Skip to main content

New horror film festival in Akron kicks off Spooky Season on Sept. 16

The heroine (maybe?) from 'Sweetest Day'  > > >

A new film festival in Akron, Ohio, kicks off the spooky season on Sept. 16, but The Akron Independent Horror Short Film Festival is less about grisly visual effects and jump scares. It’s about community, says festival director Neil Sudhakaran.“It’s community building,” Sudhakaran explains. “It’s about giving artists a stage and an audience to showcase their work.”

As if to underscore the festival’s commitment to community, films will unspool at The Akron Civic Theatre, which has a rich tradition of funding and producing local programming led by local artists.

“We want to give these filmmakers the most eyeballs and exposure to their work as we can - and horror brings in eyeballs,” Sudhakaran says.

We sat down via email with Sudhakarn recently to learn more about the new film fest.

Q&A with Neil Sudhakaran, director of The Akron Independent Horror Short Film Festival

Midwest Movie Maker: How important was it to showcase diversity, from age and gender to ethnicity and origin?

Neil Sudhakaran: Diversity is key, always. We wanted to make sure our own team was diverse, and, hopefully, that would inspire our selections. From its inception, we wanted our film festival drenched in diversity. We're extremely fortunate that such a diverse group of filmmakers submitted to our festival, and it's our goal to continue to promote diversity and inclusion throughout all events at The Akron Civic Theatre.

MMM: The selected films vary in length from 18 seconds to 15 minutes. How did you approach curating a lineup with such a diverse range of runtimes? What do you believe each film's length brings to the overall viewing experience?

NS: Runtime was a secondary consideration to entertainment value and production quality. A film could have been 40 minutes long, as long as it was compelling. Our first goal is to create an entertaining experience for festivalgoers and increase the amount of "butts in seats." The more butts and the better the experience, the more exposure for our filmmakers.

We felt the best tactic was to have a one-night festival, as opposed to a traditional 3 to 4-day festival. By limiting the time frame, we are able to keep the quality of films high in both production value and entertainment. We hope the fast-paced, multi-screen experience will build this event and the quality of submissions year after year.

Tension builds in 'Sycophant' 

: The Akron Civic Theatre is a historic venue with a significant presence. How does showcasing these independent horror films in such a space contribute to the filmmakers' and the audience's experience?

NS: The Civic is beautiful and historic - and debuted as a Cinema House in the late 1920s. It's more than a theatre and event space. Our guests and filmmakers will literally be enjoying their work "under the stars," since The Akron Civic Theatre is one of the only five remaining atmospheric theaters left in the U.S. It's our hope that the Civic’s majesty will convey to these artists that their work is majestic, as well.

Filmmakers include: Ron George, Eva Nel Brettrager, Jo Rou, Johnny K Wu, Jonathon Riles, Kabiona Ramadhani, Doug Hawley

MMM: Could you elaborate on the micro-film concept and how they add a unique element to the festival?

NS: We want art and film to play no matter where you are in The Civic, and we want to have the maximum amount of viewers for each film. So, the Micro Screen playing micro shorts was born out of a need.

We have two 25-minute intermissions built into the main screen of the festival at The Akron Civic Theatre. During these intermissions, people can network, go to the bathroom, get refreshments, or see these amazing micro shorts. We want people to feel like this is the biggest cinematic event to hit Akron because to us and these filmmakers, it is.

: Q&A sessions with local film experts will be a part of the festival. Could you provide more insight into the topics that these sessions will cover, such as low-budget filmmaking, fight choreography, and low-cost special effects?

NS: All three of the filmmakers chosen for Q&A's are area legends, Sarah Smith, Johnny K. Wu, and Ron George. Their content will be helpful and informative to both new and veteran filmmakers. I don't want to spoil too much.

MMM: Independent filmmakers often struggle to get their work on the big screen. How do you think the festival's platform can impact these filmmakers and their careers?

NS: In today's filmmaking climate, audiences are thinner, and screens are getting smaller. Generally, people go to the Cineplex to see what I like to call "Event Cinema." The Akron Independent Horror Short Film Festival is "Event Cinema."

I hope it not only inspires filmmakers to keep making films but also encourages additional area vendors to invest in these opportunities for filmmakers outside the Cineplex. Banning together, we can create more opportunities for ourselves than hoping, wishing, and praying to be discovered.

MMM: Can you share some insights into the selection and judging process of the submitted films? What criteria did you use to choose the final 20 films for the festival?

NS: Each film was assigned to two judges, and based on those scores, the films that scored highest were also judged by the remaining two judges who didn't view the film previously. Each film was rated on a 5-point scale across 12 different categories, including creativity, direction, writing, cinematography, performances, among others. Without bias or judgment, the films selected into the festival scored the highest rating out of all submissions.

All tied up in 'Because I Can'

: The event kicks off with a filmmaker mixer and concludes with an awards ceremony. Could you give us a glimpse into what attendees can expect during these segments of the festival?

NS: Don't forget about The Killer Karaoke After Party! We also have two live performances during the festival. Attendees will see art, they will meet people. It's our hope that all attendees will make some new connections and leave inspired.

MMM: How do you hope the festival will contribute to the local arts and cultural scene in Akron, Ohio, and beyond?

NS: Filmmaking is more accessible today than it has ever been, from iPhones to TikTok; anyone can make content. We hope to inspire others to say, "I can do that," because they can. Art is subjective. Whether your film/art makes a billion dollars or loses a billion, all art is good art. All creativity is good creativity. Live. Create. Inspire. Repeat.

MMM: As the AIHSFF Director, what message would you like to send to aspiring filmmakers, horror enthusiasts, and the general audience who will be attending the festival?

NS: Be weird. Be you. Be kind. Love one another and MAKE ART.

MMM: Anything we missed?

NS: Huge thanks to our team, Francine, Sarah, Charlie, Abbey, and Kate. Thank you forever to Howard and The Akron Civic Theatre for investing in local events for local artists. September 16th at The Akron Civic Theatre,


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