Last week's A2 Tech Film Showcase drew 600-700 attendees to the Michigan Theater – an impressive turnout for an event originally planned as a small filmmakers' get-together in the basement of Ann Arbor's Duo Security.
Rik Cordero, senior media producer at Duo and founder of the showcase, says the Jan. 19 event grew out of discussions among Duo employees about a lack of diversity in both independent filmmaking and in the tech world.
"We wanted to create a platform for underrepresented voices in the indie filmmaking and tech industries through short films," Cordero says.
He says bringing diverse voices to the table is ingrained into Duo's company culture.
"We want to show that the way we solve problems is to have multiple perspectives, because we can focus on the wrong things or miss problems when everyone has the same point of view," Cordero says.
Response to Duo's early announcements about the film showcase was strong, and Cordero didn't want to leave anybody out.
"We were going to have a small get-together in the basement of Duo, but we started to see the RSVP response climb very rapidly, and we hit our ceiling for capacity at Duo," he says.
Duo reached out to a few sponsors, including ad agency Q+M and Ann Arbor SPARK, and booked the main theater at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater for the event. Cordero says organizers envisioned the event as a showcase rather than as a competition. First-time filmmakers and more seasoned filmmakers both participated, and several participants helped other filmmaking teams with editing or acting.
The two basic guidelines were that films had to be made by women or people of color and/or had to feature women and people of color in the storyline, he says. The second guideline was that all films should embrace and explore the consequences or side effects of technology in films of about 10 minutes.
Concepts touched on in the showcase ranged from social media addiction to genetic editing to rampaging artificial intelligence, but many of the themes related to realities we're all living right now, Cordero says. The films also ranged from more traditional narratives to more experimental short films.
"With the experimental stuff, they were using all kinds of nontraditional techniques, and that was sort of the point with this technology angle being highlighted," he says.
Cordero says Duo staff members are already making plans for a second A2 Tech Film Showcase, working out an application that ensures that a range of diverse voices will be represented. The themes for future showcases haven't been worked out yet, but Cordero says staffers are brainstorming a list of potential new themes.
"This was a genuinely positive event, and we couldn't have hoped for a better response," he says.
Information about the short films and filmmakers is available here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Q+M.