Jim Muscarella, Morgan Spurlock and POZ
Jim Muscarella, Morgan Spurlock & ECFF Best Music Video Winner,
POZ (Mindless Self Indulgence/ Straight to Video)

In a city overrun with film festivals and screening events, it takes a lot to get noticed. Or maybe it just takes a punk rock attitude. Inspired by the indie artist roots of its East Village location, the Evil City Film Festival has made quite a name for itself in just two years—and gained the support of top film and media companies and indie moviemakers in the process.

On the eve of the second annual event’s launch, MM spoke with the festival’s founder (and indie moviemaker), Jim Muscarella, about gambling on a unique idea in an oversaturated market and celebrating the underdog.

Jennifer Wood (MM): New York is really overrun by film festivals. Why gamble on creating a new one?

Jim Muscarella (JM): There is no gamble here; our festival is necessary. We provide an opportunity for new independent filmmakers to show their work, meet each other and get laid… I mean network. We’ve had nothing but thanks from the people; they’re excited to have the chance to screen their films in NYC. We want to continue to provide a voice for the people who make movies out of the true love of the art, not just commercially-driven interests.

MM: What makes the festival different from other events—both in New York and beyond?

JM: We’re inspired by the original punk rock ideals, and we love the idea of a party. We respond to this type of attitude in our selections. Unknown filmmakers make up our general program and we hope to give them the opportunity to connect with their respective audience.

MM: You’ve stated that your mission is to showcase "gritty and realistic films, focused on the underbelly of city life." What are some of the most interesting places you’ve received submissions from?

JM: We’ve had films come in from around the world. Within our two years, we’ve screened films from Afghanistan, Israel, Australia, Alaska, Britain and New Jersey. For instance, this year our program includes work by the students of Willowbrook High School’s Animation Superteam from Villa Park, Illinois.

MM: You’ve also made it clear that one of your main purposes in creating this fest is to create a networking opportunity. How are you helping to make this goal a reality? Have any great collaborations come out of the fest that you’re aware of?

JM: Networking is a big part of the Evil City Film Fest. The whole point of running this event, apart from enjoying new and innovative work, is to join the forces of indie filmmakers. Whenever there’s a crowd of filmmakers in a room together, all they want is to talk about is each other’s films. War stories are traded and new ideas are born. By creating this atmosphere, they share information and become stronger as an artists’ community. The connections made are sure to make their way back to us through collaborative efforts in the future.

MM: What are some of the films you’re most excited to showcase this year?

JM: We give our "Skully" awards out to the standout films each year; it wouldn’t be prudent for us to divulge any favorites. At this point, we’re really excited about this year’s program. We have some killer dramas, excellent low-budget comedies and so many documentaries made so well, for no money; it’s simply inspiring. We can’t wait to see what we’ll get next year.

MM: The fest is only in its second year but has already received a ton of support. You boast a number of high-profile sponsors (Avid, The Village Voice, Rockstar Energy Drink) and board of directors (Morgan Spurlock, Mary Harron). What’s the secret to your success?

JM: We owe all the success to the filmmakers who make up our program. That’s the secret. Because of them, we’ve been a success from the start. Our sponsors are willing to support film as an art. They never have or will influence our programming in any way.

As for our board, Morgan and Mary are true independents, well aware of the trappings that come along with success. They exemplify the type of filmmakers we support. These are people uncompromised by anything other than their own interests and have served as an inspiration for the next generation. We’d much rather boast our own ideals and the sense that filmmakers can trust that we’ll always be true to this independent spirit. I suppose what we’ve done has attracted the right attention.

For more information, visit www.evilcityfilmfest.com.