Pop-up Film Festival Debuts in Florence

The PubX Film Festival, a pop-up micro-budget film festival is, well, popping up! – from May 15-17 at the 13th Floor Music Lounge in JJ’s Tavern in Florence. The festival will feature films by talented, but little-known directors. Founding director of the festival, Otis Wheeler, has been organizing the event for about a year, with the help of funding from an organization called Simple Machine, as well as a local Northampton Arts Council grant.

Otis Wheeler, filmmaker and coordinator of PubX Film Fest

Otis Wheeler, filmmaker and coordinator of PubX Film Fest

Several of the films in the festival are by local directors, including Sasha Statman-Weil, Christopher O’Brien, and Wheeler himself. Wheeler’s film, which he said he included “reluctantly,” fit well juxtaposed with the film of friend, O’Brien, whose movie is called Video Free Brooklyn. Each film features brief montages of footage from New York City.  Some of the directors will be at the film festival, as well as Leah Hager Cohen, the author of book “The Grief of Others,” on which one of the films is based.  The festival will also feature local band Black Sky on Sunday night.


Wheeler believes that many of the directors in the festival are well on their way toward wider success, and hopes to provide a chance for people to see this quality work.

“To me [these directors] are making a lot of the best work. They’re people who will go on to make movies with much higher budgets, and you might hear about them eventually,” Wheeler said. For now, PubX – so called because it is both a public exhibition, and takes place in a bar - offers a rare opportunity.

Lots of the films are made by female directors, and that is mostly because there’s a huge vacuum where female directors’ work should be."

Wheeler’s longtime interest in film was fueled by working in a video store after graduating from Hampshire College, and deepened when he had heart surgery at the age of 25. Bedridden for three months, all he could do was read and watch movies, and he credits his obsession with film – particularly old westerns - to this episode in his life. “There was a period for four years after that where I was basically useless to the world,” he said.

This is the first time Wheeler has put on a large, public production. Simple Machine, an organization that offers $1,000 grants to people looking to throw “small, cheap, and innovative” film festivals, helped him to come up with the idea.

One of Wheeler’s goals for the festival is to provide a venue for some local, DIY film culture to emerge in Western Mass. “One of the things that bugs me is that, say, the DIY music scene – there’s a huge scene around here; but for movies there’s not really that. There’s Amherst Cinema, which is a great place to go see movies, but there’s not much in terms of people making films, or … a community that I’ve found… I’m kind of an obsessed cinephile, and … I’ll drive to Hartford or Boston or New York to see a movie, just because it’s never going to come to Western Mass, or I might have to wait two years before it comes out on video before I can watch it. I want to provide a way to see these movies that are not that available otherwise [and to get the word out about these directors.]”

There is not necessarily a theme to the films being shown, aside from the fact that they are all produced on low budgets. Due to the nature of the micro-budget film scene, however, many of the films feature postgraduate, 20-something experiences. “Additionally, lots of the films are made by female directors, and that is mostly because there’s a huge vacuum where female directors’ work should be, like in terms of Hollywood and all the major chains – their movies don’t get out there – so that was a conscious thing that I wanted to have,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler has plans to carry PubX into the future, perhaps sourcing films from the festival circuit. Next year, he will try to fund through local grants, sponsorship, and donations.

The schedule of screenings can be found at pubxfest.com

Featured image from "Green" directed by Sophia Takal.