Cat Fly Film Festival Highlights Local and Regional Talent in Asheville [Interview]

Cat Fly Film Festival Highlights Local and Regional Talent in Asheville [Interview]

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Cat Fly Before I Die

Maybe you've been seeing an odd tag around town lately. A giant cat head with hypnotic eyes, reminiscent of reels of film? Or maybe you've even seen strange people on the street wearing these bizarre costumes. While you might have run the other way, or dismissed the sightings as "just another day in Asheville," in fact they're all promoting a specific event: the Cat Fly Film Festival.

Cat Fly is bringing new and up-and-coming filmmakers and their works to the mountains on April Fool's Day weekend, March 31-April 2. The focus is on talent in town and throughout the Southeast, and the program runs the gamut in terms of genres. Over three nights, Cat Fly will screen short films at venues around town. Weekend passes are on sale now for $35 and give you access to all of the programming, and day passes are $15 for Friday and Saturday, $10 for Sunday. 

The schedules for each evening are organized by theme and genre. On Friday, March 31st, festival attendees will head to Amplified Media and the Magnetic Theatre for "Red Carpet Night," which will feature drama and horror films from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday is "Comedy & Curls" at Habitat Brewing, which will be a night of comedy and stand-up. The evening begins at 5:30. Sunday is "Community Night." Held at Trade & Lore Coffee from 7 to 9 p.m., films include experimental and artistic offerings as well as music videos. 

We interviewed three of the festival organizers—Brittany Jackson, Keeley Turner, and Madeleine Richardson—to get the full scoop. 

Please introduce yourselves and tell us the significance of the name 'Cat Fly'?

Brittany Jackson: I'm Brittany, the Festival Director. I'm also a filmmaker, photographer and have a day job at a small local business called Asheville Screen Printing. I am very community-minded and love the idea of "go local" both in the business sense and in a neighborly sense. 

I used to volunteer on the local music scene in my hometown through an organization called Spazz Presents in Greenville, North Carolina. I only ever helped with setup, cleanup and taking tickets at the door, but I was always really inspired by the higher ups in the organization who cared so much about bringing cool shows to town. They put so much work into making members of the community happy for literally no pay 99% of the time. It was all very DIY. I was in my late teens at this point in my life and it made a lasting impression. Their approach to organizing shows had a huge influence on how I wanted to go about organizing the film festival: Bring badasses together and it's sure to be a good time. 

The name Cat Fly came together when my partner, Ted Kendrick, and I were on the couch bouncing ideas for festival names. We have pet cats, as do many of our team members. We even have two people-Cats that will be involved: Cat Wityk, a local actor and filmmaker who's helping me organize the festival and Catherine Dee Holly, the director and leading actor in GOOD HAIR the movie. My partner spit out the name Cat Fly and I liked how symmetrical it was and the sound of it. I thought it would get people interested because it's a pretty weird name. When I heard it, I saw a lot of imagery and knew we could come up with some really awesome branding.

Keeley Turner: My name is Keeley Turner and I am the Website Designer and Head of PR. Cat Fly came about in a word play game. Also, almost all the members own cats except for Cat Wityk.

Madeleine Richardson: Hello! I'm Madeleine, the Art Director for the festival and also a hardcore cat enthusiast. That's definitely part of the origin of the name Cat Fly...cats rule. Also, I like the idea of the relationship between a cat and fly, a big fierce creature versus a tiny zippy little insect. It's an interesting dynamic. And one of our founders is named Cat, of course.

 

How did the festival come together? What was the inspiration?

Brittany: Madeleine, Cat, Keeley and I have all worked with each other on films in the past and knew we'd be able to pull this off. They're truly the folks I work with most regularly and it rocks to have such a strong team of female filmmakers on my side.

We are all local filmmakers who want to make it in the industry and felt there needed to be a platform for us to screen our work, get some visibility and allow us to share what we make.   

The idea for the festival started with Madeleine and I wanting to help organize the Asheville premiere of GOOD HAIR. The four of us (Madeleine, Keeley, Cat and myself) worked as PAs on the short film. My partner, Ted, is a producer and has been put in charge of helping Catherine Dee Holly and Fray Forde (the directors and co-stars) take the film on tour to festivals and screenings all over the country. 

