Bound by Art
By Dan MacIntosh
The area code 909 has become synonymous with the Inland Empire. With the relatively recent explosion of cell phones, the amount of differing area codes has also significantly increased. Yet, when you hear the 909 mentioned, you always immediately think of the IE.
Now, Eddie Gonzalez, Assistant Director of Media Studies at Pitzer College, is attempting to create an indelible association between 909 and filmmaking with the fourth annual 909 Film Festival, scheduled for Oct. 19 at Pitzer College’s Benson Auditorium.
Filmmakers submitting entries to this unique festival will never forget its name, simply because submission rule number one is that films/videos must be 9 minutes and 9 seconds or less, with no exceptions. Categories available are narrative, animation, music video, documentary and experimental, with prizes awarded to winners in each category. Furthermore, every entry must be shot or created in the Inland Empire. Lastly—as if the point has not already been suitably driven home—the entry fee is, you guessed it, $9.09. All payees also receive a 909 Film Festival t-shirt.
“It’s an event to bring filmmakers that want to showcase their work and get their ideas and make it sort of 909-specific,” explains Eddie Gonzalez,” but it is also an audience that is a part of this community that is excited about someone representing their area.”
In many ways, the 909 Film Festival is quite different from other more famous film events.
“It’s not an entity to sort of launch people into stardom,” Gonzalez explains, “like Sundance or some of the bigger festivals that are out there now, but it’s a way to put an audience and the filmmakers together. Some attendees might even come and say, ‘Hey, I have an interesting idea. Can someone shoot it?’”
Gonzalez has big dreams for Inland Empire filmmaking, and some of these dreams might just come true via the networking opportunities made available through the 909 Film Festival. “I think that, ultimately, my goal—once I meet and build the community of filmmakers—is to handpick the people that can tell stories and do a compilation movie like New York, I Love You, but make it about the Inland Empire. I’d love to see a compilation movie with one continuous story, but told by different directors, or just a compilation of different stories, but told throughout the Inland Empire through different filmmakers’ eyes.”
In Gonzalez’s estimation, the definitive Inland Empire movie has not yet been made. Ironically, though, cities like Pomona have been mentioned in films multiple times over the years. However, a great movie about Pomona, or the surrounding region, is still more dream than reality.
“I have a set of clips I’ve collected over the years,” says Gonzalez, “and there are a lot of mainstream movies that mention Pomona in scripts. There’s at least about 15. All the way from Diehard, to David Lynch’s Inland Empire, all the way back to Sunset Boulevard.”
“I grew up in Pomona,” Gonzalez explains. “I still live in Pomona. I’m definitely a lifelong resident here. I went to Claremont College and out of that experience I started to meet people that were of the same kind of mindset. Like, ‘Hey, something needs to be brought out of this area in terms of filmmaking.’ So when I see stuff that’s set in these areas, or used as a backdrop, I’m reminded how there are a lot of interesting historical places in the Inland Empire and I’m really about that. How do we sort of spotlight that, but without focusing on the negative?’”
It’s oh so easy to be negative. People in the Los Angeles and Orange counties are so quick to look down on the IE. Nevertheless, Gonzalez has a positive attitude, and he truly believes his 909 Film Festival can help in change perceptions of his home region—for the better.
“I think my goal is to promote the area through filmmaking,” he explains. “The more I meet up-and-coming filmmakers, the more I see the community coming together. I’m all about spotlighting the 909 and making a positive statement about it. Through the art of filmmaking something can be brought out in a positive way. My goal is to make that happen.”
909 Film Festival at Pitzer College, Benson Auditorium, 1050 N. Mills Ave., Claremont, (909) 621-8000; www.909.junkie.com. Fri. Oct 18. 6pm.