From the geniuses behind the Quarantine Cat Film Fest comes the Sweded Creative Re-creations Film Festival. Because if movie studios aren’t releasing new films now, why not turn your own home into a movie studio?
I reconnected with Brian Mendelssohn, the man in charge of the Sweded Film Festival and also of Row House Cinema in Pittsburgh, to talk about the 2020 event. He’s looking for film fans and filmmakers alike to do their own creative, or “sweded,” versions of their favorite movies and share them with their fellow movie lovers. Because while you can’t get to the movies right now, you can always make your own.
Get more information about the 2020 Sweded Film Festival here and learn about this awesome event in my interview with Brian below.
Brittany Frederick: We should establish that this isn’t the first Sweded festival, but it’s the first time you’ve scaled it up to the national level.
Brian Mendelssohn: This will be our fourth annual, and we didn’t originally plan on scaling it nationwide, but now that the pandemic is continuing, and we had great success with the [Quarantine] Cat [Film] Festival, we’ve been kind of led down this path of, “We should go big with it.” I think everyone will have fun with it.
The Cat Festival did extremely well, and we made a lot of friendships with independent theaters across the country, and we developed better logistics for distribution. We did a really good job with the Cat Festival because we learned things that we could improve upon, which we’re implementing in this festival.
BF: People have been making their own movies, and takeoffs on movies, for as long as films have existed. So what makes a project fit for the Sweded Film Festival and not just a fan film?
BM: It’s two things, really, that make a Sweded film great. One is humor. I’ve seen some serious ones, and they have been some very good, but the funny ones do a lot better with the audience.
Secondly, it is having creativity with the parameters of being very low or even no budget. So there’s not fancy special effects, you’re not hiring someone to do your soundtrack for you. We love seeing the creativity that people come up with to tweak the story to their situation, to their city, to the fact that they’re using cardboard cutouts for special effects – we really love things like that.
BF: You’ve had some pretty great ones in past years like Jaws. Has there been any film that someone’s picked to recreate that surprised you?
BM: Bicycle Thieves was the one that we were really shocked at. It was good, they made it funny, but it was very impressive, very austere. Even though it’s a classic art film, they brought a very French twist to it that made it really fun.
The one that threw us for a loop was Tommy Boy, which someone did so well. They actually used VHS cameras to recreate the early 90’s. We thought they had actually made it in the early 90’s and almost disqualified it because it didn’t look like they made it for the festival.
BF: Is there any movie that hasn’t been done yet that you’d like to see this year? Or any kind of film that gets you really excited to see submitted?
BM: We love childhood classics – The Neverending Story was brilliant, and I want to see someone do that one. I also love when someone tries to remake an animated film; those are the kinds of things I want to see.
BF: How different has been putting the Sweded Film Festival been from doing the Quarantine Cat Film Festival? Since this is a different kind of event.
BM: very different. For the Cat Festival, we had 1,300 submissions. It was exhausting to go through them all and really find the best of the best. We’ll have less submissions for the Sweded Film Festival. I hope we don’t get 1,300 submissions! That’d be too much.
We’re working on identifying who the judges are right now, and our team is going to narrow it down to about 20 so. And then we’re going to have a couple of celebrity judges make the final decision of the big winner. It’s a two-step process that can be very complicated.
BF: Last time we spoke, we discussed how to support independent cinema in the current COVID-19 crisis. While some theaters are open now, others aren’t, and a lot of moviegoers don’t feel comfortable going out yet. So how can we continue to support movie theaters, and are there ways to do so from home?
BM: I think if you’re paying attention to the industry, you know that content is the number one issue we have right now. Theaters across the country that have opened, and probably 75 percent of the independent cinemas are now open across the country, excluding states where it’s still not allowed like New York or California. But the issue is content and lack of it. And there’s not going to be any good independent content or mainstream content coming to theaters anytime soon.
So we’re forced to create our own content, and that’s really what this is about. As a movie theater, as Row House Cinema, we’re trying to survive, we’re not open and we’re choosing to stay closed because there’s no content for us to show. But for those who are open, this is going to be great for them as well.
The number one thing is still virtual cinema, which is what most movie theaters are still doing. Even if they’re open, they’re still doing virtual cinema, which allows moviegoers to watch it new films at home with half your ticket price going to that local theater of your choice. It’s identical to buying a ticket and going to the theater and supporting your cinema that way, but you can do it from your home.
BF: Is there anything else you want to tell people about this virtual cinema event?
BM: The biggest thing about all this is that this is really a celebration of cinema. It causes us to reflect on what we love about cinema in the first place, and why we want movie theaters to be open and to continue. One thing that I love about this festival the most is it’s really people all over the country who are going to be celebrating [that] we love cinema, and the films we love.
The 2020 Sweded Film Festival takes place on Nov. 30 and entries are being accepted until Nov. 22. Find out more and learn how to enter your movie here.