I thought to myself, why not show some of our own films and films created by friends within our network while we are at it. From there it blossomed into a three-day festival. We realized we needed multiple days so as not to overshadow their premiere or change the tone for the awesome comedy show Catherine and Fray had in mind. We decided we'd instead promote the premiere as a part of the festival and feature local talent as well with GOOD HAIR as a headliner.

The four of us agreed it was really important to showcase local films from Asheville (and Greenville, they have a great scene) as well if we were going to show more films than just GOOD HAIR. We also knew Catherine and Fray were going on tour soon and we really wanted them to be a part of the festival so I thought it was best not to separate the events into different weekends. The GOOD HAIR folks were super supportive of the idea. 

We all saw it as a way to build community. I really wanted to put all my favorite filmmakers in a room together to hopefully plant the seeds of collaboration for the future. 

Every set I've ever worked on I've made new, awesome friends. It's my dream for all my friends to become friends with each other so we can all make cool films together.

Keeley: The idea of the festival came about at the beginning of the New Year 2017. We just wanted to get local filmmakers together in the same room and figured this would be the best way! We really want an outlet for filmmakers in Asheville and in the Southeast region to show their films. Also, we are inspired to get the tax incentives back for North Carolina and we are hopeful that our new Governor, Roy Cooper, will see that it is in North Carolina's best interest to bring the tax incentives back.

Madeleine: The festival was something that was spawned from working on so many film projects together and wanting to show them off to the community. However, Brittany was really the person who said, 'Hey let's make this happen,' and of course I jumped on board immediately.

How did you all meet and decide how to organize the festival? How did you collaborate and what do each of you bring individually and specifically to the festival?

Brittany: All the founders are alums of UNC Asheville. 

I met Madeleine and Cat through my Partner, Ted. The three of them worked at Social Construct Films in West Asheville together. I first worked with them volunteering for the "Feel the Bern" video challenge Social Construct put on at One World Brewing before the primaries. Later, we worked together on this year's 48 Hour Film Project together. Our movie was called UPSTAGED. We've been making films together for the last few months. 

I met Keeley working on The Mark; we were both PAs. (Madeleine worked on THE MARK too). Later, Keeley and I had a film class together at the Asheville School of Film called Film Set Etiquette and Protocols. She, Ted and Madeleine are currently working on a neo-noir script called GREED AND GLAMOUR. I can't wait to help with that when they go into production. 

We all wear many hats and all have had our hands in all areas of putting this together. I'm the festival director and event coordinator. I'll let them speak for themselves for their roles. 

Keeley: We all met at UNC Asheville during our college days and became better friends after of college. Aside from the festival, a lot of us collaborate on writing scripts and producing our own films. Brittany decided to help fund the festival and we really just want to do something grassroots and produce a festival that had an indie vibe. For me, I really wanted to create the website, create marketing campaigns using fun photography and have a kick ass Instagram that the locals could appreciate. Of course Brittany is the Festival Director, Madeleine Richardson works as the Graphic Designer, and Cat Wityk is the Marketing Director.

Madeleine: We're all UNCA alumni, and I originally met Cat when we were both students interning at Social Construct Films based in West Asheville. The AVL 48 Hour Film Festival last summer also connected all of us, it was a great way to meet the local film community. From there, projects picked up and we all started collaborating. 

As for my role in the festival specifically, I personally have a love of graphic design as well as filmmaking, so I took on the role as Art Director. I designed the logo, helped create the branding, and designed the posters, along with the help of my extremely talented sister who drew the cat and fly. She did a great job. Shoutout to Anna Richardson!

 

What can you tell us about the films, filmmakers and what to expect overall? Such as a little bit about each night's events and activities.

