Interview with Festival Director Mark Starks (Superhero Short Film Fest)

Come celebrate the 1st Annual Superhero Short Film Fest at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library Auditorium in Midland, MI on Monday April 18, 2016! Superhero Short Film Fest features a Live Screening of the Top 10 Films, followed by a Costume/Cosplay Contest!

Interview with Mark Starks:

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Mark Starks: Our value – and purpose – is to curate, provide imprimatur and thus help shape the culture of the local community by exhibiting quality films from independent filmmakers.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

MS: Highlights of the festival include a special screening of the teaser trailer MALELOVENT, the first US 2-D, hand-drawn animated horror movie, starring Morena Baccarin, William Shatner, Ray Wise, Bill Moseley and Dani Lennon, and LIBERATOR – an award-winning 18-minute short starring Lou Ferrigno as a disgraced, washed-up ex-superhero trying to get his life back on the rails. The film also stars Peta Wilson, Michael Dorn and Ed Asner. We’ll also be screening the first episode of WACKY WALLY’S VINTAGE TOYS!, featuring Wally Wingert, a voice actor and pal-of-mine from Hollywood. Wally was the announcer for the last four years of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The Top 10 selected films embrace a diversity of genres, including comedy, drama, action, and fantasy. We conclude with an open costume/cosplay contest.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

MS: Strong writing is essential, along with acting, directing, editing and sound. Many of the selected films have outstanding special effects. For low-budget films, they really push the envelope. Then there is the obvious element of hero(es) with a problem or goal to give the story drive. Lastly, the audience must believe what each is fighting about.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

MS: I think a lot of great films are overlooked at festivals, due in part to the volume of submissions. But thankfully, with the advent of digital media and the democratization of filmmaking, there are new avenues for the filmmaker to explore, including speciality theaters, VOD, or simply via social media. A film may be may not get a fair shake on the festival route but become the next viral sensation!

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

MS: We are excited to offer a de facto four-wall release for filmmakers through festival-run programs and partnerships above and beyond the event itself. We’re motivated by the terrific support of fans, sponsors and the community.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

MS: The festival has obviously grown tremendously since its inception. There are currently more than 3000 active film festivals worldwide. …and there are many more categories, including experimental, independent and animation. I participated in my first film festival in 1978, in middle school, where I screened my Super-8 animated films. It’s great to see more diversity and support than ever for the independent filmmaker.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

MS: I see more festivals on more screens, along with sponsors and community partners, and continued growth in overall attendance. Look for a record number of guests participating in all of the events the film festival has to offer.

In regards to our festival, we plan to include more activities, including signings and panel discussions. Recently, I was a panelist at Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles. We screened a segment of my motion comic book series, MARTIAN. I was truly impressed by the size and scope of the event.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

MS: Actually, it is the 1966 feature, BATMAN, with Adam West and Burt Ward. As a child, I never missed an episode of the television series. I didn’t see the first run of the film in theaters, but was thrilled to see it for the first time as The ABC Sunday Night Movie. I remember scanning TV Guide back then to see when it would air again. So, as a child, I racked up a lot of viewings of BATMAN – maybe too many. I enjoy seeing the surviving cast members at autograph shows, and even wrote a biography on Johnny Green and the Greenmen, one of the BATMAN guest-stars.

My favorite Hollywood actor is Paul Ganus, a classmate from Midland. It’s a Michigan thing – like Kate Upton and the (Detroit) Tigers.

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

MS: A great story, with engaging characters that you can relate to and root for.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

MS: Thriving! The MATRIX: MIDLAND Festival at Midland Center for the Arts (one of our sponsors) showcases films, and the Chippewa Nature Center is proud to host one of the stops on the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

Mark Starks, Festival Director, is an award-winning writer, author and independent film producer. He is a graduate of Central Michigan University (BAA – Journalism/Broadcasting & Cinematic Arts).


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.


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