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First Clearwater Film Festival is Sept. 29-Oct. 3


People look for all sorts of ways to survive when they lose a job these days: launch a business, move in with family, join the military and so forth.

But start your own film festival?

That's what Clearwater resident Mike Rembis did after his job in the direct-mail business was eliminated. "As soon as I found myself unemployed, I started this film festival and threw all my money into it," said Rembis, 46.

Now, $40,000 later, he is the executive director of the inaugural Clearwater Film Festival, which runs Wednesday through Oct. 3 at a variety of venues. It's dedicated to the talents of the triple-threat filmmaker: one who can act, direct and produce.

The flick fest mimics the format of the larger, established cinematic events with plenty of indie films, parties, a picnic and panels of experts.

Rembis figures he has the expertise to pull it off.

"I've entered 20 film festivals in the past," he said.

He has been active in community theater, produced three small-budget films and written 10 screenplays, although he says none has sold so far.

Seventy-two films are ready for screening (out of 200 submissions from all over the world), and 13 trophies will be awarded.

So grab your party hats and film badges and head into the Hollywood sunset, Clearwater-style.

Badges and tickets

Film fans who really want to fest it up can buy a film badge online before the Monday midnight cutoff. (Festival organizers need time to create the badges.)

All four levels provide unlimited access to educational forums with industry pros. Supporting cast and director badges are also available at the Largo Cultural Center box office.

Supporting Cast: $35 buys four tickets to movie screenings and entrance to the Sunday afternoon picnic at Largo Central Park.

Director: $75 nets six tickets to movie screenings and admission to four Friday night bashes at various locales on Clearwater Beach, all featuring live music.

Associate Producer: For $125, attend Friday night bashes, the Sunday afternoon picnic and have unlimited access to all films. Includes two reserved seating tickets.

Producer: $350 will gain entry into Wednesday's opening night gala, the Friday parties, the Saturday awards luncheon and Sunday picnic. Producers receive an all-access pass and three reserved-seat tickets.

Also, single tickets to films can be purchased online for $10 each before the Monday midnight deadline. If they are not sold out, they will be available at the door.

The venues

Film screenings are at Clearwater Cinema Cafe, the Capitol Theatre and Largo Cultural Center.

The flicks

More than 30 screeners scored films and selected 72. The longer ones will be shown individually and some of the shorter versions have been combined for a total of 40 screenings, each between 1 and 21/2 hours long.

Categories include short, feature, documentary and animation. Those chosen come from Florida and elsewhere in the United States, as well as Spain, Australia, Italy, China, New Zealand and Argentina.

"What surprised us was the number of films dealing with the issue of battered women," Rembis said. "Thirty of the 200 films submitted dealt with that topic."

Other themes explore China's emergence as a global superpower, our dependence on foreign oil and the mountain people of Appalachia.

Social issues dominate.

In Walking with Life: the Birth of a Human Rights Movement in Africa, director Kenny Mann focuses on how human rights education is helping end traditions like forced early marriage and female circumcision.

Absent is a documentary by Justin Hunt that unveils how a father's absence can affect not only his children and community, but society itself.

Mickey Newman's Night People is about a man who, locked out of his apartment one evening, encounters the homeless, prostitutes and other street drifters.

Lighter topics also made the cut.

Director Diane Mason searches for the truth of her family legend. Did her ancestors really bring the bullfrog to Kentucky?

Dunedinites may enjoy The Silent Realm, a journey into villages to find Scotland's famous stones of strength that mark the passage from youth to manhood.

"Whether they scare or delight, the films are entertaining and well-done," Rembis said. "If people attend all the documentaries, they will really get an education."

Got a Diversions idea? Contact Terri Bryce Reeves at

If you go

What: The inaugural Clearwater Film Festival, produced by Mike Rembis, features 72 films, a plethora of parties and educational panels led by industry experts.

When: Wednesday through Oct. 3, at various times.

Where: Film screenings are at Clearwater Cinema Cafe, 24095 U.S. 19 N; the Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St. in downtown Clearwater; and at Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive. The parties are at a variety of locations, and the Sunday picnic is at Largo Central Park. Educational forums with industry professionals are at the Holiday Inn at Clearwater Beach.

Film badges: Available online through midnight Monday for $35 to $350 each. Supporting cast and director's badges are available at the Largo Cultural Center box office. Call (727) 587-6751 for hours.

Tickets: Tickets to individual films are $10 each and are also available online through Monday at midnight. If not sold out, single tickets can be purchased at the door.

For tickets and more: Visit theclearwater or call (727) 599-5137.

First Clearwater Film Festival is Sept. 29-Oct. 3 09/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 23, 2010 8:37pm]
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