Any new venture provides a chance to gauge what works and what doesn’t. At least that’s how it’s going for Sara McDermott Jain, a wife, mother, filmmaker, and screenwriter who took on the challenge of turning her love of movies into running a one-woman, self-financed indie film festival in Princeton last year.
Now Prindie or PrindieFest, as the Princeton Independent Film Festival is called, is back for its second year, new and improved thanks to the lessons Jain learned the first time around. Its slogan,“to make the unseen scene,” remains the same.
The main challenge the Princeton-based movie lover had to face was self-financing the event, she admits. So this year she scaled back from three days to two, from multiple venues for screenings to a single location — the Nassau Inn on Palmer Square — and ticket prices that range from $10 single admission per film to a bargain all-festival pass priced at $75. This year’s awards party won’t cost $25 as it did last year, but a voluntary $5 contribution is encouraged for the Friday, September 30, event that begins at 10:30 p.m. Like last year, the competing films were chosen from 80 entries.
Jain is also seeking sponsorship for Prindie as a means of keeping costs down. And she could use some volunteers to help at Prindie.
Jain lists some added features for this year’s film fest which will run Thursday and Friday, September 29 and 30:
First, a still image contest exclusive to filmmakers who submitted in 2015 or 2016. They send in a still image from their films and whichever image gets the most votes on Prindie’s website, likes on Facebook, and Twitter will win $50 at the awards party. “The contest is live on the website and hundreds of votes have already poured in,” she says. “I wish I’d hired someone just to handle these votes!”
Second is the bonus of viewing online shorts. “There are 12 short films that will play via our website as the fest goes on. Only those who attend screenings will get the passwords to view these shorts at home.”
And finally there are featured filmmakers. “Time is so tight in the fest; we can’t schedule everything we want. So for those filmmakers who did incredible work but didn’t make the lineup (in one case, missing out by just .04 of a point!), we take an entire month to feature them individually on our website in the year after the fest. This year, we’ve selected 10.”
Jain, who is the daughter of two teachers, promises a more diverse selection of films, including those from 12 different countries, some from New Jersey, and a 3-D entry.
Filmmakers will be attending and doing live Q & As throughout the awards ceremony, which includes trophies for all winners, plus cash prizes for the Still Image Contest, Best Short ($100), and Best Feature ($500).
Jain has also invited members of Princeton University’s Association of Black Women and its Student Union to attend the September 30 screening of “Beautiful Me!,” a film that examines the need for black beauty to be included in culture. The film’s director will also attend.
Prindie’s mix of feature-length, short, and documentary works will be spread through nine bunchings of films.
Independent films have emerged in Hollywood, first as quiet voices, now as voices that roar through the tangle of legal papers, lawyers, and overpaid actors who worry more about the bottom dollar than they do the quality of their film. And films on the Princeton festival reflect that. There is the short environmental documentary, “The Call from the Sea,” that thoughtfully examines the link between the nomadic Bajau of Indonesia and the ocean; “Deadpoint,” a thriller about a killer, a dead body in the woods, and a female hiker (it promises 26 minutes of chills); and films dealing with single male parents, an alien encounter, a lesbian wedding, lovers whose feelings change, and even an apartment break-in.
A graduate of Immaculata University in Malvern, Pennsylvania, where she studied English, Jain won an award at the Williamsburg International Film Festival for her short film “Chance” and to have her feature length screenplay, “Left,” about an aspiring pianist who loses her left arm, bought by Gaddis Visuals. It is now in post-production.
Jain came to film indirectly. Thanks to a theater study program, she made her first feature-length film by her senior year. She received a master’s degree in publishing and writing from Emerson College in 2004 and worked in international marketing at Perseus Books Group for a number of years before committing more time to making films. Her husband, Ajit Jain, is an analyst for Iconic Capital.
Inspired to create a film festival after being stuck at home watching movies following the birth of her son, Nicholas, two years ago, Jain savored the idea of recommending films to a whole town.
Thursday, September 29: 6:30 p.m., the short “Paper Wrap Fire” and documentary “Daddy Don’t Go”; 8:30 p.m., 3D short “Back Track” by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Virgil Widrich, short film “Foreign Sounds,” and the feature film “Some Freaks.”
Friday, September 30: 9 a.m., Foreign Films; 11 a.m., Short Films; 1:30 p.m., “Afternoon at the Movies” with feature film “Lonely Boys”; 3:30 p.m., environmental documentaries; 5:15 p.m., screening and Q&A for films “Black Beauty in the White Gaze” and “Beautiful Me!”; 7 p.m., “Friday Night Feature” with “42 Seconds of Happiness”; and 9 p.m., “The Thriller Hour.” Award ceremony and raffle, 10:30 p.m.
Princeton Independent Film Festival, Nassau Inn, 10 Palmer Square East, Princeton. www.prindiefest.com