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First-Ever Inwood Film Festival to Put the Spotlight on Uptown

 From left to right: Jason Minter, Todd Cerveris and Aaron Simms are the organizers behind the first Inwood Film Festival, coming to the neighborhood in February 2016.
From left to right: Jason Minter, Todd Cerveris and Aaron Simms are the organizers behind the first Inwood Film Festival, coming to the neighborhood in February 2016.
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Aaron Simms

INWOOD — Move over, TriBeCa — Uptown is getting its own film festival.

A trio of Inwood movie buffs wanting to turn the camera on their own neighborhood have launched the Inwood Film Festival, which will feature short films that were either shot there or created by locals

The festival, set for February 2016, is the brainchild Aaron Simms, Todd Cerveris and Jason Minter, three Inwood residents who are also veterans of film and theater. 

“We’re all Uptown residents. We all love the arts and bringing people together,” said Simms, who has also helped produce the Inwood Shakespeare Festival and The Back Porch, a local variety show.

Simms said that the goal is to create more arts programming in a community that has too little of it.

 The Inwood Film Festival will highlight movies shot in Inwood or made by local residents.
The Inwood Film Festival will highlight movies shot in Inwood or made by local residents.
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DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

“There’s no movie theater above 125th, there are no theater spaces, no performing arts center,” Simms said. “This is about serving an under-served community and creating a platform for underserved artists.”

The organizers are accepting submissions from three categories: films under five minutes that were shot in Inwood; films under five minutes that were made by Inwood filmmakers; and films under 25 minutes that were either shot here or made by locals. A panel of celebrities will judge the five-minute films in both categories, with winners taking home a $500 prize.

The 25-minute films will be a part of the public exhibition and will be eligible to win the “Le Prince Founder’s Award” for exceptional filmmaking, named for Louis Le Prince, "the father of cinematography" and a former resident of Washington Heights.

Cerveris, an actor who has also won awards for the short films he started making as a hobby a few years ago, said that anyone can enter the festival.

“The technology is so available now that really the only thing stopping us is our imagination,” he said.

Cerveris pointed out that it only took him a day to shoot and edit a movie that he screened while announcing the festival at the Indian Road Café on Tuesday.

“I literally took my iPhone and walked around snowy Inwood in the afternoon for a couple of hours. I opened my laptop and pulled up iMovie, and by the end of the day I had a four-minute movie to show.”

All submissions for the festival are due by Nov. 1, 2015. The organizers will announce which films have been accepted by Dec. 15, 2015, culminating in an awards ceremony at Minter's Indian Road Café in February.

Minter, who worked on HBO’s "The Sopranos" during its entire six-season run before opening the cafe, said they are hoping to draw a diverse group of participants.

“We’re reaching out to everyone,” Minter said. “We want to make sure that we distribute the fliers to every little pocket of the neighborhood that we can, not just up here in this neck of the woods.”

To that end, they are printing the announcement materials in both English and Spanish, and will accept films in both languages, he noted.

The organizers have chipped in their own money to get the festival off the ground, but are seeking donations to support the festival, as well as possible future programming.

Those who want to help support the event can donate to the Inwood Film Festival through Fractured Atlas, a funding platform for arts organizations.

Cerveris said the festival is already getting a positive reaction among locals.  

"I’ve been bowled over by the amount of enthusiasm and support we’ve received, just since we announced [Tuesday] night,” he said.  “I think one of the best things about this film festival is that it really is coming our of the excitement of Inwood residents.”