By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Otherworld Theatre Company, Chicago's only sci-fi and fantasy theatre company, next month will present its fourth annual Juggernaut Film Festival, designed to celebrate and showcase science fiction and fantasy short films from around the world.
The event will feature 45 independent short films from more than 10 countries. Juggernaut will take place from noon to 5:30 p.m. April 9 at the historic Music Box Theater, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.
There will be a social and networking reception with audience Q&A and industry panels one hour before the event. Tickets to the festival are $20, available at www.brownpapertickets.com.
I had the chance to talk to Otherworld Theatre Company artistic director and founder Tiffany Keane about the upcoming festival.
Q - Great talking to you again. This is the fourth year of the Juggernaut Film Festival. What was the reason you started the festival in the first place and has it been as successful as you thought it would be?
Juggernaut started off very humbly. I had just gotten out of college at Columbia, and decided to start a Science Fiction and Fantasy Theatre Company called Otherworld - and was trying to figure out a fundraiser that had low overhead expenses.
I originally was looking into having a "bad movie night"- but licensing for that was still very expensive. I have always been a fan of short films, and after reaching out to a bunch of filmmakers, they were excited for the idea to have their films screened in Chicago.
Juggernaut was actually named after a Ray Bradbury short story of the same name - as one of his characters shouts out, "Look at those Juggernaut films!" Thus, Juggernaut was born!
The first Juggernaut… I didn't really know what I was doing. However, the turnout was great, and people were excited about the quality of the films we were able to obtain, not really being exposed to these stories before.
The next year we were picked up by Chicago Filmmakers, and we started a partnership with them, and it just really took off. We made it into the Chicago Tribune the following year and had a film that starred Nick Offerman.
This year, we are at The Music Box. It's crazy - so much can happen in four short years.
Q - What do you think about the films featured in this year's festival? How did you go about choosing the films for this year's festival?
I am always blown away by the quality of films we are able to attracted. We have films from $100 budgets to $250,000 budgets, but all films possess quality storytelling.
This year, we accepted submissions from FilmFreeway - and it was very successful in getting Juggernaut's name out there. We got submissions from all around the world.
In previous years, I sought out films and asked them to be screened, so it was much easier to have everything conveniently on one website. I also have a co-chair this year, Mindy Fay Parks, and I couldn't have done it without her.
Together, we watched over 100 films to pick the best fit for our 5 hour festival.
Q - Are there any films that you are especially excited about?
I'm excited about all of our films - it's hard to choose a favorite because I like them all for different reasons. "Uncanny Valley," written and directed by Argentine filmmaker Federico Heller, always sticks out to me.
It tells the story of a future where first person shooters have become a new drug for those disillusioned with society and has an amazing twist of an ending. That film really got to me.
On the lighter side, we have "The Wolf Who Came To Dinner," which actually was a film my co-chair Mindy saw at The Whistler Film Festival in Canada. Jem Garrard paints a wonderful tale of a little girl named Bea Barkley - who was magnificently portrayed in this film by Audrey Smallman.
Bea, a horror film lover, senses that her mom's new boyfriend is a werewolf. It's a very charming look on unique perceptions we can have as children.
Q - I understand that awards will be presented to outstanding filmmakers in several categories. Why did you decide to present awards this year?
Really it's because we wanted to include the filmmakers more on the experience of the festival. We have a lot of the filmmakers coming this year, flying all around the world to participate. It's crazy!
Q - CinemaJaw will be hosting this year's festival and leading the Q&A panels. What do you think they bring to the table?
I have been a fan of CinemaJaw now for a little over a year, and I love what they bring to the table on their podcasts in terms of discussion and debate, but really it's the sense of fun that makes it for me. What they bring to the table is their passion for new and interesting ways to tell stories in film.
I was actually on their podcast this week, and they were so charming and really made me feel at home. I think sometimes, especially when you are being interviewed, you feel as though you need to compete with them on an intellectual level.
The hosts of CinemaJaw were so casual that it really felt like you could get to the heart of the matter - why you loved the film and what was it about the narrative that engaged you - that I felt totally at ease.
I wanted the same for the filmmakers participating in Juggernaut.
Q - What should people expect from the Otherworld Theatre Company for the rest of the year?
Big exciting things! After Juggernaut, we have Fight Quest going on at The Public House Theatre on Sundays starting April 17 - May 22. It's a choose your own adventure fight - and a member of the audience can pick a champion to role play through.
We have insane fight choreography that will be a literal feast for the eyes. It's going to be a blast.
In September, we also have another festival, Paragon. It's a sci-fi and fantasy short play festival also taking place at The Public House, Sept. 10 and 11.
It's 40 plays under two days, making it one of the largest collections of sci-fi and fantasy theatre performance in the world.