LA Film Prize Is For The Community
By now it should be obvious why LA Film Prize is a draw for filmmakers. But I was impressed at every turn how Kallenberg and his tireless team masterminded a unique and innovative approach to a film festival that has brought back remarkable returns to its community on several fronts.
When I landed in Shreveport, I quickly learned about its burgeoning film industry, falling in just behind Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Louisiana's tax incentives for film production help, offering a hefty 30% rebate on below and above-the-line costs. This encouraged Millennium Films to set up a soundstage in Shreveport, which I toured with the filmmakers and judges during the fest. 23 features have been made from this facility alone, including The Expendables, Olympus has Fallen, The Paperboy, and the recently wrapped Dark Places with Charlize Theron.
So with all this going on, the local film commission considered bringing a festival in the mix. But when they called in Kallenberg, a noted local filmmaker, to head it, he loathed the idea. "I was brought in by the film commission because they wanted me to help them work on a film festival for the area, and I immediately told them it was a terrible idea and that local film fests were a dime a dozen. Instantly, the room frosted over and I immediately felt like I lost every friend at the table,” Kallenberg recounted. “I asked for a little time to think up something unique and different and, after a bit of time in my cave, came up with an idea that would incentivize filmmakers to their work, and put this amazing place and its people onto a well deserved pedestal."
A defining requisite of submitted shorts is that they are filmed in the Shreveport/Bossier area. This not only gives LA Film Prize’s local audience a chance to see their hometown reflected on the big screen, but also stimulates the local economy attracting production teams from nearby as well as crews from California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Virginia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Colorado. Only in its second year, the fest has already seen a rise in non-local entries from 30% to 70%. With each film costing an average of $7400, this location requirement has brought an estimated $4.9 million to the region in just two years. On top of that the festival itself generated $400,000 in economic development in its first year. And while the numbers aren’t final for this year’s activities, Kallenberg is expecting them to be far higher considering a 20% rise in attendance, more crews visiting from out of town, and three of the five hotels nearby having sold out.
On top of these perks, Kallenberg and company contracted Shreveport food trucks from the likes of Lilah's Bakery, Counter Culture, Salsita's, Po' Boys and Rich Girls to flank their festival space, creating a village vibe flush with local culture and cuisine. A concert called the LA Music Prize kicked off the festivities by showcasing local bands in a competition that was raucous and wildly entertaining. And the VIP lounge was based in Shreveport Regional Art Council's Artspace, which had a kinetic display of print art for visitors to enjoy. So it wasn’t just locally made films that were celebrated here, but local art in many forms.
Finally, the winners of the prizes are given strong incentives to return to Shreveport to shoot. For instance, the $3,000 awarded from the Founder’s Circle is less an outright cash prize than it is financing if the crews shoot locally. Likewise, the $20,000 editing award is actually an editing job, cutting a documentary short to further promote the city's music culture. While some might sneer at the strings attached to these prizes, that’s a pretty cynical viewpoint by my count. Filmmaking is a business about connections and collaboration, and these prizes give filmmakers a bit of both on top of funding. And considering the breadth of genres and stories represented in what I saw this year, Shreveport is a land ripe with great locations, plus an infrastructure already established to aid filmmakers.
Essentially, LA Film Prize is designed to be more than just a destination to get laurels for your film’s credit; it’s intended to build a relationship between talented filmmakers and a community that’s ready and willing to embrace and support them. “We feel we are on the way to creating a film competition that is nationally important,” Kallenberg told me, adding, “If the Film Prize grows off of this year's foundation, there's no stopping us.” After what I saw last weekend, I completely agreed and suspect this model is one that will soon have filmmakers flocking and other fest’s flat-out stealing ideas.
For more on LA Film Prize, check out their website, where you can learn all the rules for entry, as well as read up on all this year’s selected shorts. Below is the trailer for the festival’s big 2013 winner, Silo, which took home the Crosscut Editing Award, a Founder’s Circle Grant, and the Grand Prize:
The winners of Founder’s Circle Grants are Silo, El Gato, Last Call, Lineman, and Red River Ode.
The Top Five films, which will be made available on iTunes and could hit TV through Shorts HD are Silo, Last Call, Lineman, Red River Ode, and Ruby and the Dragon.