Yes, Rock Hill has its own film festival.
This week the red carpet rolls out for the Underexposed Film Festival yc, which features short films by filmmakers from around the world, through Saturday.
"The first night was definitely a success," said Melanie Cooper, marketing and communications for the Arts Council of York County. "Our audience loved the avant garde twist on short stories, poems and classic tales of adventure."
The Arts Council of York County started the film festival in 2012, with about 18 entries. This year marks a record number of entries: 400 from all seven continents, including a first from Antarctica.
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“We’ve grown a little bit,” said festival director and filmmaker Karen Collins.
But the objective is the same, organizers say.
“This is a very active film community, and we wanted to showcase local and regional filmmakers,” Collins said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to have your own community see what you actually do.”
Micah Troublefield of Rock Hill and a Northwestern High School grad has won multiple film awards, including Underexposed, and is a partner with Strawhouse Pictures.
“I've lived in Rock Hill most of my life, and I was very excited to find out we were getting our own film festival,” he said. “I live in downtown Rock Hill, work in downtown, and spend most of my leisure time in downtown, so having a film festival there is almost too good to be true for me.”
He entered the first festival, winning Best of Show and Audience Favorite.
“I entered a short film I had finished the year before and was blown away by the response to it,” Troublefield said. “I actually met Tim Grant, who has produced some of our work, at the very first Underexposed and probably wouldn't have that connection if it wasn't for the Arts Council deciding to have a film festival.”
It serves a much broader stage, too, even showing Oscar-nominated short films. Underexposed features narrative, animation, experimental and documentary style films.
“We’ve been able to get a diverse group of filmmakers and videographers through the years,” Cooper said.
The audience who come from all along the East Coast find an intimate setting with opportunities to meet some of the filmmakers Friday and Saturday.
“Our audience does have a chance to interact with our filmmakers at parties and other events throughout the festival,” Cooper said, “as well as question and answer time with filmmakers in attendance at the end of their block time.”
The interaction between filmmakers, jurors, festival organizers and audience is, in Collins’ words, “a marriage and a marriage that has to last.”
“They can experience their film being watched with fresh eyes, which is our audience,” Collins said of directors, producers and screenwriters.
And it’s a unique experience for theater-goers.
“They can see films they wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise,” Cooper said.
It also exposes visitors to York County.
“We get to utilize and show off downtown Rock Hill,” said Collins, explaining additional parties and events are going on at restaurants and businesses. “We try to show the best of everything Old Town has to offer. It’s a big community involvement, and the swag bag for filmmakers is native to York County.”
Cooper said the audience size has swelled to as many as 500 during the festival span.
“They’ve come to realize they can’t expect anything but something different -- experimental films, documentaries, the flavor of everything in the genre of short film,” Collins said. “To tell a story in 15 or 20 minute period is pretty amazing. Now people love the shorts.”
Brian James Crewe of California and a graduate of University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, is a two-time winner at Underexposed.
“You never know what to expect from a film festival,” he said. “What engaged me and brought me back to Underexposed was the audience. They love shorts films. It was a pleasure to not only listen to their reactions as they watched my films but to also engage with them during the Q&A and wrap parties.
“The Underexposed audience has a genuine interest in learning from and communicating with the filmmakers. It’s a wonderful environment to be immersed in.”
Films, which can be anywhere from 1 to 45 minutes, are shown in different blocks each day. The jurors choose their nominees for each category, then another set of jurors choose the winners. The jury is comprised of working filmmakers from around the world and academics and everyman for film-goers.
One year, 75 films were shown, and last year there were 39.
“It’s a difficult puzzle to put together because we only have so much time in the space,” Collins said. “It takes a lot of time to watch these films, and we’re grateful they care about film festivals and write feedback. I write every single filmmaker that enters and make sure they get feedback.”
The audience can view what’s playing each day and buy single tickets for a block or the entire festival to “experience a little bit of all genre,” Collins said.
“Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of films,” she said.
Want to go?
Underexposed Film Festival yc runs through May 12 at Winthrop University campus in Rock Hill.
Chosen films are showing at different venues. For a complete list of films and show times visit underexposedfilmfestivalyc.org/2018.