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September 26, 2013

Cleveland filmmakers exhibit best work at fest

Two local studios screen music videos, short films and documentaries

By Doug Vehovec

Originally billed as an independent film festival, Ingenuity Cleveland’s IndieFest 2013 wound up as a showcase for two local film production studios. Due to a lack of submissions for the festival competition, Studio on Mars and Turnstyle Films were given reign and kept the reels running Friday and Saturday night in the festival’s screening room, a second-story section of one of the two lakefront warehouses where Northeast Ohio’s cultural event took place this year.

Promotional poster for the film fest by local artist John G

Before ascending the staircase that led to the screening room, visitors stopped to check out an exhibitor’s table manned by John G, the professional moniker of Cleveland artist John Greiner. In addition to successful comic book and commercial work that includes his early autobiographical story, the currently-selling Lake Erie Monster and promotional art for Melt Bar and Grilled, John G is the subject of an upcoming documentary film from Turnstyle Films. He also designed the promotional art for the film fest.

Visitors passed through a lobby on their way to the screening room, where they could watch both studios’ demo reels, pick up merchandise and mingle with filmmakers. Representatives from both studios engaged crowds with information about projects in the works and were keen to promote themselves. The majority of filmmakers present expressed the challenges of pursuing their movie-making dreams while maintaining regular workaday lives.

“The money that we’re making right now, we’re dumping right back into production,” said Ralph Miller, one of Turnstyle Films’ founders. “You’ve got to have that steady flow of income to make the leap to full-time production work. It’s hard to do with just freelance work, and we all have regular day jobs on top of it. We have to generate money with our music videos, then take that money and put it towards our creative projects. That’s the stuff that costs money, and no one is going to pay us to do that.”

Both groups of filmmakers presented rotating audiences with a variety of projects that highlighted their diversity. Screenings included short films, documentaries and music videos across a spectrum of genres.

“When we first got together, we were apprehensive about trying to do a full-fledged feature film,” said Jon Nix, one of Turnstyle Films’ directors. “We needed to build a content base, so we focused on music videos and short films. They give us a reason to shoot stuff.”

The Turnstyle Film crew speaks to audiences before premiering their latest video

Another of Turnstyle Films’ crew is former Cleveland State University film student Yoshi Andrego, who was on hand for the screening of “The Naked Zinester.” Andrego handled cinematography duties for the documentary that focuses on the life and work of photographer Aaron Tsuru.

Andrego spent one year at Cleveland State, where he studied film history before enrolling at Virginia Marti College of Art and Design (VMCAD) in Lakewood. It was at VMCAD where the Turnstyle Films crew met and formed the studio.

“At the time, there wasn’t a film production degree at CSU,” Andrego said of his decision to go to VMCAD. “I wanted to get more hands-on experience rather than theory. But I learned a lot about film at CSU from people like John Ban [CSU lecturer] and Evan Lieberman [director of media arts and technology]. CSU definitely influenced what kinds of films I like, but VMCAD gave me more opportunities to produce my own work.”

Turnstyle Films also premiered two music videos on Saturday night. The first was heavy metal band SkeletonWitch’s “I Am Of Death (Hell Has Arrived),” a slasher film inspired piece featuring a murder-in-the-woods narrative. The crew shot the video only a week or so ago. Since its online release on Sept. 17, the video has enjoyed over 17,000 hits and received a positive review from horror-themed website Bloody Disgusting.

The other video was Smoke Noises’ “2000 Pounds,” a visually tongue-in-cheek collaboration between Cleveland hip-hop artists Smoke Screen and Ghost Noises. In contrast to SkeletonWitch’s dark and violent imagery, this playful video was shot in vivid colors with a decidedly comedic tone accompanying the rapid-fire lyrics and low-key beats.

“I’ve been really excited to work with these guys,” said Eric Mike, aka Ghost Noises, of the Turnstyle Films crew. “I know they always do a fantastic job. I knew it would look awesome.”

Looking ahead, Turnstyle Films has several projects in the works in addition to the documentary on John G.

“We have four or five videos that we’re in talks about right now,” said Nix. “We’re also thinking about doing a web series, and I have a couple of full-length scripts I’m working on.”

Both groups maintain strong online presences vital to their success. For more information and to view their work, Studio on Mars and Turnstyle Films have their own YouTube channels and Vimeo pages in addition to Facebook, Twitter, and their own websites.