Brittany: 3/31 - OPENING NIGHT: Red carpet reception for the festival at Amplified Media, followed by a screening of films that accentuate the beautiful settings that can be found here in the South East. We will have drinks, gourmet hors d'oeuvres, and mingling at the reception followed by the screening, held across the street at the Magnetic Theatre in the River Arts District on Depot Street featuring films by Jared Kay, MJ Slide, Ryan Duval, Wayne Culpepper, Kira Bursky and Rome Widenhouse. Ticket Price: $15

4/1 - COMEDY AND CURLS: The Asheville premiere of GOOD HAIR: THE MOVIE, featuring several hilarious stand-up comedy acts: Dedrick Flynn, Fray Forde, and Minori Hinds interspersed with screenings by filmmakers Catherine Dee Holly, Fray Forde, Keeley Turner, Ted Kendrick, Katie Damien and webisodes of WHEN FACT MET FICTION and TRANSPLANTING. The event will be hosted by Jeff Alexander, leading actor in the Asheville-based web-series WHEN FACT MET FICTION, at the fabulous Habitat Brewing. Ticket Price: $15

4/2 - COMMUNITY NIGHT: A night to mingle with the filmmakers, actors, artists and connect with other media folk at the beautiful Trade & Lore Coffee on Wall Street. We will be screening a series of micro-budget experimental films, music videos and more by regional talent Aaron Putnum, Kira Bursky, D. Forest Gamble, Channing Wilson, Cat Wityk, Madeleine Richardson and Andre Mileti. There will be an open bar tab, so come early and grab a drink before the tab runs out! Ticket Price: $10.

Keeley: Most of the films were created by folks from Asheville, NC. We do have some people coming in from Atlanta, but a lot Ashevillians worked on those sets, which is really cool to see the collaboration there. March 31st is our grand opening night themed classic Red Carpet style. Reception for the festival will occur at Amplified Media, which is located in the River Arts District. This will include catered gourmet hors d’oeuvres and drinks. The reception will be followed by a screening of short films held at the Magnetic Theatre, just across the street from Amplified Media on Depot Street.

April 1st, or April Fools Day, will be Comedy Night. This night will feature several hilarious stand-up acts and film screenings. It will be held at the Habitat Brewing Co., and a drink voucher will be included with your ticket purchase. Our first release of stand up acts include Dedrick Flynn and Fray Forde—interspersed with screenings by filmmakers Catherine Dee Holly, Fray Forde, Keeley Turner, Ted Kendrick, and more. The event will be hosted by Jeff Alexander, leading actor in the Asheville-based web-series WHEN FACT MET FICTION.

The last night, April 2nd, will be held at Trade & Lore Coffee on Wall Street in downtown Asheville. This will be a night to mingle with the filmmakers, actors, artists, and other media folk. This screening will include a series of micro-budget experimental films, music videos and more by regional talent. Come early to get a free drink, there will be an open bar tab on a first come first serve basis.

Madeleine: Each night is different, but equally great and entertaining. Opening night will have a beautiful reception catered by my Mom, Andrea Williams, the owner of In Good Taste Fine Catering. Champagne will be popped, red carpet pictures taken and gourmet hors d'oeuvres will be served alongside screenings focused on what the festival is all about: Asheville, creativity, and new and interesting voices telling their stories.

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Saturday is our chance to show off the film 'Good Hair,' a project where all of the festival founders were on set. Alongside that hilarious short, the night will focus on comedy with local and regional stand up comedians and other short comedies including episodes from both local AVL webseries Transplanting and When Fact Met Fiction

Sunday is for the community. It's a chance to chat with filmmakers and other artists alongside more artistically driven and experimental micro-budget short films.  

Did you work on any of the films?

Brittany: Yes, I worked on several of the films that are screening: GOOD HAIR, BEATERS, THE REPLICA RAID and THE MARK. 

Keeley: Yes, we are showing one of my films "Turquoise." My film will be premiering on April 1st. I was also onset of "Good Hair" and “Spivey Mountain Jam".

Madeleine: Yes! I worked on Beaters, The Mark, Good Hair and The Replica Raid in various roles including director of photography, script supervisor, editor and production assistant.

Also, I am the sole creator of A Place, A Memory, a short experimental piece being shown on Sunday night.

 

What have been the biggest surprises, challenges and most rewarding aspects of putting on this festival?

Brittany: The biggest surprise was how many submissions we received. Originally we were going to do invite only, but submissions kept coming in via email. Madeleine only put out one call for entries on the Asheville Filmmakers Group and I think there was only one Facebook post on the Cat Fly page. We received more submissions than we had run-time to screen during the festival. We were getting so many that finally we just set a date. "We're accepting until March 1 and announcing on the 2nd" and that was that. We stayed up until 2:00 am screening them all on March 1st. our list of accepted films was posted about five minutes before midnight on the 2nd. There were so many great films, it sucked not to be able to accept them all. 

