It’s “take two” for the FunMill Films Fest, which is slated for its second annual go-round at Atlas Lakeshore 7 Cinemas in Euclid on Sunday, May 16. For co-founders Kinsley Funari and Josh Miller, the upcoming event isn’t just a follow-up to last year’s successful debut, but a meaningful way to reunite local filmmakers and film aficionados in the wake of COVID-19.
“Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) was virtual again this year, so we’ll be the first in-person event in the Cleveland film community in 2021,” shares Funari. “We felt really strongly about it being an in-person festival, so we’re working hard to make sure it’s as safe and comfortable as possible.”
While CIFF attracts entries and attendees from all over the world, FunMill Films Fest takes more of a hyper-local approach, celebrating and showcasing Midwest-made films. Both Cleveland natives, Funari and Miller have worked in various capacities locally—acting, writing, and directing—for more than a decade, and the concept for FunMill Films Fest was originally born from a crowdfunding campaign for their own joint projects.
“Everyone here is an artist who is trying to fund their own projects, so we thought [holding a film showcase] would be a clever way of getting people to feel like they were investing in themselves as well as us,” says Funari, who lives in Lakewood. “We ended up welcoming over 20 films and 350 people to the event; we were blown away by how successful it was, so we instantly started planning a second one.”
This year’s installment will feature approximately 40 short films, trailers, and music videos, as well as one feature film (Eric Swinderman’s The Enormity Of Life, starring Breckin Meyer). Funari and Miller are also on that roster with “1 Drink/2 Drink,” which was one of several projects afforded by their 2020 crowdfunding proceeds and will premiere in the festival’s horror category.
“It feels very personal to have the project that relates so closely to [the origins of] our first festival be screening in the second one,” says Funari, who co-founded the FunMill Films production company with Miller in 2019.
The process of making “1 Drink/2 Drink” was also the inspiration for this year’s festival competition, in which all 16 teams worked from the same first page of a script to create a unique short film. Funari and Miller had employed a “back-and-forth, ping-pong” approach in writing the short, and thought it would be fun for participants to follow a similar creative process for the chance to win cash prizes.
"It's a lot of fun to watch every film start exactly the same and then go totally different routes with comedy, horror, or drama," says Funari.
It's also what Funari calls a much-needed complement to the 48-Hour Film Project, which was how Funari and Miller first met in 2011. "The 48-Hour Film Project is only once a year so everyone in Cleveland is chomping at the bit for more opportunities to compete and stay creative," says Funari.
And the FunMill Films Fest is providing just that.