There's a lot of stuff to see at Comic Con, but one of the best parts is the SDCC Independent Film Festival. It delivers a heady, steady stream of unbridled cinematic creativity.
See, every year, the organizers of Comic Con International also host the Independent Film Festival — which welcomes entries from all over the world, from filmmakers spanning the spectrum from amateur to auteur. Throughout the Con, in ballrooms not marked particularly well, the public is welcome to come watch the films. On Sunday, there's even an awards ceremony highlighting the best of the bunch.
The only thing all these indies have in common is that they deal in the geeky — whether they're animated or documentaries, and whether they feature videogamers, superheroes, pistoleros or hysterically amorous aliens.
Many of these films are bad. I know, because I was a judge for the CCI: IFF last year, and had to watch all of them. So I know precisely how bad many of them are. Some have shoddy effects, others are burdened with shallow performances, while others still were doomed from the get-go by lame concepts and even worse scripts. But here's the thing: no two were bad in the exact same way. How does that old Gene Roddenbery maxim go: infinite diversity in infinite combinations? Exactly.
Among that tidal wave of bad, however, you will find some amazing films. Perfect nuggets of narrative that might not have seen the light of day in any other forum. Films like last year's horror-suspense winner, Alice Jacobs Is Dead:
And the science-fiction award winner, Hirsute:
And the grand-prize winner, The Hidden Life of the Burrowing Owl:
I'm not saying that this year's crop is overflowing with awesome — I couldn't say, as I'm not returning as a judge — but what I know for sure is that a lot of people spent a lot of time, energy, and money making these films. Some of them were worth it, others most definitely not. But at a convention that can seem like a steady parade of actors saying the same things, over and over again, about their awesome movie/TV show/vanity comic project; or the relentless crush of fans scrambling for this free thing, or that autograph, or that shiny booth manned by bikini'd clockpunchers; or the well-meaning comics creators wondering why SDCC still has the "CC" in the title...
At this convention, it's nice to be able to encounter the truly unexpected.