December 1st, 2008 | Interviews

claire cronin

Download: Warpaint “Billie Holiday”


(Warpaint play the Zero Film Fest opening night tonight. This track from the self-released Exquisite Corpse EP)

The Zero Film Fest dissolves the traditional big-budget film festival in a puddle of battery acid and presents only the most durable surviving elements in a D.I.Y. setting. Organizers Rich and Brad sorted through 750 entries from all over the planet—including submissions from former Russian republics sent from warehouse warzones and Bolivian mystery men who wouldn’t provide real names—to create what could very possibly birth a healthy new era in local and truly independent filmmaking. The Zero Film Fest runs all this week and every night features some of the best bands—Warpaint, John Webster Johns, Restavrant, Glasser, Of Aire and more—of all kinds from all over the city. This interview by Nolan Knight.

How did this fest come about? Was there a specific event that triggered your idea for this?

Rich Hooban (curator and organizer): It was a couple of things. I knew I could do it because last year I kind of organized some film nights with just local filmmakers showing their films, getting a couple of bottles of wine, and everyone coming together, so it kind of emerged from that—that was like a warm-up practice. What really got the idea started were me and the associate producer of the festival, Brad—we both made films in 2007 just with credit cards. We didn’t go to film school; we just went out and made feature-length films. Then when we started sending to festivals, we saw that they weren’t geared towards—you know, the independent film festivals were showing films with thirty million dollar budgets—B-list Hollywood stuff. We just really knew that there was a big niche that wasn’t being covered, especially in Los Angeles, for true and genuine independent filmmakers and that’s why I started it.
Yeah, the term ‘independent cinema’ has become pretty exploited. What would be the ideal type of film that you’re hoping to come across?
We found a lot of good ones. What we were just looking for was somebody who wanted to do serious cinema. A lot of people submitted to the festival or entered their films for consideration and they were like, ‘Oh, I just went out with a DV camera and filmed with my friends in an afternoon. It was zero budget and we made a film.’ That wasn’t what we were looking for. I’ll talk about one film that I really respect. It’s by an Italian filmmaker who went over to Bolivia and shot this thirty-minute film that we are showing on opening night that is just a very spiritual film. It’s just out there. He used actors that refused to give their names—not even actors, just people that he was filming. It was just so real and so raw and that was one of my favorite films. I guess we were just looking for people that really wanted to go out and explore what cinema can be outside of the formula Hollywood film—not trying to imitate something that has already been done, but people wanting to explore that whole world of cinema.
There are no genre specifics? You guys are pretty much open to just passionate filmmaking?
Exactly. We said at the beginning that we wanted to show films from most creative urban centers around America and the world, so we gave different rates for international filmmakers just to try and get them to send their stuff and we succeeded in that. Really, we show everything under the sun from two-minute experimentals to feature documentaries—just all types.
Can you tell us a little about the venues you chose to screen the festival?
We didn’t want to have a typical festival so we’re just doing it in some warehouses downtown. Different places, just projecting on walls—this and that. We wanted to use the Echo Park Film Center, which is a small community theater. Actually in the past few days I’ve gone out with the associate producer and we started building a screen with nylon fabric that we got in the fashion district and PVC pipe to fasten the screen to—like, sixteen by nine. Even the venues themselves are DIY.
It seems like there is such a hodgepodge of films that are screening after each other every night. Is there a thematic element to each night?
Well, we have a horror showcase that goes every night starting at eleven. But in terms of just themes for the days, we didn’t really do that. We kind of matched up films where we felt the filmmakers had something in common. We put a couple of shorts before each feature and call it a showcase were people can be exposed to different things. Sometimes we put things together that didn’t belong just to show what is possible and what is out there. We didn’t want to be sucked too much into genre.
For future applicants, is there a time frame for when you guys are going to be accepting for next festival?
Yeah, we are going to start July 1st. Everybody involved with the festival is volunteering their time and the girl who does our website is actually out of New York right now—she does it in her spare time. In the beginning, when we were fighting to get the festival to happen all that we really had that was concrete—besides the passion to make it happen—was the website. We were like, ‘What is it, a couple of buffalo and some pictures?’ But yet we still managed to get 750 people from all over the world to send us their films. I was amazed by that and felt that it was indicative that, you know, it’s the right time and place for this festival to happen. It’s actually a huge response. People that I talked to would be like, ‘Oh, you’ll be lucky to get fifty films.’ I was volunteering at this festival called the Rooftop Film Festival in Brooklyn over the summer and I told everyone I had this rough idea of what I wanted to do and they said, ‘It’ll never happen’ or ‘People won’t submit to it’ or ‘Not in Los Angeles—the culture/interest is not there’. So for the first month that I committed to making this happen, I went on Myspace and individually requested filmmakers from all over and it turned out some really interesting things. I found a whole underground film crew that was living in some warehouses in the country of Georgia that was invaded by the Russians last summer and their films were really interesting. So I got them to send me files. You know, I met filmmakers that nobody’s ever heard of or thought to look for just by being up at night with a bottle of wine, clicking things on Myspace. I don’t know many other film festivals that do that.
You guys are also taking donations of equipment for future festivals—what would be the best way to get in contact with you for these donations?
A good way to get in contact for this is just send me an e-mail at info [at]
And what about the bands that are playing?
We’ve had a lot of support early on—I was talking to Danny Preston of Rainbow Arabia and he was like, ‘This is awesome—there are filmmakers living like bands do in Los Angeles.’ He was one of the early supporters and I definitely want to make sure that we mention him. And then bands like Restaurant were all about it. They weren’t like ‘Fuck you, what’s the venue’ or ‘Where will we play?’ They were like, ‘How can we get people to watch the films, too?’ That’s what gave me the idea of screening films before the bands play and trying to get everyone to come early and watch a film then have a good time celebrating. You know, there are some musicians who will just go out and play in the rain or in the L.A. River and then there are filmmakers who will just grab a camera and whatever they can get their hands on and just go out and do it. It’s really just about the passion and the community. The first night is gonna be really good. It’s in the Fight Club warehouse—actually where they filmed the movie. We’re showing this film called Buster and it was made by a female director from Brooklyn who will actually be in attendance with the actors and some other people involved with it. It’s kind of like the real Fight Club; it isn’t Brad Pitt with his shirt off or some bullshit. It’s shot on Super 8 and they developed it with Russian equipment and battery acid.
Yeah, it’s dirty and amazing. It’s kind of fitting for the true independent people who are out there fighting, trying to break through Hollywood or whatever. I think it’s such a great metaphor.