"The quality is absolutely excellent this year," said Mike Harris, the festival's director and vice president for The Pumphouse Players' board of directors. "We got a lot of submissions from the Savannah College of Art and Design. They have an excellent film program and the students there just put out some first-rate live action videos and animations. And as it turns out after our panel of judges voted, all 18 of our finalists that will be showing on Saturday are from SCAD. That goes to show the quality of the work that they do and the quality of the Saturday show.
"We [asked] for [films] less than 15 minutes. Basically that breaks down into two groups. You have your live-action, longer-form videos that will be typically from seven or eight minutes to 15 minutes. Then you have your short ones, which are typically animations which go up to just a minute or two. But as far as qualifying for it, we didn't put any [other restrictions] on it other than of course they have to release the video to us for us to show and for publicity purposes. But there was no entrance fee. We try to keep this as friendly and open to anyone who wished to submit as we could. We got a total of about 32 or 33 but we had to whittle away half of those."
The two-hour program, which includes an intermission, features 18 films: "Nostalgia" by Brandon Lee Berger, "Flight of Columbia" by Rachael Cansler; "Long Distance" by Mehreen Bazm; "Grampa Kevorkian" by Claire Almon; "The Vision of Dylan Bradley" by Christine Vartoughian; "One of a Kind" by Dixie Pizani; "Sadako" by Andy Mai; "Keep the Change" by Craig Boyer; "Yummy" by Shu He Lin; "Snow Balled" by Amanda Christensen; "Water Over the Dam" by Michael Brown; "Focus" by Stephen Camardella; "Rock Star" by Evan Perry; "A Darker Shade of Grey" by Daniel Etheridge; "Cueb" by Alex Knoll; "Ma Monde" by Chrystin Garland; "Good. And Smile." by Hanny Purnomo; and "Dozeferatu" by Joel Mann.
For Harris, the festival is an opportunity for The Legion Theatre to return to its roots as a movie venue.
"On a personal note, that was my major in college. That's what I intended to go into was filmmaking," Harris said. "So there is a little bit of living vicariously. I never became a professional filmmaker myself so this is just my way of keeping my hands in it. There's another reason too why I get a kick out of it, which of course [is] The Legion originally was a movie house, a movie theater, so what we're doing really is coming full circle in bringing movies back to The Legion.
"We're not really sure -- the board of directors hasn't made any final decisions yet -- but [what] we're contemplating if this works out real well and our projection equipment is acceptable to everyone that comes and sees the film festival is that we might expand into classic film showings or more film festivals or we might have one night for just high school videos or even middle school videos, something like that where we offer access to anybody with a video camera to show what they've done to a crowd of people."
While Harris is busy directing the film festival, his wife, Teresa, is preparing to serve as the host of the Audience Participation Improv Jan. 22. To be held in The Legion's lobby, the 7 p.m. offering encourages -- does not require -- audience participation for individuals 16 and older. Those younger than 16 can watch the show but the skits often contain adult humor.
"Everyone that comes in, they are allowed to put their name into what I call a popcorn bucket, basically where they say they want to participate," Teresa Harris said. "During the course of the program as I choose a skit, let's say it's party quirks, I need four people for that [so] I'll draw four names from the people who signed in at the door and have them perform the skit. I'll tell them what they're going to do. I'll send one person out for this particular skit because they can't know what's going on. The other three people are given a quirk, in other words something's wrong with them.
"One of them [has] got a lisp. One of them thinks they're Marilyn Monroe, ... just something strange that [the] person that left the room doesn't know what it is. The person that left the room comes back in and they're holding a party, a pretend party, and one by one the guests come in and the poor host doesn't know what's wrong with each of the guests. And through their actions and what they say, the host's job is to figure out what their quirk is. So that's where hilarity ensues because the audience is in on the joke but the poor host doesn't know what's going on."
Resembling the former TV show "Whose Line is it Anyway?," the offering features various skits lasting from two to five minutes.
"Each game is different and there's different ways of doing it," she said. "But each time as I change to a different game I will choose different people from the audience and I will try to get a mix of those who've never done it before with those who have done it before.
"A lot of people are very nervous about doing improv or even getting up in front of people. So this is a great way to experience it without feeling that you're being put on the spot because everyone is in the same boat there. Everyone is there to support each other. We're going to laugh at you and laugh at what you do but you've got to know that and everyone is there for the same reason. And there's no pressure that you have to perform because half the time when you're not trying to be funny [it] is when you're the funniest."
Each offering -- Night of Independents Film Festival and Audience Participation Improv -- costs $5 per person at the door and no reservations are necessary. For more information, visit The Pumphouse Players' website, www.pumphouseplayers.com, or its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pumphouseplayers.