As you can probably tell from the title, Film Fest is one of those meta exercises, an indie film destined for film festivals about an indie film premiering at a film festival. The main difference is that Film Fest actually premiered at the Austin Film Festival in 2020, whereas the fictional film is premiering at an obscure film festival in an unnamed (though scenic) location in the mountains.
Directed by Marshall Cook, Film Fest follows the struggles of indie director Logan Clark (Matt Cook). In the first scene, he is desperately pitching his finished movie, appropriately named Unknown Unknowns at a party where he’s working as a server. He’s not so gently rebuffed by an agent while his boss threatens to fire him.
The film’s producer, Alex Davis (Diona Reasonover) reveals that there’s a film festival that actually wants to premier Unknown Unknowns. The catch (the first of many, as it turns out) is that it’s an obscure festival called Hollywylde that no one has heard of. Though at first ready to refuse and wait for something better, Logan reluctantly goes along for the ride. He, Alex, their cinematographer (Laird Macintosh) who affects a fake Swedish accent, and PA make the journey to try their luck. Logan quickly goes from feeling the whole thing is beneath him to desperately wanting to come away a winner.
Film Fest is a spoof and insider’s look at the pretensions and often petty competitiveness of film festivals, where unknown directors desperately want to break through and outshine their peers. The fictional Hollywylde Festival, of course, is shadier and sketchier than even your average obscure film festival. It turns out that every entrant in the festival has been nominated for all the top awards. The festival’s creator is a bombastic character in a cowboy hat named Montgomery Nash (Will Sasso) who privately tells every participant that their film is his favorite.
Logan is portrayed as just as opportunistic and prone to compromising his values as anyone else. There’s a scene where Logan and Alex pitch their movie to agents and are immediately shot down because they lack a clear pigeonhole or star that will make it a predictable hit. Film Fest is an interesting and funny look at the world of independent filmmaking and how only the most dedicated will persevere in the face of such long odds.
Film Fest is currently streaming on Amazon Prime as well as YouTube.