The Second Annual Cindependent Film Festival: Celebration, Opportunity, Expression, and Story


People from all over the world gathered in Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine August 29-31 for the second annual Cindependent Film Festival. The festival called the Woodward Theater on Main Street home for a few days, with additional classes, celebrations, and screenplay readings occurring all throughout O.T.R. 

Filmmakers and film-watchers flocked to Cincinnati to see what the film festival had in store this year, many returning after their impactful experience during the festival’s 2018 debut

Thursday night’s fest was a sold-out crowd, likely contributing to the brilliant energy felt on Friday night, when Women of Cincy residents dispersed and interviewed anyone and everyone. The sense of excitement and creativity that hung over the theater bubbled over into the filmmaker’s lounge at the Mini Microcinema.

Reporting by Hayley Champion, Davi Hutchins, Lauren Styczynski, and Olivia Taylor. Photography by Chelsie Walter.

A conversation with Allyson West, founder/director 

Why does Cincinnati need a film festival like this?

So we can further extend the stories that come from people and that we get to share within the people we have here. Our community could benefit from seeing a wide range of perspectives, and artists can benefit from sharing theirs with these other filmmakers.

How can film change Cincinnati?

Film can provide experiences that are outside of somebody's normal world. It's like when you read a book and you get transported to that world; film is a much faster, easily digestible medium. And having that quicker shared connection is important in terms of expanding the things that we do or do not know as individuals.

What's your goal for the film festival next year and beyond?

Ultimately, my goal is to bring people together to talk about new stories. I really love the idea of people having fun coming here, doing this, and making it a space that's accessible for a lot of different people. In the future, I would like to pay all of the people that work really, really hard to make this festival run. 


From the filmmakers: Why does Cincinnati need to see your film?

“It’s a very lighthearted but still meaningful tale about how the current culture of dating and making friends is so disposable. Our film was ‘The Ghosting of Elise Montgomery,’ and it’s her encountering actual ghosts of the people that she has ghosted. For me, being kind of a younger millennial, I thought it was really poignant in that these are real people that you just stop talking to, you cut out of your life, and you don’t know what happens to them. I think it’s a very interesting take on it that makes people think.  After they laugh, it makes them think.”

Chelsea, actor

“My friend Ben and I made a short called ‘My Home, The Promised Land.’ It’s a short about a woman in Appalachia on the day she’s preparing to leave her family, and kind of dealing with that decision.  

“I think it’s a story that doesn’t get put on screen a lot, about dealing with what you want and your dreams and desires versus your responsibilities to family and where you are in life. It’s set in a rural town; I grew up in a rural town; the director, Ben Evory, grew up in a rural town. I feel like a lot of those stories aren’t very prevalent, but there are a lot of those areas around Cincinnati and a lot of people come from that background. I think it’s really important to have that on screen.”

Hannah Blair, filmmaker

We asked the crowd: Why does Cincinnati need this festival?

“It adds a lot of exposure to independent films from throughout not just this region, but the country and the world that we didn’t get before this. It brings in a lot of filmmakers to this area to showcase their films and would be great for the film industry in the city itself. I think it’ll encourage more people to shoot more onsite in this city.”

–Kirk Weber, attendee

“Personally, the longer I’m here, the more I appreciate it. I get to meet a lot of people – and a lot of people I haven’t talked to before, from filmmakers to film lovers. I’ve learned a lot of new things. 

“It’s important for the city because there’s a lot of new connections from people that travel into Cincinnati and it’s important to get people here that have never been here before, but also the messages in the films are incredibly important. People work tirelessly to make sure their films are saying important things. It’s important for people to see films that they can relate to.”

–Worth Allen, volunteer

“The festival is an opportunity for local creatives to feel like they have a network of people to work with, and to collaborate with people who have the same vision. Sometimes I think being in a smaller city like Cincinnati, to many people it can be, ‘Damn this isn't L.A. or New York where the resources are.’ But we have a lot of resources here.”

–Asia, local talent agent

“Seeing [Allyson West], another woman from Cincinnati who is a friend of mine, put on something to this amount, and put on something that has been such a success is mega exciting. It really makes me feel more tangibly that this kind of thing can be accomplished – that you can claim ‘filmmaker’ as a title.”

Biz Young, filmmaker, winner of the Drive Media House Opening Night Film competition, and Women of Cincy columnist

Film can provide experiences that are outside of somebody's normal world.

“I think it’s a way for Cincinnati to show off how artistic and incredible the people in Cincinnati are, and how we can come together to celebrate not only each other as artists but the stories that we tell. It’s a giant family of people.”

–Hannah Blair, filmmaker

“It brings people into the city to share art, film, community, and fun. Because this is a very strong filmmaking community, this is an absolutely perfect place to have a film festival and I hope it just keeps getting smarter.”

–Melissa, filmmaker/attendee

“It gives people from outside the industry a chance to see what can be done here. There was a really great [film block] last night that was all Ohio films… And quite frankly it was some of the best work I’d seen up to that time.”

“I’ve gotten this where I tell people I want to be a filmmaker and many ask, ‘What are you going to do to make money?’ and this says, ‘All right, well, there’s a reality here where we can succeed.'' It's an art, just like painting or anything else. Our work needs an audience, so it’s great to have people come see our work.”
Chris Hagan, filmmaker/volunteer

“No one thinks that any movies are made here, which is not true. Having a film festival [here] can help the reputation of the city, help the outside world take Cincinnati more seriously, and can help bring productions and talent here and keep them here.”

Olga Wagner, filmmaker/volunteer

“It’s an amazing festival that really celebrates the filmmakers and it’s a venue for them to not only share their work but to meet each other and network. And Cincinnati didn’t have that really before, and Allyson and her crew are doing a great job of showing off what Cincinnati can do. Showing the high caliber of work that we do here and the high caliber of people here, and the art and everything… Everyone that I’ve spoken to from out of town has just been blown away with just how impressive Cincinnati is… [This festival is a] great ambassador for our town in general, but this is a filmmaker’s festival; everybody will have kind of a different niche or a different focus, but this is a filmmaker’s festival. And that’s really something.”

Sara Drabik, N.K.U. associate professor of electronic media  and broadcasting/director, NorseMedia

“If you go into the Woodward, you’ll see everybody is talking, and it’s awesome… In an increasingly divided world, something that brings people together to talk and get excited is a really positive thing.”

–Emily Schulz, operations director and volunteer coordinator