Skip to main content

Ohio Independent Film Festival Appoints New Executive Director

Peter Balint, executive director of the Ohio Independent Film Festival
Peter Balint, executive director of the
Ohio Independent Film Festival
Change is coming to one of Northeast Ohio’s greatest cinema organizations.
After more than 20 years as leader of the Ohio Independent Film Festival (OIFF), Bernadette Gillota has departed the organization she founded to pursue new opportunities, and a newly appointed Executive Director Peter Balint has stepped in to lead the organization forward.

“Bernadette did an astounding job of growing the organization from its inception in 1993 to the solid festival it is today,” says Balint. “After achieving many of the goals she set out to achieve, she made the personal decision to pursue other interests and pass the Ohio Independent Film Festival to the next generation.”

Over the last seven years, Balint immersed himself in the Cleveland film community, working on short films as everything from producer to screenwriter. As his interests shifted to promoting independent film, he became an volunteer with the Chagrin Documentary Festival. That led to a position on the OIFF board in 2012.

“My decision to accept the position of executive director was based on my belief that there is room for the organization to grow, and that I could foster that growth. With a committed board and an active film community in Northeast Ohio, we are poised to reach new heights."

We recently chatted with Balint to find out more about what he hopes to accomplish as the new head of the OIFF.

Midwest Movie Maker (MMM): Tell me a bit about the Ohio Independent Film Festival.

Peter Balint (PB): We started out as the Off-Hollywood Flick Fest in 1993 in a small storefront in Tremont. While the name eventually changed to the Ohio Independent Film Festival, 20 years later the submission process remains essentially the same: All films selected for screening at the OIFF are submitted by filmmakers. 

The mission of Independent Pictures supports emerging and independent filmmakers by giving a voice to those that might not otherwise be heard. We are actively planning for our 2014 festival which takes place from November 6 to 9, 2014.

MMM: How do you see the OIFF changing over time?

PB: I see our festival evolving into more of an event in the greater Cleveland area. We have ideas on how to make this happen, but it starts with getting more submissions and building an audience. 

We ultimately seek to educate and entertain; surrounding these two activities in a fun and gregarious setting is certainly a good strategy for us to pursue. 

I also see the need for our organization to ally with other arts organizations, festivals and filmmakers. There’s nothing like the positive energy that comes from like-minded leaders on a mission.

MMM: Tell us about your plans for the OIFF. How do you hope to guide it through the next decade?

PB: With technology changing at an exponential rate, it is almost impossible to predict how things will look in 10 years. We can, however, commit ourselves to adaptability. This is a must.

As I browse submission forms from the 1990s, I find it amazing that film (yes, celluloid) was the primary medium to deliver one’s art. From there, we migrated to magnetic tape, DVD and now some festivals are accepting the Digital Cinema Package format (DCP).

While today’s films are delivered in less nostalgic or romantic ways, we understand the importance of keeping the door open to modern forms of storytelling.

One aspect that has not changed and must be maintained is our role as a catalyst for the filmmaker. It’s our job to engage them, as well as the community who enjoy their work. We are still - and will continue to be - the platform for independent artists who need to have their work seen.

We have identified the need to be more engaged in the community, and within the last few years have hosted a diverse range of film screenings around the community during our off season. We draw crowds for films like the exploitation classics of the 30s and 40s, as well as premieres of locally produced feature films.

MMM: What challenges does the organization face? What opportunities do you see on the horizon?

PB: As with any non-profit, we face fundraising challenges. Funding opportunities that were there five years ago have shifted priorities and are no longer available. The ability to remain nimble will be paramount to our success.

Another challenge is getting quality work done with a minimal staff. In our case, we are fortunate to have board members who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and jump in when needed. You are likely to meet a number of our board members during our film festival in November, as well as events throughout the year, such as Script Mill or special screenings.

