By Scott Vezdos, Marketing Manager for CAPA
Brett Reiter is artistic director of the Cinema Columbus Film Festival, where he aims to deliver a slate of original, inspirational independent films. As a producer, his credits include Poser (2022), a Columbus-based and produced film that premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and had a robust theatrical run. Cinema Columbus kicks off with Hargrove on April 26.
Scott: As an independent filmmaker, what’s it like to now be the artistic director of a film festival?
Brett: As an independent filmmaker, I’ve been lucky enough to have several films play at film festivals. I experienced firsthand what makes festivals tick, what makes them operate, what makes them succeed. I’m taking what I’ve learned and helping custom-build the Cinema Columbus festival in its early stages. It’s a fantastic opportunity to truly celebrate filmmakers and provide a rich filmgoing experience for our audiences. Film festival screenings spark curiosity and deliver unique stories viewers may have never seen. As filmmakers, that’s all we want to do.
A lot of folks think that Hollywood is the only place to make movies, but that’s not true. You can make a great film right here in Columbus. I want to use my role at Cinema Columbus to promote that message.
Scott: What does a festival’s artistic director do?
Brett: An artistic director’s role can vary, because each festival is different—how many years it’s been around, how many venues it has and beyond. At Cinema Columbus, I have been in the driver’s seat for programming. Filmmakers submitted films, which were reviewed with our talented team of pre-screeners. In addition, I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel to various festivals across the country, curating other exciting films for our audiences to enjoy.
I was also involved with bringing on local partners and sponsors to help spread our mission, pairing events and panels to amplify the programming. We’re a young festival with a small but mighty team. I also have been liaising with filmmakers on their travel and accommodations. Working with Festival Director Molly Kreuzman, I’ve had a hand in so much of our festival’s makeup. For that, I’m very honored and excited to show the city what we can do!
Scott: What is the difference between commercial work and independent filmmaking?
Brett: Both can involve cameras, animation, sound, actors and so on—there are more similarities than one might think. Columbus thrives on a vital ecosystem of both. Each holds value. We have an incredibly talented crew base in the city.
At Denison University, I was fortunate enough to meet three friends (Ori Segev, Noah Dixon and Drew Johnson) and we started a production company called Loose Films. At the beginning, we had access to commercial work, which helped us pay our bills and hone our production skills.
With our film Poser, Loose Films and I were able to use what we had learned from commercial work—our process, our crew, our artistic vision—and apply it to independent filmmaking. After Poser, we brought what we learned from the film back to commercial work. There’s space and opportunity for everyone to coexist and benefit.
Scott: Who are the filmmakers you look up to?
Brett: First and foremost, I look to folks in our community for inspiration. Vera Brunner-Sung, Jenny Deller, Ruun Nuur, Mike Olenick, Colin West—all Columbus-based superstars in filmmaking who have made massive strides in getting local filmmakers on the map. From Sundance and Tribeca, to DOC NYC and more, these local legends have spread their gorgeous work far and wide.
Scott: Can you speak to how all the arts are incorporated into filmmaking?
Brett: Film has always been my favorite art form because of this exact fact: every frame created has been crafted by talented artisans across all crafts. From editors who cut the film together, to costume designers who formulate a story with wardrobe, to musicians who compose the score, every department has its own artistic lane where they’re tasked to do what they do best: create their art. Actors, lighting, production designers, sound recordists, makeup artists… it truly does take an artistic village!
Scott: In your opinion, what is the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Brett: The independent film scene in Columbus is growing closer together. For years, from my perspective, a lot of us have been in our own silos. Over the last year or so, I’ve seen community events, collaboration between folks who have just met, and more of a tight-knit community—an element that is so crucial in building a fruitful and supportive industry for us all. The work coming out of my fellow filmmakers and producers is so inspiring—and together, we can continue to grow.
Don’t miss Cinema Columbus, April 26-30! Tickets on sale now for all events, starting with opening night’s Hargrove.
This article is part of a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the Art Makes Columbus campaign. Explore a calendar of events, public art database and artist stories at columbusmakesart.com. To learn more about GCAC grants visit gcac.org.