What's new for Indie Memphis

As Indie Memphis prepares to welcome 10,000 people to its 18th annual film festival, the organization is rolling out some new ideas along with a new interim director, Ryan Watt. The festival, a local favorite for nearly two decades, continues to grow to include new voices, new media and new audiences. 
Film lovers can expect some changes as Indie Memphis rolls out its 18th annual film festival. Leading that charge for change is Ryan Watt, the organization’s Interim Executive Director. Watt has been involved with Indie Memphis for several years. After leaving a Director of Marketing role at a local technology company, he decided to help some friends produce a movie. It was through that endeavor that he initially became involved with Indie Memphis, and he has been producing films ever since.
“I served as a volunteer for Indie Memphis for seven years, screening feature films and working on the marketing committee,” Watt said. “As a film producer, I have produced six feature-length films. As a marketing consultant, I have handled independent social media and online advertising.”
This past spring, Watt became President of the Board of Indie Memphis, and shortly thereafter was named Interim Executive Director. 
“There’s no full-time staff, just part-time positions for festival coordinator, volunteer coordinator, and events coordinator,” explained Watt. “We work out of offices on the top floor of Playhouse on the Square.”
 Ryan Watt
Watt oversees year-round events for Indie Memphis, including two events that are held every month at Crosstown Arts. But undeniably, the organization’s best known event is its annual film festival. Among the changes in store for the festival, the timing has been pushed back to avoid competition with all the city's Halloween events. But rest assured, there are no tricks amid these changes, only treats. This year’s Indie Memphis Film Festival is growing from a four-day long weekend to a full eight-day event, to be held Nov. 3 through 10.  And the films will now play at venues in both Downtown and Midtown.
“Back in 1998, we started with about 40 people in a room showing some movies. Then the films were shown downtown at the movie theater in Peabody Place. Several years ago we relocated to Midtown and have based the film festival out of Overton Square,” said Watt. “This year we’re going to offer the best of both worlds. During the weekdays, our big gala films will be shown at the new Halloran Centre, next door to The Orpheum. Over the weekend, we’ll be back in Overton Square. With on-going efforts to include new voices, new media, and new audiences every year, we expect some 10,000 people to attend the 2015 Indie Memphis Film Festival.”
Not only will there be 100 movies screened that have never been seen before in Memphis, but over 50 of the films are expected to have a film maker in attendance for Q&A sessions. Additionally, Watt said there will be panel discussions with film makers held in Midtown at Hattiloo Theatre and plans are in the works to have Downtown panels as well. Midtown screening locations will include Studio on the Square, Circuit Playhouse and Hattiloo Theatre.
Watt described the upcoming festival as a perfect storm of local content.
“The timing worked out so that there are a lot of local films that finished this year, so festival goers can expect higher profile, bigger indies, and a lot of great indies made by Memphians,” said Watt. “This festival is just a lot of fun, and it is one of the only festivals in the world to feature live music in the theater before each movie. John Miller, at Shangri-La, is curating the music. For our venues, it will mostly feature acoustic guitars and singers.”
Returning in the starring role as Presenting Sponsor for the fifth consecutive year is Duncan Williams Inc. And Starz Digital, the global digital and on-demand licensing and content syndication arm of Starz, is stepping up as Spotlight Sponsor, and expects to host between 15 and 30 of its digital distribution partners who will attend festival events and tour destinations throughout Memphis.
Another change coming into play is a new system for selling passes. This year’s schedule is expected to be announced at the end of September. Festival goers will be able to log in and reserve a spot, rather than show up at a venue and hope that there are enough seats.
“People can still purchase single tickets, but with this new system, we’ll be better able to determine capacity seating and the number of ticket holders,” explained Watt. “Pass holders will have the advantage of being able to reserve their seats before individual tickets go on sale.”
Sponsorships are available for the festival and specific films, for both businesses and individuals, by contacting info@indiememphis.com. 

Read more articles by Emily Adams Keplinger.

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