Staycation: Indie Films

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CLEVELAND -- Some of Hollywood’s hottest movies are hitting theaters this summer, but some say the even hotter ticket is in Northeast Ohio, with independent films.

“Cleveland is booming now as a filmmaking town,” said filmmaker Todd Kwait. “We have movies being shot here all the time. Not everything needs to be a 220 million dollar motion picture. Some of the younger artists come from independent pictures.”

For those who want to explore all that film has to offer, independent film festivals may offer the most for your buck, said Kristina Michelle, who helps organize the Horror Hotel and The Indie Gathering.

“They don’t realize that’s right outside their back doors,” said Michelle, who’s also an independent film actress. “There’s constantly films being made all over the country. You hear about the big ones, but you never hear about the little stuff.”

At the festivals, you can expect to watch a mix of features, documentaries and short films — many of which you won’t see in theaters — but you will get to meet the people who made them.

“You’re picking from this plethora of movies and the people who made them are right there, just dying to get their feedback and wanting to hear from the audiences,” Michelle said. “It’s a really good opportunity.”


The Ohio Independent Film Festivals features dozens of films made from around the world. The festival runs from May 17 to 20, and is located at several locations in Cleveland, including local cafes.

“People can enjoy wine, food when they’re watching the film,” Kwait said. “We actually have a film about wine tasting and we’re serving wine at that particular film.”

Kwait, who’s directed three films, will have his latest documentary on folk music featured on Sunday, May 20, at the Beachland Ballroom.

People can purchase individual program tickets for $10.

For more information about the Ohio Independent Film Festival, go to


The first-ever Horror Hotel is a great time for anyone looking for a good scare, Michelle said.

The one-day event will have workshops, guest speakers, movie screenings, a scream queen contest and film scoring competitions.

“There’s FX haunted rooms, where these makeup artists are basically going to be doing these mini haunted houses, like horror scenes, where you can just walk in and the actors are all made up,” Michelle said. “You can see them actually doing the makeup and that’s one of the unique things, you can see it all from start to finish.”

For more information about Horror Hotel, go to


"From August 17 to 19, movie buffs can head to The Indie Gathering, which will also feature workshops, speakers, acting contests, a celebrity party and more,” said Ray Szuch, director of both Horror Hotel and The Indie Gathering.

“It’s all about bringing everyone together,” Szuch said. “If you’re going to an audition, you’re in a subordinate position, but when you go to a film festival, you’re talking to producers and directors, and you’re talking to them from one person to another. We have the networking parties and the night clubs at the hotel.”

While Horror Hotel and The Indie Gathering may attract to those hoping to break into the business, Szuch said the festivals are bringing programs to appeal to a broader audience.

“If you had any questions or idea about independent films, this is where they’re all answered,” he said. “How tos: how to get into the stunt business, how to take a specialty you have and turn it to film, how to enter the acting world. There’s so much for everyone.”

For more information about The Indie Gathering, to go


For those who can’t make it to the various festivals this summer, Michelle said there are many others that stagger throughout the year.

Michelle also said people should consider attending a local film club, like the Cleveland Indie Club. The club meets to watch films, network and socialize. Meetings typically last three to four hours.

Indie Club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month. Meeting locations can vary. For more information, go to

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