The Stranger Days Independent Film Festival is an annual event celebrating the art of truly independent cinema in Charlotte, North Carolina. Showcasing the contributions of independent filmmakers from all around the world, with a strong emphasis on locally and regionally produced short films from the Carolinas, the Stranger Days Independent Film Festival strives to build community and establish positive connections by offering an outlet to artists often overlooked by the mainstream, and providing viewers with an interactive experience in a diverse environment that is both welcoming and inclusive for all people from all walks of life.
Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?
I think it’s really giving a voice to independent filmmakers, as well as a legitimate outlet to showcase their work. We are independent filmmakers ourselves, so we know all too well how difficult it can be for independent filmmakers out there. That’s honestly why we created this film fest to begin with, to showcase these hidden gems that so often get overlooked, and I really think we’re succeeding at that.
2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?
Every time I attend any film festival, I always expect to see a wide variety of films I can’t see anywhere else; be that at a theater or streaming online somewhere. I truly feel like we accomplish that, as do so in an environment that is both relaxed and fun for our audiences.
3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?
Every film submitted absolutely MUST be an independent film, and I mean truly independent. We do not accept any films with major studio backing, huge budgets, or big stars. Additionally, every film submitted must not already have wide VOD distribution such as Amazon, Netflix, VuDu, or anything like that. Also, if it’s a local film produced in the Carolinas, we also have a special category just for those films, and thus give a selection preference to them, seeing as how we’re located in Charlotte and always like to support local filmmaking.
4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?
Absolutely. In fact, that’s a big part of why we started the Stranger Days Independent Film Fest to begin with. Far too often great films are being rejected by tons of film festivals out there because they’re either too low-budget, don’t have the exact right run-time, or don’t have the star-power behind them to entice some sort of celebrity appearance or something like that. Lots of times a short film, for example, isn’t long enough to fit into a feature film category, but isn’t short enough to fit into some rapid-fire block of 10-15 minutes or less, so these really great stories that happen to run in that so-called ‘unacceptable’ window of 20-45 minutes can’t even get in the door at most festivals because said festivals don’t make a place for them to be.
5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?
Honestly, a ton of film festival rejections and a handful of really hurtful anonymous comments is probably my biggest motivator personally. Again, we’re filmmakers ourselves, and know exactly how it feels to have something you’re really proud of that can’t seem to find anywhere to screen and be seen by an actual audience. So, we decided to create a place locally for all of those toiling away in the so-called underground.
6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?
FilmFreeway has been wonderful to us. It’s a fantastic platform to not only accept and process our submissions, but with the ability to download files, organize, and most of all promote your listing to filmmakers all around the world. We work exclusively with FilmFreeway, and will continue to do so for as long as they’ll have us.
7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?
I honestly never look that far into the future, as I tend to live in the moment, but I don’t see any scenario where were not still going strong, and still offering our event to filmmakers out there. We’ve got an outstanding venue that works with us, with an excellent layout, top-notch equipment, and a great atmosphere that’s with us for the long haul, so I don’t see us going anywhere any time soon.
8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I think as far as live screenings, I’ve got to say The Rocky Horror Picture Show, mostly because I do a lot of conventions and film festival events across the country and that one tends to run a lot. At home on my own, probably a tie between Pulp Fiction, Richard Linklater’s SubUrbia, and Mulholland Drive. Of course, this is just a total guess, because I watch and re-watch a ton of films.
9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?
A really great story that leaves you feeling something after you’ve seen it.
10) How is the film scene in your city?
Much better than it gets credit for. Charlotte has a wonderful film scene, and a ton of super creative, hardworking people that really strive to make the best art they possibly can. Sure, there are a lot of filmmakers around here that just seem to be more interested in cranking out one good thing so they can leave and head off to Hollywood or Atlanta, but there’s a lot more who are dedicated to creating and sustaining some great stuff right here in North Carolina, and those are the ones I’m interested in.
Dave Harlequin is an award-winning independent filmmaker and professional writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the Creative Director and Lead Screenwriter of A Stranger Concept Films and has to date written and produced over a dozen films, with many winning multiple awards throughout the film festival and convention circuits. His most recent short film, CLOSING TIME, is currently touring the festival circuit and has thus far won several awards and nominations, with plans to join some of his other work on Amazon Prime. Outside of filmmaking, Harlequin is also a professional journalist and currently serves as Editor in Chief of digital fandom culture and entertainment publication Nerd Nation Magazine. When he’s not making films and writing, Harlequin enjoys cooking, gaming, and hanging out with his dog.