By Rachel Harris staff writer
Melbourne dermatologist and part-time filmmaker Terry Cronin had such a good time at his first film festival, he decided to start his own.
Four years later, the Melbourne Independent Film Festival is still going strong, kicking off tonight at the Henegar Center for the Arts and drawing film-lovers from all over the state.
Cronin, 38, says he and two friends came up with the idea for the event after premiering their own short feature, "Under the Bridge."
"When we premiered the film, we had a big party and went to some festivals, and we had such a good time that we said, We should do this in Melbourne,'" Cronin recalls. "But we said, We ought to do it right.'"
For one thing, Cronin says, the Melbourne event does not charge filmmakers to enter their works.
"At other festivals, you have to pay an awful lot, and you're not always treated as you had imagined," he says.
At the Melbourne festival, Cronin says filmmakers can attend all events for free and snag a cool T-shirt.
Cronin says that festival proceeds won't go to the organizers, but a charity called Unconditional Love Inc., which provides medical care for HIV-positive Brevard County residents.
And the Melbourne festival doesn't dole out awards.
"To be selected is to be awarded," Cronin explains. "If we think it's good enough for our community, that's a feather in their cap, and they can put that on their resume."
This year's event will be screening 67 films most of them under 30 minutes chosen by a volunteer selection committee that watched more than 175 entries. Submissions came from all over the globe, Cronin says, but the majority of the works are from filmmakers based in Florida and New York.
Three Oscar-nominated works will be among those screened in a variety of genres, including documentary, drama and comedy.
The first portion of the festival on Friday the 13th is devoted to independent horror films, Cronin says.
The event is open to the public, with a daily general admission of $7, which gets ticket-holders into every film showing that day in a continuous schedule, with no films showing simultaneously.
Those interested in star treatment can shell out $30 for entry to the VIP reception Saturday night, where they can enjoy unlimited food and drink and mingle with industry insiders.
The festival's celebrity guests will include Florida filmmaker James Best, who played Roscoe Coltrane on the "Dukes of Hazzard," and Dr. Carl Bilancione, who participated in the CBS series "Survivor Africa."
The event has grown significantly since its first year which highlighted only 12 films but Cronin maintains that the festival's greatest asset is its limited size, which allows filmmakers and audiences to interact.
"Ultimately, some festivals get so big that there is no community," he says. "That's something we don't want to lose."