A 25-year-old filmmaker is putting his hometown in the cultural spotlight next month with the first annual Mastic Beach Mini Indie Film Fest.
The festival, which will run May 3-5 at the Mastic Beach Property Homeowners Association on 31 Neighborhood Road, will include a lineup of more than 20 films, plus speakers and artists with their works on display.
Local, experimental, documentary, animation and narrative films will be shown, said festival creator James Evans, founder of Donna’s House Productions and a film instructor at Stony Brook University. His producing partner is Amy Gaipa.
Why call it the “Mini Indie Film Fest?”
“For our first year we wanted to establish expectations that we’re going to be a scrappy festival, and at end of the day, we wanted a platform to bring arts to the community,” Evans said.
After putting out a call for films only in January, Evans said it’s become a larger production than he originally expected.
“We got an outpouring of films,” he said. However, the festival was “very discerning” with the films that were selected. It is including films from Turkey, Portugal, Iran and South Korea.
The festival’s theme is “Celebration of Grit,” which is a reflection of the Mastic Beach community, said Evans, who has shot six short films.
“I realize there is such strength of character in the community … with the businesses and people along Neighborhood Road.”
After graduating from William Floyd High School in 2011, he attended George Mason University in Virginia for a time before decided he wanted to come back to New York. He attended Fordham University, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2015. He’s now a master of fine arts in film candidate at Stony Brook.
He named Donna’s House Productions in honor of his mother. It basically runs out of her house, which he moved back into in August.
Evans said the film is something he’s aspired to do “his whole life.”
“I’ve always wanted to do this. And I realized this more when I moved away. I didn’t realize how much I love it here until I moved.”
The seed was planted in his head to move forward with the festival by Ava Torres, owner of LinsaTorr’s Place, as well as the Cultural Arts Guild, both in Mastic Beach.
Torres said she was referred to Evans by a friend who had seen a screening at the library of a film he had done about Mastic Beach, and she heard he was looking to raise money for another one.
“I was feeling that is something that was going to put us on the map,” she said, adding that there is a lot of great local history that goes unnoticed. And while there are film festivals in other parts of the Island, she said, “I feel that James is someone who is going to bring us to the forefront. He’s a go-getter. When you see something good, don’t procrastinate. Him and his friend and the people that he works with are just incredible. To have something in your community where you live — I think that’s a great vision.”
The festival was originally planned for April 12-14 at the former Mastic Beach Village Hall, but a problem with the sprinkler system forced him to find a new location.
Prior work with the Mastic Beach Property Homeowner’s Association helped smooth the way for the change of location.
Going forward, Evans said he’s looking to do monthly salon-type programming at the old Cultural Arts Guild space under the Mastic Beach Mini Indie Film Fest banner, and he’s looking to work with local officials to obtain grants.
Click here to keep up to date with the schedule, and to obtain tickets.