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“My name is Jon Gann,” says Jon Gann simply. “I’m an area filmmaker.”
Two dozen people have huddled this February night inside a drab, fluorescent-lit room in the Flashpoint arts incubator at 916 G St. NW, responding to Gann’s e-mail call to form DC Film Salon, a new networking group. The gathered all register Gann’s proclamation with the silent attentiveness that recovering alcoholics give to talk of a higher power.
“I just found there was no place [in D.C.],” continues Gann, sitting in the middle of his guests’ chair circle, “for people who are in filmmaking, whether they be directors, or producers, or writers, or actors…to meet centrally and talk about the craft of filmmaking.” Sensing too much solemnity, he suddenly motions at two attendees. “You’re a sound guy, you’re a sound girl—there you go!” Gann says. “Go have fun.”
But the D.C. native wants a lot more out of his brainchild than just meeting cute. An ebullient 37-year-old who’s clad tonight in a red silk shirt, Gann says that the salon, which he intends to host monthly at Flashpoint, is actually the first step toward a sweeping revival of the city’s cinema culture. The grand finale? DC Shorts, Gann’s own September festival for films under 15 minutes.
“It will be unlike anything we have in Washington so far,” he says, as the room heats up with introductions, small talk, and business-card swapping.
That won’t be easy: DC Shorts faces competition from the likes of the D.C. Independent Film Festival, the Reel Affirmations Film Festival, the Rosebud Film and Video Festival, the DC Underground Film Festival, the Fresh Produce Film Series, the Guerrilla Film Fest, and other area indie-movie events, many of which showcase shorts.
“I understand Jon’s point….We always need more fests,” says Carol Bidault, founder and executive director of the D.C. Independent Film Festival. But Bidault’s a bit skeptical that shorts get the, uh, short end of the stick locally. “At our fest, we have 47 shorts being shown,” she notes. “There are a lot of shorts being shown.”
But Gann’s putting his money where his mouth is. The Gann Agency, his Bethesda-based firm that specializes in graphics design and corporate video production, is floating DC Shorts alone right now. And Gann is also paying for the Flashpoint meeting space.
The new salongoers—mostly amateur filmmakers unhappy with their day jobs in the Washington bureaucracy—seem appreciative. Melissa Gilmore, a technical writer for a “big, evil corporation” that she refuses to name, says she’s writing a “dark office comedy” in her spare time. Adam Meyer, who just moved from Los Angeles, is also hoping to punch his way into self-actualization with his film-in-progress, a private-eye film noir. In the meantime, he’s helping produce a TV program about people who eat bats for the National Geographic series Taboo. “To get a bunch of people together like this in L.A….” he says, shaking his head, “it’d be too cutthroat.”
Gann got his own film chops in 1998, with his first short, Pezheads, a three-minute vignette of people trying to load Pez dispensers in freezing weather. (The piece won an Oscarz award at the Ohio Independent Film Festival.) Over his six-year career, he’s assembled a lot of spare production equipment—such as computer speakers, which he hands out at the end of the evening.
Some of the new converts need much more, though. “I’m looking to find some producers,” says filmmaker Joe O’Ferrell, his wish sounding more like a demand. “And $20,000.” —John Metcalfe