Film festival spotlights up-and-coming filmmakers from across Arizona

The Almost Famous Film Festival in downtown Phoenix showcased the films of 20 teams from across Arizona on Thursday. Each team was given a theme and 48 hours to complete their project. (Madeline Pado/DD)

Amateur filmmakers were given a shot at local fame Thursday night at the eighth annual Almost Famous Film Festival in downtown Phoenix.

The A3F festival showcased the short films of 20 teams from all across Arizona who were given a theme and 48 hours to write, shoot and edit their work.

Jae Staats, the founder of A3F and a graduate of ASU, said the goal of the festival is to motivate young directors and actors to follow their dreams.

“You see your work in front of 400 people and it propels you,” Staats said. “There’s something magical about the big screen.”

Justin Humbert, a finalist from Gilbert, said the best part is getting to create something from nothing and show your work to strangers.

Humbert is a former student of the ASU film school and has been making movies with his friends since he was a sophomore in high school. His films are mostly comedies, and his influences include Judd Apatow and Wes Anderson.

“Filming is a really spontaneous process,” Humbert said, “it comes through natural chemistry and just hanging out with friends.”

Another director and the winner of this year’s award for best film, Adolpho Navarro, said he had some difficulties with the festival’s rules. Every team had to keep their film under 5 minutes and follow a specific theme.

This year, the theme of the festival was “a lost love,” and every film had to use the words “this could get complicated” somewhere in the script. According to Staats, the guidelines are to encourage the directors to show their unique voice.

From a nostalgic silent film to a modern interpretation of the zombie movie, there were a wide variety of ideas from the filmmakers.

Navarro, a resident of east Mesa, wrote the script for his film “Ready an Action” with his two young cousins in mind.

“I wanted the kids to see what it was like to be in a movie,” Navarro said. “I’ve been making movies since I was 9, and I want them to know how great it is.”

Navarro plans to enter the winning film into other contests and see where it takes him.

Humbert said he likes the idea of a single theme but had mixed feelings about the 5-minute time limit.

“It can be really stressful, especially when we’re trying to focus the most on storytelling.”

The restrictions gave Humbert a new perspective on what he wants to do in the future. He said the transition from short to full-length films could be very challenging.

“The idea of a full-length movie is intimidating, but during this year’s contest, I found myself wanting to film more and more,” Humbert said. “I think that means I’m on the right track.”

Staats said his first experience with filmmaking was also at an amateur film festival. That experience was the basis for his inspiration to start one of his own.

“I loved the experience, but I hated the festival, because it was just too serious,” he said.

Staats said he wanted the A3F to be different, and focus more on the contestants’ talents and unique abilities: “We don’t want to make this about ourselves.”

Some crowd members commented on the event.

“I loved seeing what the people of Phoenix have to say,” said Rick Carter, a Phoenix resident. “I’d definitely come again next year.”

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  1. Thanks for covering our event and great article, Grant. We enjoy being a downtown festival and would like to collaborate more with ASU and its students. What a great night for independent filmmaking in Arizona.