Rockin’ the celluloid

Nathan Schemel

Photo By Larry Dalton

Nathan Schemel has your weekend itinerary ready to go. The founder and festival director for the annual Sacramento Film and Music Festival , Schemel has been working year-round to launch the fifth annual event this weekend, which celebrates local bands, international films and 31 locally made music videos. The party begins Thursday evening at the Crest Theatre, and a complete schedule is available at Read on for Schemel’s personal picks for the festival’s highlights.

How did you start the festival?

My buddy and I both went to California State University, Northridge, for film. Five years ago, we’d both finished our senior projects—20-minute short films. We thought it would be fun to screen them for a Sacramento audience and also have some bands play. It went pretty well, so we decided the next year we’d open up a call for submissions and see what we’d get. We got about 300 submissions, because we only charged about $10 for a film submission. This year, we received 420 submissions. Next year, we’ll have to push up our deadline just to have time to watch all the submissions and get everything else done.

How do you find time to watch 420 films?

I don’t watch them all. The theory is to have two sets of eyes watch each film that comes in. This year, we had a panel of five or six people who each watched 30 to 50, and I personally went through about 300 of them.

Are they shorts or features?

Both. The average submission this year ended up being 50 minutes long. We received about 80 features this year, more than we’ve ever received. That’s good, but it takes a lot longer to sort through them.

Where do they come from?

The bulk of the submissions come from Los Angeles, or the East Coast around New York and New Jersey. We get a lot from England and Canada. This year, we’re showing a film from Taiwan called Bicycles and Radios, which is really good. I think it’s one of the best in the festival. We’ve gotten stuff from Japan, Australia and India.

Do you make an effort to include local films?

I don’t want to cheapen the local filmmakers we’ve accepted by saying we give them special consideration, but it is the Sacramento Film and Music Festival, so local flavor has to be represented to some degree. We do look at those films a little bit more in depth.

What’s the Sac Music Seen program?

This year, we paired bands up with local filmmakers to make music videos. It was a way for people to make something that was guaranteed to get into the festival. We ended up with 31 music videos, and I have to say that I am utterly impressed with what the filmmakers have been able to come up with. They only had two months to do them, and every one that comes in makes me horribly proud.

The cool thing about a video is that it’s a short amount of time, so it’s not a huge commitment. It’s also an experimental format. You don’t have to tell a story, although many of them do. You can just be artistic. The filmmakers get to have something screened at the Crest Theatre. The bands get a video for their Web site, or to play at a show, to represent them visually. So, it’s a mutually beneficial thing.

It’s been a total experiment this year. It seems to be working well, but the true test will be seeing who comes to check it out. That program is at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. We’re charging $10, and it’s four-and-a-half hours long. We’ve got the 31 music videos, plus Sinclair, Larisa Bryski and Downboy are playing live. It’ll be broken up into sections, with 10 videos and then a band playing, and then 10 more videos and so on. It’s meant to be a party. The Crest bar will be open all night, and people can hang out in the lobby and dip in when they want to see some videos.

What’s the must-see selection this year?

I hate to pick favorites. We were very documentary-heavy this year. We have Pledge of Allegiance Blues, which is about Michael Newdow and the Pledge of Allegiance battle and other things that have been happening nationwide regarding the separation of church and state. It was made by a woman in New Jersey, but it has a lot of local scenes in it. It’s a world premiere.

We have another world premiere called Weapons of Mass Deception, about how the media covered the war. It’s a very timely film, and it’s very interesting. It just so happened that we got a lot of documentaries this year. I think Michael Moore had something to do with that.

Beyond that, we have a really funny film called Sons of Provo. It’s about a Mormon boy band that’s trying to get off the ground, and it is the most hilarious thing.

The idea is to show people something they haven’t seen before, something that isn’t at Blockbuster or your Hollywood cineplex, something that will open your eyes a little. That’s really the goal of the festival.