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By Kevin Park | September 20, 2001

My short time in Toronto, while trying to review the Toronto International Film Festival, felt like a huge waste. I had traveled all this way to see as many movies as possible and if I had my way, to get into them all for free. That didn’t happen. I was ill prepared and I spent all of my time trying to get in with the publicists and the filmmakers hoping that we could work something out; again nothing. I happened to see “Hearts in Atlantis” and was compelled to never watch another movie in my life. I started to feel that the trip as a whole was a flop and I couldn’t take any more abuse, but to my relief, there was the Planet Indie Film Festival. Planet Indie gave me exactly what I wanted from my trip to Toronto, beer, women, good movies, and a good time.
Planet Indie is on track to become the Slamdance of Toronto. It runs the same time that T.I.F.F. takes place, and is not even a mile from the big screening theatres that T.I.F.F. rents out. They are by no means a threat to T.I.F.F, they are a more comfortable and looser festival and use that atmosphere to pull people away from the irritating lines from the Toronto films. And they also know how to party. To them, Toronto is a saving grace because it is bringing more filmmakers and film buffs to the Toronto area, and from that starts the separation from who wants to stand in line all night, to those who want to just have fun and see films. People like that are those that made it to Planet Indie.
Planet Indie started in 1998 by independent filmmakers Andrew Humeniuck and Brian Frank. Both based in Toronto, they decided that they wanted a festival that could be more used as a tool of networking for the filmmakers in an informal, relaxed and noncompetitive manor. They swear by helping out the youthful filmmakers by getting their names out, screening their film and do what they can to distribute the film.
For me Planet Indie was home. I was around other filmmakers who were excited about everyone’s films and what everyone thought of them. We sat around and shared our filmmaking war stories, and we talked about the movies that made us what to live this dream.
This year the festival had an eclectic assortment of films on their schedule. After it’s world premier at the Chicago Underground Film Festival Coil returns to its Canadian motherland for another stab at getting it’s name out. Planet Indie founder Brian Frank’s film “Bad Trip” also made it on the schedule. Other films include Rock n’ Roll Frankenstein and “Children’s Midsummer Night’s Dream” which is totally shot with child actors.
The nights at Planet Indie were not just about the festival and the films, but they were also determined to make sure that everyone had a good time. My first night at Planet Indie was spent tooling around in the “Bad Tripmobile” drinking Toronto microbrews (Steam Whistle baby) and looking for late night Chinese restaurants. We talked about “The Simpsons” and the future of Tarantino but most importantly, we have a damn good time.
Even though Planet Indie only shows shorts and one full-length a night, they have no intention of staying with that format. They have full plans to grow to a whole day festival. There’s even talk of touring the films shown at Planet Indie through Canada and into the states. There’s also talk about a Planet Indie production company and a Planet Indie film. A few of this year’s sponsors were IFC and the Slamdance Film Festival so you know what direction this festival is swinging to.
Filmmakers like myself need festivals more like Planet Indie. Those of us too chicken to quit our comfortable jobs can receive that emotional kick in the a*s that we need to hear to get up and make our own movies. I learn from the war stories, and I learn from the determination that others have (I also pay more attention once I have a few beers in me but that’s another story). Planet Indie is a network of filmmakers helping out other filmmakers. If you get in with them and screen your film, you might just end up starring in someone else’s film. In a way they’re more of a school than a festival. Whether you’re a filmmaker or not, you’ll leave Planet Indie with a sense of how to make your movie, from showing it at a festival, to writing the first page.
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