Collaboration with other arts organizations is certainly an opportunity we have embraced. For example, we are active with Waterloo Arts, Beachland Ballroom, and Shore Cultural Center, among others. Collaboration is not limited to our geographical area—there are hundreds of organizations like our across the country that could benefit from a good dose of synergy.

I believe growth happens when you can recognize who your partners are.  

MMM: How is film and filmmaking in Northeast Ohio and the Midwest changing? How can film fans get involved?

PB: I think that the tax incentives found here and other parts of the Midwest are raising awareness iabout the concept of making movies. More people are exposed to the industry because of stories in the media or highways that have been shut down for filming. It’s in our faces. 

Now that the door is open, we can vie for media spots or events that cater to independent film. 

Combine that new awareness with declining prices on filmmaking equipment and we have a space where artists can truly compete. Film fans need to understand there is almost always some kind of production going on in the Midwest. 

If you want to be involved, start networking. Attend local festivals. These events are not just for watching film, they are networking environments, and anyone willing to start the conversation will certainly walk away with some new friends. 

Another way to find opportunities to be involved in film is to volunteer for a film festival such as ours. It is a great way to meet people from various film backgrounds.


Popular Posts

'Avengers Infinity War' coming to Cleveland? Movie studio built on old Geauga Lake property? Both possible say Russo Brothers

Ivan Schwarz, Greater Cleveland Film Commission, Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, Cleveland natives and Marvel directors. They didn’t share any Captain America: Civil War spoilers, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo told fans that Avengers: Infinity War could land in Cleveland. “It’s on the list,” said Anthony. The reveal took place Saturday during a Wizard World Comic-Con Cleveland panel titled Let’s Shut Down Some Streets: Bringing the Avengers, Captain America and the Russo Brothers to Cleveland. The Russos, who grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Case Western Reserve University, were joined by Ivan Schwarz, director of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. The trio discussed how the region could grow its production slate and how it could attract more features to Northeast Ohio. The first step, said Schwarz, was getting the Ohio legislature to raise the motion picture tax incentive from $25 million a year to $75 million. That legislation will go before Ohio lawmake

Tina Fey, Jay Roach Bringing Kent State Film '67 Shots' to Ohio

Student protestors at Kent State in 1970 Tina Fey is taking a serious turn, producing 67 Shots , a film about the 1970 Kent State shootings. The movie applied for the Ohio Film Tax Incentive earlier this year and plans to film in and around KSU sometime in 2018. 67 Shots focuses on events that led up to the shooting deaths of four students by Ohio National Guardsmen. The title comes from the numbers of shots those guardsmen fired into the unarmed crowd of protestors. Fey is producing alongside Jeff Richmond, her husband and a Kent State alum. Jay Roach, best known for the Austin Powers and Meet the Fockers franchises, will helm the project. Roach is making more socially and politically aware films at this stage in his career, including Trumbo and Game Change . The film is based on the book 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence and is adapted by award-winning playwright Stephen Belber. Fey and Richmond’s production company, Little Stranger, will join

'Walking Dead' star Emily Kinney joins 'Anhedonia' cast

Emily Kinney joins 'Anhedonia' Emily Kinney, perhaps best known for her role as Beth Greene on AMC’s The Walking Dead , is joining Anhedonia , the new indie feature from Cleveland’s Eric Swinderman and Carmen DeFranco. Kinney got her start on stage, with roles in Spring Awakening and August: Osage County , before transitioning to guest roles on television and a star turn as Emily on Showtime’s The Big C . Her breakout role would come as Beth Greene, Maggie Greene’s little sister, on The Walking Dead . Kinney became a fan favorite during a series of dramatic episodes in the series’ fourth season when Kinney’s Greene bonded with fellow survivor Daryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus. Anhedonia co-stars Breckin Meyer and Giselle Eisenberg. "To have the opportunity to work with such an amazing actress like Emily is beyond exciting,” says Swinderman. “It's also very exciting for the city and people of northeast Ohio to have three huge TV stars coming to town to