Filmmakers and enthusiasts gathered in Cranston from Oct. 13 to 15 for the 14th annual Southeast New England Film Festival, which featured several series of short films in varying genres, including comedy and horror shorts, an LGBTQ series and two film series focused on New England.
Founders Philip Capobres and Don Farias thematically curate and select the films, watching them throughout the year and consulting “different committees of reviewers” who help them with their decisions, they told The Herald.
Capobres and Farias have always prioritized storytelling when accepting films. “We're looking for a good, engaging story, not necessarily a film that has the best cinematography or special effects or production values,” Capobres said.
“There is nothing worse than watching a boring film,” he added. “If we don’t want to sit through it, we’re not going to make our audience sit through it.”
They also said they emphasize story over production value because of the number of submissions they receive from college students, including from the Rhode Island School of Design. “They can’t compete with the million-dollar budgets that we’ll get from Hollywood, but their stories are unbelievable,” Farias said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-timer or you’re a famous actor; we are looking at the story.”
SENE Film Festival was selected as one of MovieMaker Magazine’s 20 Great Film Festivals for First-Time Moviemakers this year.
The festival tends to attract first-time filmmakers because Capobres and Farias reach out to “a lot of film schools” and offer student discounts on submission fees, Capobres said.
Over 14 years, the festival has seen some changes. Capobres and Farias have seen improvements in the quality of submissions as filmmakers recommend SENE to others, Capobres added.
The festival has streamlined over time — consolidating from six to three days — and has become more accessible, with screenings scheduled at times outside of typical working hours for attendees who have full-time jobs, Farias said. He added that the festival includes networking events for filmmakers, connecting them to musicians so they can create film scores together or artists that can lend their expertise in animation.
Incorporating art and music into the festival has always been part of the founders’ vision, Capobres said. The festival used to feature musical events before the pandemic and still uses venues that display art exhibits.
Ultimately, the duo’s goal is to support filmmakers. “We try to promote as many local films as we can,” Capobres said, which is also why they have two series focused on New England featured in the festival. Another priority is to be inclusive of women, members of the LBGTQ community and people of color in an effort to ensure “that every group is represented in our film festival,” he said.
Around 80 filmmakers attended the festival this year, according to Capobres, and the festival hosts question-and-answer sessions following the screenings to offer the audience “a chance to connect with the filmmaker (and) find out about their creative process,” he added. “That’s something you can’t get sitting at home streaming movies.”
“Short films are awesome,” Farias said, adding that he sometimes finds Hollywood feature films long and tedious. “In seven minutes you can see this story that will make you laugh and cry, and it's so well done,” he said.
“For filmmakers, it’s a chance to see your work on the big screen with an audience,” said Mark Kiefer, director and producer of the featured comedy film “Or, The Whale.” “A really important part of doing any kind of art is the collective experience of seeing it, presenting it, sharing it and connecting with other people who are trying to do the same kind of art.”
SENE will return to Cranston in October 2023 for its 15th annual festival.