Watching films is a spectator sport by nature, a somewhat one-sided conversation. Once you're done viewing it, there's not much left to do or say except for dropping an occasional reference or embarking on an online search to figure out what the ending of that one movie really meant. But Indianapolis-based Heartland Film wants to transform that hands-off experience by engaging the community. The goal: It wants to get audiences to put down the remote control and move beyond simply Netflixing on their cozy couches; to see movies as interactive experiences that entertain, educate and inspire.
- Whitney Walker
Heartland Film has its offices and a mini screening room that hosts First Friday shorts in the Murphy Arts Building.
Previously known as Heartland Truly Moving Pictures, the newly rebranded Heartland Film is in its 23rd year of operation. As it's grown, the festival has added year-round events, such as First Friday screenings and its Roadshow. Today, Heartland is not just a presence in Indianapolis for 10 days during the festival; it is fixture in the Midwest and an attraction for moviemakers around the world. While its reach may be global, Heartland keeps strong roots in the downtown Indianapolis area, calling Fountain Square's Murphy Arts Building home.
Heartland's leaders are betting that audience involvement will be key to its continued success. Filmmaker Q&A sessions are key parts of its screenings. The $2Back ticket program provides a way for festival ticket buyers to give back to community organizations, letting the festival's impact go beyond watching movies. Heartland knows how to help viewers play a part, providing an immersive experience that is truly unique.
Heartland also invites its audience to have a voice through volunteering. I became involved with Heartland by chance while walking around Fountain Square. There I met Tim Irwin, the organization's artistic director. I enjoyed what I'd seen at the festival and have long been a connoisseur and informal reviewer of movies on my own, so I expressed an interest in getting involved. A few months later I became a volunteer screener, helping review and select the picks for the "Short Film" category.
For a few months last spring I watched and reviewed 10 to 15 shorts a week. Because Heartland takes the quality of its selections seriously, the process for a film to be put in the festival is extensive. For screeners like me, it's a large time commitment and there's an element of burnout after watching a fair amount of cinematic creations that aren't up to snuff (in order to find the gems). Despite the work, it's a very rewarding process. Seeing some of my favorites make it through the different tiers of the review process to be selected for the festival was exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing some of them on the big screen next month, Oct. 16-25.
- Whitney Walker
Like its screening volunteers, the Heartland staff spend many hours watching films during the selection process.
Heartland is revealing all the official selections for this year's festival Sept. 18, but here's a sneak peek at a few of the flicks now:
Heartland continues its strong ties to Hoosier filmmaking with its Indiana spotlight series composed of three productions made by Bloomington, Indianapolis and Muncie filmmakers. One of the series, Three Months, follows a man running out of time after a shattering diagnosis:
Another shift in Heartland's programming is a higher number of LGBTQ submissions and selections. Queens and Cowboys is a documentary about a LGBTQ rodeo that promises to shed some light on an area where two seemingly unlikely cultures blend.
Even with the festival's strong local presence and domestic selections, quirky foreign films, such as Referee, had Tim Irwin laughing harder than any other submission this year.
Hopefully these have whet your appetite for some interesting film-watching, but don't just take my word for it. Make tracks to see some of these creative works for yourself.