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Cover Story

Coming Up Roses

11/7/2012

The film “Just 45 Minutes From Broadway” shows Iowa native Tanna Frederick and “Breakfast Club” star Judd Nelson, will be viewed at this year’s festival. Photo courtesy of Wild Rose Film Festival

FADE IN

INT: AMHERST COLLEGE LECTURE HALL – DAY

PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY addresses the student body. Rows of students sit quietly watching as the President speaks from a small podium.

PRESIDENT KENNEDY

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“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”

CUT TO:

INT: HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT

ALBERT CAMUS sits at a desk typing. Cigarette smoke encircles his head, and the desk light dances in time to the pounding of the typewriter as he works on “The Myth of Sisyphus.”

PAN TO:

The sentence quickly being hammered out on the crisp, white page:                

“Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”

SMASH CUT TO:

HEADSHOT: RAY BRADBURY, addressing the camera.

BRADBURY

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

 

FADE OUT

FADE IN ON EXT: Des Moines, Iowa – Day

Montage of scenes from around the city: Skyline, Nollen Plaza, the State Fair. The NARRATOR speaks in voice-over.

NARRATOR (V/O)

Des Moines is a beautiful place. We’ve got nice people, at least two really great seasons and there’s a lot to do. The most important thing to know about that last point is that so much of the culture and entertainment that Des Moines does well is homegrown. We denizens of the capital city pride ourselves on the things we create. Even events like 80/35 Music Festival or the Des Moines Art Festival, that draw out-of-state talent, are still quintessentially Iowan because of the way in which they serve the community. The boon to local revenue and the word-of-mouth goodwill, spread by people who buzz into town to see our large events, are vital to the tapestry of what makes Des Moines shine. Such events tell the world who we are. Take away the farmers’ market, the local music scene or the State Fair, and suddenly we’re no better off than the uncultured swine of Edina, Minn., or Saint Joseph, Mo. Nobody wants that.                

Just as 80/35 and the World Food Festival serve to celebrate the contribution of local musicians and chefs, for example, while also introducing locals to the world of art around us, the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival exists to sing the Hosannas of film.                

Movies are more than just summer blockbuster, money-making ventures. They are an art form, an expression of self. They can build you up, tear you down, make you laugh or devastate you with emotion.               

More than that, they have the ability to raise the level of discourse on a subject. The simple act of going to see a film in a theater, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with other people who’ve come for the same experience, can be powerful. If the director has done his job, a good film raises questions and encourages discussion. Wild Rose exists to serve that discourse.

CUT TO: INT – Smokey Row – Evening

“I was one of the co-founders of Vaudeville Mews.”                

Kimberly Busbee is a vibrant woman. Sitting at Smokey Row, her face is animated and her voice lively as she discusses what is probably her greatest passion. As an independent filmmaker, casting director, producer, entrepreneur and founder of the Wild Rose Festival, there’s perhaps nobody more invested in, or in tune with, the pulse of independent film in the city.                

“We were doing a lot of different arts (at the Muse): live music; we were directing live theater,” she continued. “I had been making films for some time, and some of my partners were interested in learning filmmaking, and we thought that Des Moines needed to be a base for an international film festival. So we held the first (Wild Rose) at Vaudeville Mews. Then we started to grow and the venue got too small, so we eventually expanded and started going to other venues, including the Fleur Cinema and Café, where we are now.”                

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Wild Rose is the longest, continuously-running, international film festival in the state.               

“There are other festivals that have international entries,” Busbee explained. “But they haven’t been running as long, or they disappeared for a while, then came back. We’ve just kept plugging along every year, for 10 years, and just kept growing.”                

That growth manifests itself in both the number and the quality of submissions. Both of which are testaments to the hard work of Busbee and her staff, including her husband, John. As the festival expanded over the years to involve hundreds of submissions from around the world, it has struck an important balance between celebrating the state’s homegrown film talent and giving Des Moines a look at foreign films it may not see in any other context. Over the seven days of this year’s festival, Wild Rose will screen 15 films either from Iowa or with Iowa ties through directors, writers or actors, in addition to films from Palestine, Syria and the U.K.                

