gonna play. It’s really just a celebration to kick it off and bring everybody out.
What would you like to say to those struggling filmmakers out there about submitting their films for next year? Is there a certain type of film you have yet to receive?
Brad Bores: You know, it seems like we are always looking for that feature narrative film—just that feature where somebody goes out and, you know, has a strong message from the heart. We get a few every year but if you go out and you really have something to say—if you stay true to your vision—we’re gonna show your film. We show every type of film, every genre. Stuff that’s hilarious, stuff that’s serious. The common thing that we are trying to represent are filmmakers who make films on their own terms—not letting their artistic ideals be compromised.
THE ZERO FILM FEST RUNS FROM WED., DEC. 2, TO SUN., DEC. 6, AT VARIOUS LOCATIONS ACROSS DOWNTOWN. L.A. RECORD PRESENTS WARPAINT PLUS DJs, FILMS AND MORE ON WED., DEC. 2, AT THE DOWNTOWN STANDARD, 550 S. FLOWER ST., DOWNTOWN. 6:30 PM / $10 / ALL AGES. MIMOSA MATINEES WITH FREE MIMOSAS FRI., DEC. 4, AND SAT., DEC. 5, AT THE DOWNTOWN INDEPENDENT, 251 S. MAIN ST., DOWNTOWN. $10 / FREE MIMOSAS! / 1:30 PM / 21+ TO DRINK. COMPLETE LINEUP AND INFORMATION AT ZEROFILMFEST.COM.