Indy Film Fest: 6 Hoosier Directors Sound Off

Filmmakers with Indiana ties discuss their movies featured at the Indy Film Fest.

Jonathan Frey
Director of Kipp Normand

July 24, 4:15 p.m., at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Frey met Indianapolis artist Kipp Normand at a wedding where Frey was the photographer and Normand was in the wedding party. From there, they ran into each other often enough that they became friends. Normand, known to collect objects and make art from them, has a studio at the Harrison Center for the Arts.

“I want people to walk away from this film and have a respect for Kipp as an artist,” says Frey. “I want them to have a respect for the past. Kipp’s artwork takes lowly and rejected objects from the past and gives them a new life and context by connecting them to a contemporary audience. Hopefully people will get that even if it’s subconscious.”

Bill Torgerson
Director of The Mushroom Hunter

Will be present at the July 24 showing, 4:15 p.m., at the IMA

After seeing a short film at his first film festival, Togerson was reminded by the quirky characters of his father and his friend Vic, which gave him the idea to make this movie. “At least from my perspective, they’re two pretty unusual characters, especially when you get them together and talking about mushrooms,” he says.

While the hunt for morel mushrooms is something his dad has done in Indiana and beyond for decades—and continues to do with his grandchildren—Torgerson says, “The movie really ended up being about friends and getting older. … I have a lot of people tell me they start to think about their moms and dads as they watch the film. … I hope the film will get people thinking about their good friends and taking time to savor what they love most.”

“The film and I have lots of Indiana connections and so I hoped it could have a screening in the state,” he says, adding his friend and Indy-based musician Jeremy Vogt scored the film and wrote an original song that plays during the credits.


Larry Peter
Director of They Wore the Red Suit

Will be present at the July 24 showing, 6:15 p.m., at the IMA

Sometimes you never know what—or who—you’ll see at the Indy Film Fest, but this is the film most likely to have a collection of professional Santa impersonators on hand for least one screening, says Peter, a documentary filmmaker who has returned to his home state of Indiana after spending the majority of his career in New Orleans. While he’s not sure how many will be there—“Well, Santas are a secretive bunch, y’know?”—he says more than 300 Santas dressed from head to toe came to the premiere in Santa Claus, Ind.

The film was inspired by the story of Jim Yellig, who was Peter’s small-town Santa once upon a time, and, as legend has it, is the Santa other performers try to emulate.

“These men who portray Santa don’t see their role in the way I do,” Peter says. “They just want to bring joy to children and adults. The great lengths they sometime go to in order to bring that joy is amazing. I want society to respect what they do, and keep the legend alive for future generations.”

Philip Paluso
Director of Wings for Maggie Ray

Will be present at July 22 (7 p.m.) and July 26 (3:15 p.m.) showings, both at the IMA

“I’m kind of a history nut,” says Paluso of his subject matter. “In early 2008, I read a small article about Indiana aviation legend Margaret Ringenberg in an issue of Indianapolis Monthly. There was a photo of her as a 21-year-old Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) and a few facts about her career. She looked so young, yet so very confident, posing in the cockpit of a North American AT-6, a single engine advanced trainer of the era.”

Paluso hopes audiences will appreciate the contribution of Ringenberg, a Fort Wayne native, and other female pilots in the Women Airforce who, “were the vanguard that eventually made it possible for women to achieve at the highest levels in U.S. military and civilian aviation.” For her contributions, Ringenberg was even featured—getting her own chapter—in Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation.

Mike James

Director of Open Mic Night After the Apocalypse

Will be present at the July 23  showing, 3:15 p.m., at the IMA

There’s a magical place called Slab City near the Salton Sea in California, where the people are just about as far away from civilization as one can get—and they want it to stay that way. After seeing it for himself, James says he thought it would be the perfect place to film a concert film about an Echo Park band, Manhattan Murder Mystery.

“People thought I was completely crazy for wanting to do this,” he says. “They would call me crazy then ask how they could help.”

James hopes that audiences will leave this film and realize “that it’s important to look closer at something that may seem unsettling or even frightening. Stop for just a minute, look around you, ask questions, and look closer.”

The Indy Film Fest is a homecoming for this Franklin College graduate who would volunteer there and at Heartland Film Festival while in college. “It’s a huge honor to now be screened at a festival I went to for years as a fan,” he says.

Andrew Cohn

Director of Medora

Will be present at July 25 showing, 4:30 p.m., at the IMA.

Cohn, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, screenwriter, and co-director, and Davy Rothbart, creator and editor of FOUND Magazine, were both raised in Ann Arbor, Mich. However, Cohn’s parents were from Indiana, so he spent a fair amount of time in the state when he was growing up. After Rothbart saw a New York Times article about a town of about 700 people, home to the Medora Hornets—a high-school basketball team with a flabbergasting losing streak in a state known for its hoops fanaticism—the pair ecided to make this movie.

“The story of Medora is a very personal story, but also a universal story about underdogs, the value of small-town America, and the small victories in life,” says Cohn. “As lifelong friends, documentary junkies and basketball fanatics, the story of Medora was a film we felt we were born to make.” He’d like audiences to “get a sense for the value of small towns, and all that is being lost as these towns continue to fade off the map, in a global economy that has rendered them obsolete. We want people to understand the character, courage, and resiliency of the kids who populate these towns, and be moved by their stories. As one Medora High School teacher says in the film, ‘You don’t have to do great things to be a person.’”


NOTE: Rebecca Berfanger has been a member of the Indianapolis International Film Festival’s screening committee since 2012 and has attended the festival since 2005. If you want more specific suggestions, she’s happy to share @rjberf on Twitter. She spent her birthday at the opening night movie and party.