“It’s been really amazing,” Busbee said. “We’ve had filmmakers from all over the world. The U.K., France, we had a guy from Australia — they come from all over. We have a lot of international folks that are interested.              

“Because of the festival’s reputation — it’s got a good reputation among the festival circuit — people that are festival aficionados share the information among themselves,” she continued. “I think that has been the thing that’s really kept us growing at the rate we’ve grown and with the quality of films that we’re getting.”                

Wild Rose garners that interest and word-of-mouth praise thanks to its level of accessibility, as well as the professionalism with which it’s run.                

“They come here for a couple of reasons,” Busbee explained. “One, as filmmakers, they want to get that personal reaction from the audience to their films. And two, they want to get it in a film festival that has a reputation for drawing in a good caliber, so there’s a higher bar for what they’re screening.”                

Even as yearly submissions have climbed into the hundreds, Busbee has continued to maintain that high bar of quality by personally viewing every submission — a process that takes months.                

“With the larger festivals, a filmmaker doesn’t even get the promise that anyone’s going to look at his film, much less that they’re going to get in,” she said. “But I watch them all, every year.”

CUT TO: INT – FLEUR CINEMA AND CAFÉ – DAY

“We went away for a couple years to try (another venue),” Busbee said. “Then we came back because the Fleur was the best home for this festival.”                

It’s clear to see why. The Fleur is run by people who love film, and it exists to serve people who feel the same. Catering mostly to arthouse films and Hollywood pictures that are doomed — for one reason or another — to limited releases, coupled with the venue’s selection of wine, coffee and cheesecakes, the Fleur is nirvana for Des Moines’ cinephiles. So the pairing with Wild Rose was a natural one.               

“John Peterson (Fleur manager) — there’s nobody nicer than that guy,” Busbee effused. “He’s so knowledgeable. He’s studied film himself, so he knows his stuff. His staff has always been very supportive and flexible working with us, very willing to try new things and be there for us when we’re experimenting.”                

Busbee is always on the lookout for ways to keep the festival fresh and innovative, and the staff at the Fleur has gone to great lengths to accommodate.               

“Last year we had an interactive workshop where we had to hook up the screen with a computer, and they helped us out with that. They’re just good people.”             

Kimberly Busbee with 2011 Wild Rose keynote presenter, director Randall Kleiser (“Grease,” “The Blue Lagoon”). Photo courtesy of Wild Rose Film Festival

   

The aesthetics don’t hurt either. Busbee revels in the opportunity to show off a venue that locals have known and loved for years, and for good reason.                

“Of course, the venue itself is very hip,” Busbee said. “When people come from out of state and out of the country, they are like, ‘Wow!’ ”

CUT TO: INT – Fleur projection room – EVENING

Camera overlooks a theater full of people. Narrator speaks in V/O

This year’s Wild Rose runs from Nov. 8 – 15 and will screen 43 films ranging from high school and college short films to documentaries to international, feature-length submissions. Nearly two-thirds of the films are under an hour in length, with many of those being less than 30 minutes. But while the screenings are certainly the meat and potatoes of the festival, they are far from the only things to do.                

“We always have a filmmakers’ panel, usually on the same day as the awards, which is Saturday,” Busbee explained. “We invite all the filmmakers to come in and engage in a very collaborative discussion. Sometimes I guide the discussion; sometimes we find the subject based on who’s attending or what’s the most interesting topic for that group of people. We also have workshops for actors, filmmakers and directors.”                

This year’s workshop will be run by veteran character film actor Tom Bower. Bower has 150 acting credits to his resume, which includes films like “Die Hard 2,” “Pollack,” “Crazy Heart” and “The Hills Have Eyes.” In addition, Bower has been a long-time, tireless champion of independent film and the festivals that support them. He was recently recognized with a Lifetime Achievement honor from the Syracuse International Film Festival in 2011. Bower also had a hand in creating SAGindie, an organization devoted to ensuring that independent filmmakers can work outside the confines of the Hollywood system but still have access to professional Screen Actors Guild talent.                

