‘Open Projector Night’ Draws Filmmakers and Fans

Open Mic Nights are a common enough occurrence at cafes and campuses. But something different has been building buzz around Anchorage. It’s called an Open Projector Night, and it’s an open door into Alaska’s burgeoning film industry.

An audience of over 200 sits in the darkened theatre of the Snow Goose Restaurant. They’re watching the first trailer for Frost Bite, a zombie-flick filmed earlier this year in Talkeetna. Or rather, they’re trying to watch it.

What part of the appeal of your event is a “no pre-screening required” policy, you have to allow for hiccups like a scratched DVD. The organizers soon have a digital copy uploaded and playing, and the evening’s fun continues.

David Turnbull is one of the founders of the Alaska Film Forum, a non-profit organization that aims to promote a sense of community among filmmakers and film enthusiasts in Alaska. Still in its fledgling stages, the organization has partnered with Out North Theatre to produce and exhibit the work of local filmmakers. Turnbull says his job as an organizer is to provide the venue, audience, and opportunity for people to show their work.

“It’s not always easy to get a crowd together to watch your stuff. So we do that part, we do the legwork. It’s a good time!”

Another plus, as far as the organizers see it, is that these events are not competitive. Beth Varner, another founder of AFF, says that’s unusual since most of the opportunities to show films are in competitions. Participants have to get to Open Projector Night early to get their films in the mix, because the evening’s line-up is on a first come, first serve basis. Varner says that makes it more accessible.

“There’s no pre-screening process, there’s not approval process, there’s no ‘are you in or are you out’. It’s show up with a movie and if we have time, we’ll play it.”

The buzz from the first OPN in January worked, because Varner says over one hundred people showed up for the second OPN in April. That success lead AFF’s organizers to where they are now, paying out of their own pockets to rent the Snow Goose theater in order to accommodate a larger crowd. Varner hopes people will enjoy themselves enough to contribute and keep the organization going.

And it looks like a bigger venue was the right idea. This is the largest crowd that an Open Projector Night has pulled in-yet.

The audience whoops as a time traveler kisses the woman he accidentally left behind. She’s aged thirty years while he hasn’t aged at all, but their love has not diminished. And they’re kissing very enthusiastically.

After two hours of films ranging in genre from music videos to sci-fi action to non-traditional romantic comedies, the organizers are starting to wrap up. David Turnbull is already making plans for the next event.

“We’re starting thinking about the next one. The next OPN will be in October. Probably going to have to find a bigger venue again, which is awesome. So if anyone out there is making movies or wants to make movies, we’ll have a screen and we’ll have an audience for you in October.”

The Alaska Film Forum is also planning on branching out into education. But exactly what that would mean for this creative group is unclear. They’re keeping the details to themselves, for now.

Vimeo – Open Projector Night Videos – https://vimeo.com/groups/opn

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Heather Aronno is an intern for APRN for the Spring 2012 semester. She has previously completed an internship for APRN in the summer of 2011, and is Strategic Communications Major at University of Alaska Anchorage. A transplant from the lower 48, Heather has lived in Anchorage, Alaska since the summer of 2005. Fortunately, it was a nice summer, and she's considered Alaska her home ever since.

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