“I’m an optimist,” says Jodi Cilley.
Right now, with the film industry gone dark, she’d have to be. Yet Cilley’s used to fighting above her weight. She runs Film Consortium San Diego. And right now, in the middle of the pandemic, she has struck gold.
“We had to postpone San Diego Film Week from April until at least August. But I believe everything that happens can teach you something. We had all these new sponsors — KPBS, Panasonic USA, the San Diego International Airport Arts Program — who had committed all this money, and suddenly our event isn’t happening in the next five months. We had to do something. So we created this new competition called the ‘Quarantine Film Challenge.’ We are basically challenging people to make an under-five-minute film about their experience during the quarantine. And we’ve had over 850 submissions, in a month! We’ve released 30 of them online so far.”
She has entries from Iran, India, the UK, US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Morocco, “probably about 20 countries right now. That’s the irony: The coronavirus has forced us to go international.”
One she released yesterday is from Morocco. “It’s really cute. It’s this little girl shouting across to the girl in the building across from her. They have never met before. The film is just them shouting to each other. It’s very very sweet. Unbelievably adorable. We’ve got comedies, romances, horror movies, and some really cool animations in there too.”
Her favorite so far is from Poland, a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” (Spoiler alert: the raven is the virus.) “Another’s called ‘Clonely,’ where the guy creates a clone to keep him company during quarantine. And then he doesn’t like the clone.”
Is the virus threatening the end of the film industry? “People in the film industry are already starving. Movies and theaters are already in trouble, which threatens our ability to hold festivals. Except drive-ins, like South Bay Drive-In. They’ll do fine! Maybe they’re the future.”
She has received a lot of inspiring personal stories from places such as Iran and India. “I mean, it’s rough over there right now. U.S. and Canadian films tend to be lighter. One from the U.S. is about this bartender who gets laid off because of the coronavirus and has to move in with her parents. But all they care about is having her fix them drinks all the time.”
Cilley thinks the next year is going to be “real tough” for everybody. “But the independent film world will probably bounce back pretty quickly, because [indie filmmakers] don’t have a lot of money to begin with.”
In fact, this coronavirus is a big opportunity for independent filmmakers to make films “that aren’t huge budget, that aren’t huge cast and crews, and don’t rely on action themes and explosions and special effects, but on actual story and emotional content.”
In a way, she realizes, her contest has created a kind of personal diary of this worldwide event, in a way few could do. Interestingly, she hasn’t seen many submissions from San Diego. Yet.
People have until Friday, June 5 to enter their movies.