By Jennifer Sadler
To get an insight into the local filmmaking industry, GCAC recently interviewed Vidas Barzdukas, vice president of MOFA, or the Mid-Ohio Filmmakers Association. Vidas currently works as a writer and editor specializing in educational publishing, magazine publishing, television and film. He also works as a writer for the sci-fi web series Aidan 5 (www.aidan5.com), which has been nominated for several IAWTV (International Academy of Web Television) Awards in Las Vegas, NV.
GCAC: Tell us about MOFA and the role you play in the organization.
VB: MOFA is a non-profit organization that provides networking opportunities for filmmakers and artists in Central Ohio. We do this by allowing filmmakers a platform to meet and exchange ideas, resources, and opportunities. Our goal is to educate local filmmakers in all aspects of filmmaking (such as producing, writing, directing, etc.), and to provide them with opportunities to practice their art. MOFA was founded in 2008, and I’m currently the Vice-President.
GCAC: How are you involved in the world of filmmaking? How did you get into it?
VB: My background was actually in theatre. I was a theatre major at the Loyola University of Chicago, and my goal was to become a professional actor. However, as time went on, I realized I was more passionate about writing than performing. After I graduated, I got together with some friends, who were also theatre majors, and we decided to shoot a short film. Fortunately, the short film appeared in numerous festivals and on American and Asian television networks, including PBS station in Chicago and San Francisco. So, these experiences kind of did it for me. Today, I make a living as a writer and work on various television and film projects.
GCAC: Columbus is trying to do more to lure major films to Columbus for location shooting. What do you think about this idea?
VB: I think this is a great idea. Not only would it provide an economic boost and point the spotlight on our own film industry, but more important, it would provide invaluable opportunities to local filmmakers. We have a lot of talented professional filmmakers in Columbus. They work on everything from national commercials to low-budget features. However, very few have the experience you’d get working on a big-budget feature film. Right now, filmmakers in Columbus don’t have as many opportunities to work on feature films like filmmakers do in Cleveland or Cincinnati. And a great way to gain that experience (other than moving to LA) is by working on a professional film shot here. In a perfect world, these professional opportunities will trickle down to the local artists and provide people with invaluable opportunities to practice and hone their craft. In addition, the tax incentives offered by Cleveland and Cincinnati are important, and Columbus should definitely implement some of its own.
GCAC: As you know, the Greater Columbus Film Commission was recently funded $100K from the City of Columbus. What kind of impact do you think this will have for the Columbus area film industry – for artists and opportunities?
VB: When you’re a filmmaker, a major hurdle can be funding. Even a low-budget film can cost around $10,000. I would love to see the money to trickle down to local artists to practice their craft. I know I keep reusing that phrase, (practice their craft) but that’s really what it comes down to. A photographer needs money to buy a camera. A painter needs money to buy brushes and paint and canvas. A filmmaker needs money for equipment, locations, etc. I’m excited to see how the GCFC will support the talented artists in the community; including the filmmakers.
GCAC: How about some thoughts on the local scene these days. What’s happening? How have things grown and improved over the past several years?
VB: From my perspective, the local scene is pretty exciting and inspiring. There are several shorts and low-budget features currently in production, including Jim Leo’s “Dark Fate” and Max Groah’s horror-comedy “Bong of the Living Dead.” There are also several popular web series produced right here in Columbus, including Two Doors Down and Aidan 5, which was nominated for several International Academy of Web Television Awards in Las Vegas the past two years. There’s also the Telly Winner and Emmy nominated Framelines, a PBS show that focuses on filmmaking in Ohio. (I can go on and on.)
There’s also the 48 Hour Film Festival that’s held every year. It’s a film contest where groups have 48 hours to make a film. To show how things have improved over the past several years, the 48 Hour Film Festival has only been in Columbus for only six years, and we’ve already had two films go on to the Cannes Film Festival. This is in comparison to much larger cities, where the 48 HR Film Festival has been around for decades and they’ve never had films go on to Cannes. So the talent is here. We need to support it!
GCAC: Any events for MOFA coming up that you’d like to share?
VB: MOFA is continuing to expand. Right now, we have more than 1,500 members, and more people are joining every day. Last year we held a three day film contest called ‘3 Days of Terror’ —filmmakers had three days to make a horror movie. We followed it up earlier this year with ‘3 Day Crime Wave.’ The response from both filmmakers and the local community was fantastic. In fact, the audience doubled for the second contest, which really shows the support we’re getting from the local community. So we’re doing another ‘3 Days of Terror’ this October, along with a few other film projects in the coming months. Like I mentioned earlier, one of MOFA’s goals is to provide filmmakers with a platform to practice their art, and film contests and festivals are a great way to achieve that end.
If you want to find out more about MOFA, visit our website at www.midohiofilm.com. You can also find us on Facebook. MOFA meets at the Gateway Film Center (1550 N. High St.) the second Wednesday of each month at 8pm. So if anyone is interested in checking us out and finding out what’s happening in the local film community, come on out!
To learn more about Vidas Barzdukas’ own creative endeavors, check out his profile in the ColumbusArts.com Artist Directory. Are you a local artist? Sign up for your free profile at ColumbusArts.com/artists/ today! Upload images, videos, mp3s and more. Share upcoming events and your contact information so those interested in your work or resources you have to offer can contact you easily through your profile.
For filmmakers and other artists looking for grants to help with projects, check out GCAC’s Professional Development and Supply Grants, offered on a monthly basis.