Ax Wound and Cucalorus Film Festivals!

November was a busy month here at The Circus as Sean travelled to North Carolina to screen his debut feature Meme at Cucalorus  while Nicole headed up to Vermont for the world premiere of her horror short It’s Normal at Ax Wound Film Festival.

Ax Wound was recently named one of MovieMaker’s 30 Bloody Best Genre Fests In The World, and the honor is well deserved. There is a reason 4MileCircus (and pre-4MC’s formation, Nicole solo) has attended and been involved in some capacity every year since Ax Wound started in 2015, whether or not we have anything screening. Year in, year out founder Hannah Forman along with Moiz Badar, Ashlee Blackwell foster a friendly, familial environment in which horror fans and filmmakers can meet and mingle in between watching some of the finest film festival shorts programming we’ve had the honor of seeing. Every year we make new friends and leave inspired.

2018 Class Photo

This year antifascist vampire story It’s Normal screened alongside many other awesome horror shorts directed by women. Some of the standouts include Suraya Raja’s gorgeously animated Don’t Think of a Pink Elephant, Silvia Conesa’s relatable Ikea nightmare Evstronger, Lucé Tomlin-Brenner’s also-relatable ode to clutter Messed Up,  the visually stunning They Will Know You By Your Fruit by Valerie Bah and Monika Negra (who we look forward to collaborating with on the upcoming Bitten!), Cassandra Sechler’s alien sex fever dream Lovesick, Lisa J. Dooley’s spooky old-fashioned kids ghost story Light as A Feather, Tristan Risk’s delightfully silly Parlour Tricks, Devan Gallagher’s zombie gentrification parable Z-Stuy, and another vampire allegory, the captivating TICK by Ashlea Wessel. One of the scariest and most finely crafted films was Heimlich, a realistically distressing portrait of a couple’s descent into abuse with an appropriately satisfying conclusion. It was also great to see Kristina Leath-Malin‘s  Stephen King Dollar Baby One For the Road again on the big screen! Alison Lang of Rue Morgue led and excellent Q&A with attending filmmakers.

Its Normal Premieres!
Nicole discussing Its Normal during filmmaker Q and A

Ax Wound screened one feature this year, Braid, a visually sumptuous and unsettling tale of being stuck in unhealthy childish games. It is supposedly the first feature film funded by bitcoin and worth seeing when it comes to a screen near you.

There was also a crowdfunding workshop by our pal Christina Raia on behalf of Seed&Spark and an excellent talk on Gender and Body Horror by Alison Lang, followed by a horror trivia gameshow hosted by Nicole to benefit the Schleroderma Research Foundation. This cause is particularly close to Hannah’s heart as her father passed away a few years ago after fighting the disease, which is under-researched, and that research under-funded. The trivia game was designed to lessen social anxiety — each question had a true or false answer and the whole room voted on which they thought was correct. A winner was then picked at random from the correctly-answering side and given a fabulous prize from one of Ax Wound’s wonderful sponsors. It was awesome to have such a good time raising money for such an important cause. Originally Sean was going to co-host with Nicole, but since Cucalorus took him away Ax Wound had to make do with a special video appearance.

Video Guest Gameshow Shenanigans

Cucalorus celebrated its 24th year in 2018. We’ve heard for some time what a welcoming and fun festival it can be. Sean headed to Cucalorus on the Thursday the 8th of November and immediately jumped into exploring what it had to offer.

The Cucalorus festival ran five days from Wednesday November 7th through Sunday November 10th. Meme was scheduled to screen on the evening of the 9th and the afternoon of the 10th, so there was a lot of time to meet people, attend panel discussions, and see other films screening at the festival while encouraging people to go to the Meme screening.

Among the events and panels happening at the festival the highlights were the SingularDTV and KWHCoin panel at the Cucalorus Connect tech conference about creative uses of blockchain technology, including using it for funding and selling films. Sean also attended one of the Film Festival Alliance’s round table discussions on the challenges film festivals face, which gave an interesting look into that other side of the film festival world most of us filmmakers don’t get to experience too much of. The late night backyard parties were a great way to meet fellow filmmakers and attendees of the festival as well. Finally, if you know 4MileCircus, you know we love us some karaoke and Cucalorus ended the weekend with a costume karaoke party, which was a delight to be a part of.

There was so much going on throughout the weekend and so many films to see. A few of them really stood out, including the documentary Warrior Women, Kevin Yee‘s About a Short Film, Ann Lupo’s In Reality, Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney’s Amazing Bagel, Catherine Bisley’s Untitled Groping Revenge Fairytale, Leah Shore‘s Funeral, Erin Carter and Sam Coyle’s Darkside, David Brundige‘s Haircut, Jillian Corsie‘s Second Assault, Georg Koszulinski’s White RavensWanjiru Njendu‘s Boxed, Crystal Kayiza’s Edgecombe, and Rebecca Kenyon’s Holding Space. It was really exciting to see such a variety of different films at the festival alongside our own film Meme.

Speaking of Meme, the Meme screenings went wonderfully. Our Saturday evening screening had around 50 people according to our rough headcount before the lights went down. It was followed by a lively Q&A where Sean turned things around and asked the audience some trivia questions and gave away VHS copies of the 4MileCircus Grindhouse Double Feature (which includes both Beneath the Black Moon, scenes of which appear in Meme, and 1-900-Kill-You [AKA: Small Talk]), and posters for that release created by Magnetic Magic‘s Elijah LaFollette. The second screening on Sunday afternoon had a little over half of the turn out of Saturday. This screening was again followed by a lively Q&A. Sean gave away some more swag including a bootleg VHS copy of the movie itself.

It was really great to be able to interact with the audience immediately following screening the film. People get curious and excited about this weird film. It’s really heart-warming to hear from people after the screening that they see a bit of their own lives in it, whether it’s the struggles with employers, significant others, or substance abuse. Hearing from people that they identify with it and seeing how excited they are about it, is really motivating.

Also exciting was the short film that screened before Meme, Death Van, which you should just watch right now:

Wasn’t that fun? Yes. Yes, it was.

Sean was joined at the festival by Meme producer Carolyn Maher and Meme star Sarah Schoofs. It was really a lot of fun to be able to spend more time with both of them.

On a final note on Cucalorus: the festival has a program in the community called “Adopt a Filmmaker” where a local household welcomes a filmmaker attending the festival into their home to stay for their time at the festival. Sean was adopted by John and Susan Vance. They were wonderful hosts and great examples of members of a community giving their support to a film festival. Thank you Susan and John for letting Sean into your home!

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