Connecting Communities through Cinema with Indie Street Film Festival
By Eric Lippe
As part of our 50th Anniversary, Monmouth Arts is taking time to showcase some of the nonprofit groups that form the foundation of our creative community. Today, we're checking in with the Indie Street Film Festival (ISFF), an area nonprofit that receives grant funding from Monmouth Arts for its annual festival. We checked in with Allyson Morgan, the organization’s Artistic Director, to learn more about the group and get the inside scoop about what’s ahead for this year’s festival in September.
For those unfamiliar with the Indie Street Film Festival, tell us a bit about your organization.
Indie Street is a regional film and arts festival based in Red Bank that combines its curated film selections with connective community events in order to celebrate human creativity and storytelling. We look for films that voice high impact human stories from across all genres. We hand pick the most resourceful and innovative filmmakers from the U.S. and across the globe to screen and connect with the engaged arts community of Red Bank and the Northeast.
In the last six years, we’ve touted films that have also been official selections/nominees and award winners at Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, Spirit Awards, and the Oscars. The festival was born from a cooperative distribution platform, so it focuses on education and nurturing of our filmmakers through the ever-evolving world of technology, distribution, and audience engagement, regardless of budget size and in spite of restrictive funding.
What kind of value does Indie Street bring to the local art scene?
We bring the best of the year’s independent film to Red Bank, with over 50 films that can’t be seen elsewhere in the region! In addition to screenings, throughout the five-day interactive festival, both filmmakers and attendees enjoy panel discussions, live art, music, education and networking events sponsored by local breweries and restaurants that provide artisanal food and drink for festival goers.
How does this festival impact local filmmakers?
Every year our “New Jersey Shorts” screening block sells out to an enthusiastic crowd. We program films specifically made by New Jersey filmmakers and/or shot in New Jersey to celebrate and honor the community, and award an audience prize to the “Best New Jersey Film” each year. Filmmakers in the community are provided a forum to meet and mingle not just with each other, but with writers, directors, and actors from all over the country.
How have the last few years impacted your festival? How does the near future look?
Like many festivals, we transitioned to a hybrid model of both online screenings and drive-ins, to keep our audiences and artists safe. Although we’re pleased with the accessibility the online platform provided to viewers outside of Red Bank, we’re thrilled to be fully back in person this year, rejoining the community in the screening room.
What should people be looking forward to with this year’s revitalization of the festival?
The quality of films is higher than ever, and emotionally resonant. Everyone collectively experienced pain, trauma, and rebirth over the last two years, and our film program reflects the highs, lows, and everything in between, kicking off with Colin West’s moving and hilarious LINOLEUM, starring Jim Gaffigan, on Opening Night (Wednesday, September 7).
What, in your opinion, sets a film apart from the crowd?
For us, we pay attention to both clarity of storytelling and vision – from documentary to animation – as long as there is a narrative that is compelling, that’s what truly matters. As a programming team, we’re guided by the festival’s ethos of “story over budget.” As long as a film moves us and comes from a place of honesty, we don’t care how much money went into it – we want to show the diversity of the human experience and engage in conversation with audiences about different perspectives.
What have you learned about art or the local scene from your time with Indie Street Film Festival?
There’s an incredibly loyal and supportive community in Red Bank who are hungry for new and independent stories!
For filmmakers and anyone interested in this festival, what do you have to say to them?
Come give us a try! See a film and/or experience an art event or party – you’ll meet great people and have an enriching conversation.
Can you share something about your nonprofit that would surprise people?
If you haven’t yet seen the murals around town with the Indie Street Film Festival logo, look out for them – they were all created by artists and children in the community.
Monmouth Arts has a great network of arts supporters, how can our members and readers get involved with or support the Indie Street Film Festival?
Our submissions have closed for this year, but keep an eye on Film Freeway for 2023, and in the meantime, buy a pass and come out to the festival this year from September 7-11 to meet our staff, filmmakers, and audiences!
Where can people find out more Indie Street?
Interested in becoming a nonprofit member? Join Monmouth Arts today!