Challenges were just having enough hours in a day to do everything that needs to get done. We started organizing this mid-January and the first day of the festival is March 31. All four of us are very busy people. I work full time. Cat is an intern at Spoken Word and takes classes at the Actor's Center. Madeleine's been taking a class at the Asheville School of Film while this has all been going on. Keeley and Madeleine both do freelance projects constantly. Somehow we've kept our grit and managed to get a lot done in a very short period of time. 

Overall, it's been totally worth it. I've gotten to know my teammates way better- They're so awesome and so much fun! I also feel very empowered by working on this project. I think it will be a good starting point for further film career success. Here's hoping this is the first snowflake in a giant snowball effect. 

Another surprise—water damage to a projector at one of our venues. If there's anyone out there reading this who will let us borrow one, we'd be eternally grateful! 

Keeley: Getting so many great quality film submissions! Asheville's got some talent.

Madeleine: Definitely seeing the reactions from the local community have been the most rewarding. Everyone I've talked to is so excited we're putting this together. All the details necessary to actually put it together have both been the most surprising and challenging, even though I did expect that.

 

Will there be any Q&As with the filmmakers? How many are local filmmakers and how many of them do you expect to attend the screenings?

Brittany: All the films are regionally local (from the South East).  Most are from Asheville, but we have films from Greenville, SC and Atlanta as well. Channing Wilson is from Eastern NC, but lived in Asheville for a few years. His film, The Profound Object, was shot in Western NC.

There will be a Q&A Friday night at the Magnetic Theatre after the screening. Community night will be a networking event so it'll be easy to have a more personal Q&A. 

I'm hoping there will be at least one filmmaker to represent each film. Every film was awarded a ticket for the submitter and a +1. In the acceptance email, the notified submitter was encouraged to bring someone else who worked on the movie as their guest. 

Keeley: There will definitely be Q&As with the filmmakers after the showing on April 1st. Not sure on the other nights. We are hoping to see all the filmmakers at the event! We hope a lot of the filmmakers at the event will meet new filmmakers and collaborate in the future.
Madeleine: There are definitely going to be Q&As, and I would say 85-90% are local filmmakers. I know that some are not available to be present at the festival but we're expecting many, if not most to be there!

 

Will there be any prizes or awards presented at the festival?

Brittany: There won't be any laurels awarded, but we will have a facebook poll for audience choice. That's to make the events a little more interactive. We will have a raffle: there's going to be a sweet gift basket from the Bee Charmer and we're in the works of making an arrangement with Asheville Studios for some filmmaker-specific raffle prizes that will be really awesome. 

Keeley: There will be no prizes and awards.

Madeleine: We are currently working on raffle prizes, but awards for individual films are not confirmed yet. Since this is the first year, we really just want to show off these films to the community and not focus on the competitive aspect. However, next year I think we would love to introduce awards.

 

Where do you see the future of film and this festival headed?

Brittany: If this year goes well, I'd love to do it again next year. I'm looking forward to having more time to plan it all out. I'd love to have submissions open for longer, a bigger budget and more local venues involved. More workshops, more free stuff for guest, just more everything. I'm so happy with what we've been able to accomplish and I want to grow from the foundation we've laid down. 

If filmmakers in attendance like what we've done, I'm open to helping them organize individual screenings as well. I've found over the last two months that I really love event planning, especially in relation to the arts. 

Keeley: We hope to do it again next year. We wanted to be known nationally.

Madeleine: I see film only becoming more accessible and more filmmakers coming out of the woodwork, telling their stories. I personally think it's important to tell stories that celebrate life in many different ways, not only the perfect happy ending. I see not only this festival, but Asheville and North Carolina growing, embracing the film industry. Bring back those tax incentives Roy Cooper! NC has a lot to offer. 

 

Anything else you want to add?

Brittany: Please come! Tickets are on sale through Universe and you can get to the ticket page from our website catflyfilmfest.com

Keeley: Attendees can purchase night passes or weekend passes at catflyfilmfest.com

Madeleine: Come out to Cat Fly! Celebrate the artists around you with good food, drinks and even greater short films. It's going to be an awesome weekend.