Although the title certainly sounds like it could be the name of an extremely cornball off-off-off-Broadway musical revue, “Off Tha’ Block” it is in fact a locally produced showcase of ultra-indie filmmaking. Specifically, films created and produced by either current or former film and television majors at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
Organized as something of a personal challenge by SCAD Junior Liz Kraushaar, this under-the-radar presentation occurs only once, on May 24.
It is divided into two distinct parts: The first, which runs from 2 p.m. till 5 p.m., is a compilation of various short films. The second, which runs from 7:30 p.m. till 9:30 p.m., consists of the second-ever public screening of a just-completed feature film entitled “Nesting Dolls.”
NESTING DOLLS - Test Trailer from DAS HAUS Productions on Vimeo.
Set in a rural vacation cabin and shot almost entirely in Gloucester, Virginia, that motion picture is a dark and violent, female-centric revenge thriller which incorporates elements of disturbing horror. It recently debuted at the Richmond International Film Festival, where it took home the coveted Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature.
This is likely the only time that any of these short films or the feature-length “Nesting Doll” will be shown publicly in our area. One single admission price to this unique event covers entry to either one or both parts of the lengthy event.
Kraushaar explained that the idea for this public event was hatched about six months ago.
“Myself and a couple of my collaborators were talking about how we wanted to be able to showcase our work, and I just said, ‘The last quarter of our junior year, I will organize a screening,’” she said with enthusiasm. “Davi Pena, who I have been working with closely, came up with the title ‘Off Tha’ Block,’ which is perfect, because all of us live near each other – almost on the same street. So, it was a clever title, and over the past two-and-a-half months or so, I put the whole thing together.”
According to Kraushaar, she either worked closely on or produced approximately half of the shorts in this compilation. The rest were created by “friends or peers that go to SCAD.” One or two of the filmmakers involved are actually SCAD graduates, but Kraushaar was introduced to them and their work through networking with other current and former film and television students.
“I served as the first team assistant for all of the actresses on ‘Nesting Dolls’ a couple of summers ago,” she explained. “That was basically a filmmaking boot camp where I learned all about how crews and movie production at that level works. It was completely produced, shot, created and distributed by a group of about 25 students—most of whom go or went to SCAD.”
She added that while the screening is open to the general public, it will also serve as the official cast and crew viewing party.
“We all basically lived in this tiny cabin in this small town in Virginia for about almost two months, while shooting the film,” explained Kraushaar. “This Tybee show will actually be the very first time most of the crew members will have had a chance to see the finished movie. And we are all really stoked!”
She’s not sure just how many of the cast and crew will be able to attend this intimate event since there was a nationwide casting call for the film, and all the main actresses hail from far outside this area. There is one person who she said will definitely be there: the film’s 23-year-old director Robbie Snow.
Raised in Alexandria, Va., this is Snow’s debut feature-length directorial effort, but he said he “plans to continue writing and directing (features) long into the future.”
“Robbie just called me up and hour ago and he was so excited and happy that I am putting it on the big screen there,” said Kraushaar. “He’s based in Atlanta now, and I think he will get up on stage after the film is over and talk a bit about the production.”
Making a completely independent feature film on a tight budget is often an obstacle course both financially and logistically. “Nesting Dolls” is no exception. It was launched via an online crowdfunding campaign which raised approximately $25,000, and that led to interest from a small number of private investors. Because the film was made using an almost entirely student crew who could only work on the project around their preexisting college schedules, the movie took right around four years to complete, from inception to its premiere in Richmond, Va.
“They only finished it up a month or two before that festival showing,” Kraushaar admitted, adding that the film is now being submitted to many more festivals in hopes it will garner more audience, and critical, acclaim, both of which are key for such a low-budget picture with no recognizable name talent in its cast.
Kraushaar said she was unfamiliar with the Tybee Post Theater before researching local venues which might be suitable for such a screening, but once she saw the intimate, 200-seat, single-screen multi-purpose space online she immediately knew it was the perfect spot for an event of this nature and reached out to Executive Director Melissa Turner.
“I spent a weekend driving around and talking to different people at different locations,” she said. “It just had the right vibe, and once I spoke with Melissa, she was fantastic to work with and has been helping me so much with all the details.”
Kraushaar said putting this special screening event together has been a challenge, but one she has enjoyed, and that she would love to host the same type of event again.
“Maybe I could do this annually, and personally select all the films which are included,” she ruminated.
When asked what she might say to try and convince folks to come out and support this unusual movie event, the young filmmaker answered without hesitation. “It’s a chance to support these really talented students who don’t get much of a chance to show their work to an audience on the big screen. It is a chance to be inspired.”