Column: My first film festival


By Ishaan Parmar, Staff Writer

This October, my short film “Pop” screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival. The whole experience was surreal. My film played in front of actual audiences, and I got to speak to professional filmmakers every day of the festival. I have always had trouble answering the question “Why do you love filmmaking?” During this film festival, I did some much-needed self-reflecting and realized that my favorite part about filmmaking is the community and audience.

Realizing that I would have very few opportunities to see my film in a theater, I missed a day of school to drive up to San Rafael. There, “Pop,” which is about an elderly widow trying to reconnect with his grown son, screened in a package of student-made short films. After the film played, a high school teacher leading a group of his students to the festival raised his hand to tell me that, whether or not I had intended it, I had made a film in which he had seen himself in. He said that he had been in the shoes of the son, and that he soon expected he would be in the shoes of the father. That teacher’s words validated my hard work.

The second screening was an almost full house, which was both nervous and exciting. After the screening, there was a Q&A that turned out to be a bore. The questions were generic, and no one was genuinely engaged. It was awkward, and none of the filmmakers wanted to speak about their films or their process. I felt odd after that screening. I was happy that my film had played, but disappointed that no one else, from the filmmakers to the audience, was interested in these films. I began to question if the festival was the big breakthrough I had imagined it to be because I did not feel satisfied in that moment. After some unexpected soul-searching, I realized that I love filmmaking for moments like the one I had with that teacher at the first screening. Big crowds are wonderful and welcome, but I make movies to connect with people.

Filmmaking is about communication, and the Mill Valley Film Festival was an example of that. In the end, the festival was not about the clout that comes from being a filmmaker. It was about the people I met, the connections I made and the conversations I had.