The Inaugural Cindependent Film Festival: A Celebration of Story


Thank you for joining us in celebrating independent film in Cincinnati! Explore our female filmmaker series in collaboration with the Cindependent Film Festival here.

Reported by Sandra Okot-Kotber. Photography by Chelsie Walter.

“Independent film is so special because you see people’s stories,” said Allyson West, founder of the Cindependent Film Festival. “You see the real stories, which are sometimes more powerful than the things that you might be going to see in a cinema or larger plex of films.

“Cincinnati, you coming here to support this means all the world to us because this is a first-year festival. Without you, we can’t have amazing storytellers like these people here in the city, and we want to showcase these stories. So even though you’re coming to just potentially have a good time, you’re doing so much more than that for these people and for us, and we’re going to continue doing this in the city.”

The inaugural Cindependent Film Festival at the Woodward Theater took over Main Street in OTR for three days straight from August 23 to August 25. Filmmakers from around the globe came to see what an independent festival in southwest Ohio was cooking up.

The lineup boasted many local creators, many of whom were celebrated in the festival’s opening night shorts, all of which were made in Ohio. This first chapter of a fascinating story initiated by West and her incredible crew proved to be worth the time and effort, according to not only filmmakers but festival-goers and the event’s staff alike.

D. Lynn Meyers, Masterclass: Indie Film Casting

D. Lynn Meyers is a casting guru having worked for networks like CBS, HBO, BBC, and Paramount on films like “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Miles Ahead.” The afternoon of August 24, she coached pupils on her craft in the realm of independent films and shared advice to actors in the class: “Work begets work. It’s about making yourself available. The thing to remember is that we’re on your side. We want you to be good... You have a gift, and the world needs you. You’re not in competition with anyone for your goodness.”

Julia Hilder, Producer of “Any Wednesday”

During the closing night’s Q&A segment, “Any Wednesday” producer, Julia Hilder, shared the inspiration behind the short. The film told the story of a young black veteran man and an elderly white woman as they cross paths and form an unlikely bond. The film is based on a true story.

“The one person whose idea it was to do ‘Any Wednesday’ is not here tonight: my 83-year-old mother [Allie Light], who is the writer and the director of the film. She’s had a long career; 40 years she was a documentary filmmaker with my stepfather – her husband – and they won a lot of great awards. My stepfather passed away five years ago and my mother went through her own grief of the loss of her husband, and so she picked up a pen and she started writing. She wrote four short stories on grief and desire in old age. Not too many people talking about that when they get old and being able to make a movie about it. So that was her inspiration for being able to write ‘Any Wednesday.’”

Nicole Lee, “Warrior Moms”

Nicole Lee is a Jane of all trades. The author, podcast host, and founder of local nonprofit Warrior Moms is now able to add filmmaker to her resume. Cindependent was officially the first festival where the People’s Liberty grantee screened the film. She partnered with Women of Cincy team member Christine Schrum, whom she met through People’s Liberty, to bring her empowering organization to a medium where outsiders could look in on her work with single moms living in poverty. Lee and Schrum initially intended to create a three-minute video to cast a light on Warrior Moms, but they soon realized it needed a bigger stage and was better suited for a documentary format. “It was part of my journey,” she explained.

Mark Hood, Director of “Hardface”

“I really thought that I would just make a story that was simple, sort of like three young fighters making their way through the tough times and trying to reach their dreams. So that’s kind of what my original idea was. But once I went to Falcone’s gym, Northside Boxing, that’s when I saw there’s more to it than that.”

Richard “Hardface” Mason wasn’t knocked down during a single fight in his professional boxing career. The Cincinnatian grew up fighting at Northside Boxing Club, creating a legacy and now a documentary produced and directed by Mark Hood. Shot on a film camera over the course of a few years, Hood eloquently spotlighted the historic boxing gym and fighters coached by Hardface and the Falcone family who owned the club. The feature played closing night in the prime slot.

“There’s actually a history and you’re kind of tied to the history when you’re a current fighter because the guy who’s training you, Hardface, he’s been there…” Hood shared with us. “That’s like a fabric that is woven over many years and so... I knew that if I didn’t make a story about this gym, it would be lost.”

Monika Petrillo, Writer/Director of “WINK”

German native Monika Petrillo is well versed in the world of film. She’s been both behind and in front of the camera for years, but has found a comfortable and befitting spot writing and directing. “WINK,” a short film about a housewife living a bland, lonely life discovering a shock of consciousness through a goldfish, took home Cindependent’s award for Best Comedy. The script was written in about two and a half hours after she took a road trip through Death Valley with her 70-year-old godmother.

Petrillo has shown the film at 17 different festivals and she notes that the reaction always varies: “Sometimes everybody laughs right from the beginning. Sometimes people are not quite sure what to make of it and then they kind of start hesitantly chuckling; there’s a certain discomfort, I think, that comes when you’re not sure what’s going to happen. People sat in a theater of 250 people and it was dead silent and you hear a couple of people like, ‘No, don’t do it! Don’t get in! Oh my god!’ which always makes me really happy because people are really engaged and in with her, you know?”

Jack Crumley, Press Producer of Cindependent Film Festival

Jack Crumley and West met through mutual friends and bonded over a love of theater. Last year, she approached him and recruited him to start a screenwriting podcast with her.

”It was right around that point I realized there’s certain people that do things, and I have no problem saying I am just going to hitch my wagon to her star and let her just drag me all over the sky,” Crumley said of West.

Last winter, West shared another dream and asked Crumley to come aboard to do press for a film festival she wanted to create for Cincinnati’s independent filmmakers, which ultimately became Cindependent.

Pearl Gluck, Director of “Summer”

Pearl Gluck wrote, produced, and directed “Summer,” a short film about two adolescent girls who explore sexuality at a Hasidic camp. Gluck traveled from University Park, Pennsylvania, to screen the film. The trip had to have been worth it; it took home the festival’s award for Best Drama. Even before taking home the trophy, Gluck couldn’t stop raving about her experience in Cincinnati:

“This might be my 30th or maybe more [film festival]. I’ve been making films for a number of years. This is the first film festival I’ve been to that’s in its first year that has been so rockin’. I can’t even believe how [West] pulled this together. The second I walked in, I instantly felt the energy. The energy and feeling is very filmmaker-focused but with an appreciation that film-goers need to feel as if they’re a part of it, too. So, it’s like, ‘Come to the party!’ It’s welcoming, so you don’t feel like you don’t fit in. As a filmmaker, I feel really respected and appreciated and taken care of.”

On the subject of women working in the film industry, Gluck said, “There is a shift, an attempt to make a shift, and it is working. I think when you come to a festival like this you can tell that there’s an openness and they’re not even trying. And that’s what you want.”

An extensive range of films were featured throughout the weekend: Animated family films, “off kilter” shorts, heart-wrenching and thought-provoking documentaries, and belly-laugh comedies were all represented. After screening blocks, the charismatic West treated audience members to Q&As with the filmmakers featuring prompts such as, “I want to talk about the moment where you knew that you couldn’t not tell this story.”

At neighboring businesses such as The Mini Microcinema, Aster, and MOTR Pub, we gathered to dance, mingle, witness screenplay readings, and learn from industry veterans such as D. Lynn Meyers.