Winterfilm Is A Film Fest On The Fly

One decade later, this local DIY film fest is still going strong.
Photo illustration by Matthew Billington

For the past decade, Winterfilm has brought together filmmakers of all ages and experience levels under a simple premise: Gather a crew and actors, and, using the provided theme and including the assigned prop (which must be integral to the film’s story—no MacGuffins here), make a 10-minute film during the month of February.

Founder Kent Meloy launched Winterfilm in 2013, when he was president of the board of the Southern Ohio Filmmakers Association. After five years of participating in the 48-Hour Film Project, where teams go head-to-head to create a movie in two days from assigned genres, lines of dialogue, and a prop, Meloy says he found himself wanting more. “I wanted it to be more about the story and the craft of filmmaking than it was about how well I could incorporate these [elements] in a weekend,” he says. “I also wanted a little more time. That’s where Winterfilm came in. I was like, OK, what if I gave teams a month and a really broad theme and prop?

For example, last year’s theme was balance and the prop was jewelry. Other past themes and props include winter and a current newspaper; deception and a mirror; and the number seven and an antique photograph. We can’t tell you what 2023’s theme or prop are—the festival’s governing concept is that no planning or writing happens before the launch date on February 1. (Meloy picked February for Winterfilm to give the local—and regional—filmmaking community something to sink their teeth into during the slower winter months, though he notes that February isn’t necessarily the downtime it once was.)

After the films are turned in, judges review them ahead of an awards ceremony and showcase, which will be held on Saturday, April 22 at the Woodward Theater. Registration caps out at 30 teams; screenings will be in blocks of 10.

Stephonika Kaye, who began assisting Meloy in organizing Winterfilm around 2017, participated in one of the early events. At the time, she was new to the Queen City and didn’t know many people. That’s when she saw a post calling for team members on the Southern Ohio Filmmakers Association Facebook page. “I’m still very close with those guys today,” Kaye says. “We’ve done paid work together now. Other projects came from it. Participating in one of the earliest Winterfilms laid the foundation for some of the people I know today and my own community.”

To celebrate Winterfilm’s 10th anniversary, Meloy and Kaye will join the fun this year. While they won’t be eligible for awards, the other contestants will choose a separate prop and theme for them to make a movie with so they won’t know anything in advance. Meloy says he has two goals: He wants to include a fight scene and make at least one audience member cry.

“To me, it’s almost like you have permission to fail,” Kaye says of Winterfilm. “You’re there to have fun and make a movie. You learn from the process and then, next year, make something better. I’m genuinely excited to see what people come up with every year.”

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