For years South Florida has pushed on and off to attain the title of Film Capital of the southeast cost. We have the headquarters of one of the most influential TV stations in the market, several studios, a bunch of International Film Festivals that attract foreign talent and our climate and locations are ideal for many of Hollywood’s blockbuster films, not to mention we also have a place called Hollywood.
But the film industry itself hasn’t actually flourished down here, and the film incentives are not the best compared to other states like Louisiana, for example.
Well, if you ask Diliana Alexander, who along with Jose Jacho manages the Indie Film Club Miami, the view is somewhat different. It’s changing rapidly, and that’s why she moved from Canada and left many opportunities there to come to these unexplored territory where things could happen, and are happening.
We sat with Diliana on a Friday evening in her little hideaway near Miami Beach and got a pretty clear picture of what’s going on in South Florida, why the world will soon be watching this film destination and how she, along with the Indie Film Club Miami, is contributing to the whole enchilada.
Agatino Zurría: Why South Florida?
Diliana Alexander: I have more than 15 years of experience in film, most of it happened in Canada, although I was in New York for a while before I came down here, three and a half years ago for a master’s degree in film. I graduated and stayed. I was producing a television show called 'Designing Spaces' and then I got the chance to do the programming for the Miami Short Film Festival’s 10th year anniversary edition. That’s where I met Jose Jacho. We discussed about the state of film in Miami and in the world in general. Jacho had this film club, and he was involved with screenings and knew all the players when it comes to independent film, so he asked me to join him and ever since we have both been pushing the Indie Film Club.
Everything is still so new here; it’s like the wild, wild east, so you could make a big difference. There is potential to start a movement if you want to. There’s more people than you can imagine, creating films in different pockets in South Florida. I believe with the advances in technology and how it is cheaper and possible to actually make films nowadays, and knowing how much South Florida has to offer, I don’t think anyone needs to go anywhere to achieve this a a hundred percent.
AZ: But still Florida is more a “Location” state, where big productions from California come, shoot their scenes and leave, and we are not actually producing. What’s keeping us from doing that?
DA: I think it’s still in the beginning. People still have to learn not to divide too quickly. I think as a unit we would be a lot stronger. But also a part of it is the issue of incentives. People would rather go to Louisiana or Atlanta because incentives here are a somehow volatile subject. So no major production stays here. You know, making films is a gamble everywhere, and filmmakers go where the possibilities are more opened. But in the end I think it comes down to what you believe in and where you want to do it, and then create the industry around you, like the way Richard Linklater did or Robert Rodriguez in Texas. The way Billy Corben has created here in Florida when it comes to his documentary company. He never left and he’s doing quite well. So it is more a question of finding your own voice and making other people believe in it.
AZ: What’s the Indie Film Club Miami and how are you contributing to leverage South Florida’s new film movement?
DA: When we started, a year and a half ago, it was only three of us, and now we call it a collective of about 11 people. We are filmmakers, animators, composers, visual artists, anything you need for a production. Because we know what it takes to start a production, we decided to create opportunities for filmmakers to jumpstart their own projects, so one of the things we do is offering membership to people so they can get discounts on rental houses. We’re about to start offering production insurance at discount prices and we also offer mentorship, discounts in our many workshops from location scouting and how to deal with permits, to scheduling, screenwriting, and acting labs with talented professionals like filmmaker Ika Santamaría. We want to run the whole gamut of what it takes to make a film and have all the movement know each other and participate in projects that can and will get made.
AZ: The Indie Film Club Miami seems to be always working on new events and evolving. Tell us what’s on the table right now.
DA: Well, we have some events that bring filmmakers and audience together, like the one we call NOLA, which means 'I’m Not Gonna Move To LA'. It started almost two years ago and it was a way to figure out if there actually were that many filmmakers in South Florida and to know if they did want to build a community. So we invited local filmmakers and made this fun competition with a very particular way of voting that the audience has found very entertaining and interactive. This is a very unorthodox event where people can watch new films and give their support to whichever they find more exciting and have contact with the filmmakers, asking them questions. There’s a local band, a local comedian, sometimes we have mixed-media productions to move the entertainment form the screen to real life. It’s almost like a variety show we do monthly at the O Cinema in the Wynwood area of Miami. Then there’s The Percolator, which is about networking. We understand networking is the most boring activity in the whole process. Filmmakers are notoriously shy people and they want to have a purpose when they meet up with others, so we decided to create a network with a goal in mind to make new things happen, to be able to find crew for projects. But we don’t only invite filmmakers. We bring for example The Lab. They are techie people who add a different perspective to the table, so we are meshing, mixing, shaking them all and hoping they percolate some cool ideas. It sounds somehow dangerous but we like that.
AZ: But I know you’re moving away from the Screen. Like the Screen is a thing of the past.
DA: The screen is just a platform and it will never be relegated. But it will be part of the whole new movement in trans-media. That’s why we’ve created the Film Gate Interactive Film Festival (FGIFF), which has been growing into a very successful event. Everything we screen or present has an interactive component, so basically we want to be able to show productions that tell stories through different platforms. I believe, in the future there won’t be any films that will not have a trans-media component. So with the FGIFF we want to put Florida from being 10 years behind to being ahead of the game, right at the edge, with Tribeca, Berlin, Toronto. One of the participants of next year’s festival is PBS. They have an amazing program called POV Digital. They’ve been going the interactive way for quite a while and so they’re coming to the FGIFF to kick start an interactive media marathon, looking for projects. Last year we had 2,000 people attending the festival. Some came from California, New Jersey and even flew in from Australia. This year we’re expecting to draw around 5,000 or more. It will be taking place from January 29th to February 2nd. It is a five day event with workshops, a technological playground with many big-name companies where people will have the chance not to only to look at things but to participate. We want something more interactive, which is basically the meaning of what we want to produce as well.
AZ: Are you producing anything in synch with this trans-media movement?
DA: Our next collective project is called The Pink Kraken. It is our first trans-media story. It will have a video component, a web component, visual installations and live events all merged into one. Our tagline is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meet Blade Runner. We will launch it before we start the Film Gate Interactive Film Festival and the conclusion will happen during the festival. So we’re expecting more people to join these exciting events.