Character actor Tom Bower will be this year’s keynote speaker and workshop
director. Photo courtesy of Wild Rose Film Festival.

And he’s in three of the films screening at this year’s Wild Rose Film Festival, making him the perfect choice for the anniversary celebration keynote address on the Filmmakers Panel, in addition to leading the acting workshop.                

“(Tom’s) teaching a really interesting workshop this year,” Busbee said. “He wants us to pick a scene from a film that’s connected to (the festival). The people in the workshop will then be assigned roles, quickly memorize this three-minute scene, work on it and then shoot it. Then we’ll take a two-hour break while (we) do the editing and bring them back as fully-edited scenes. Then we can see maybe six versions of the same scene, and compare them to the finished version of the actual film and see how people’s interpretations vary.”               

For local filmmakers and actors, this kind of hands-on experience coming from someone with such an extensive background is rare and valuable.                

“I’m an acting coach,” Busbee continued, “So, to me, this is really interesting, because you’re not only getting the acting instruction, but you’re also getting an idea of how to work within a very tight timeline like you often have in film. Often you’re given a script and thrown in with somebody you’ve never met, and all of a sudden you have to make magic.”                

It’s a combination that Busbee thinks students of film will find invaluable.                

“You’ll get the theory, but then you’ll also get the application there as well,” she said.

CUT TO: EXT – Arial shot of Des Moines – DAY

Like all good patrons of the arts, Busbee sees herself as a steward. For her, Wild Rose is as much a way to grow the future of Iowa film as it is to showcase its present.                

“We’re very big on trying to foster emerging filmmakers,” She said. “It’s fun, because here you not only get to see all these new works, but if you keep following some of these people as they develop, suddenly they’re very well known, and you’ve watched them grow.”                

In addition to industry veterans like Bower, whose career was already established by the time he first came to Des Moines, Busbee has a laundry list of actors, screenwriters and directors who’ve cut their teeth at Wild Rose before going on to successful careers.                

“One of the filmmakers from our very first year was Sam Friedlander,” she explained, lighting up with pride. “He won a short film award that year, and he ended up going to L.A. and was on Steven Spielberg’s filmmakers’ competition, ‘On The Lot,’ where he made it into the top three. He’s a very well-known guy now in independent film, and he started as a student filmmaker at the Wild Rose.”                

But more than serving as just a waypoint or launching pad for independent filmmakers, Busbee has plans for Wild Rose that would further increase its value and importance in the world of film.                

“We haven’t officially turned it into a distributor’s market yet,” she said. “I’d like to do that. I know that there have been distributors that have come before, because I’ve run into them. But that’s something I’d really like to develop. I’d like to see us turn it into a film market as well, because without distribution, you don’t get your film seen.                

“You have a love/hate relationship with film distribution as an independent filmmaker, because they can get your film places where you can’t, but they control so much of (the process),” she continued. “Give the power back to the filmmakers. We’d love to do that.”               

But, as with any artistic patronage, continued expansion and development of Wild Rose is dependent upon the support of Des Moines’ art lovers.                

“It’s really important to get the moral support from the community and the physical turnout to keep it going,” Busbee cautioned.                

She’s confident that if people give the festival a chance, the quality of the product on the screen will ensure they stick around.                

“You can’t go wrong, because they’re all really high-quality films,” she said. “What’s happening now is a lot of these directors are making these short films as calling cards to raise money for features. So they’re doing gangbusters in terms of production value and original music, shooting on top-notch equipment, all to have that high value so that people don’t see a huge disparity between this and what they see (from Hollywood).                

“A lot of it is unvarnished,” she continued. “It’s not a formula. It’s a vision of a very small core creative team.”                

She smiles at the thought.                

“Something about a film festival is so exciting for that reason,” she buzzed. “You see politically and socially what’s going on. The pulse of the world is there.”

FADE TO BLACK. CV

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