The Flo Grows Up

Kris Kemp, a Web page designer, sometime carpenter, and film buff who named the annual Flo Film Festival after his now defunct poetry-and-music 'zine, Flo, doesn't think the event's slacker, slumber party style will be lost by moving it to a real theater.

Last year independent film fans gathered at Respectable Street nightclub in West Palm Beach to curl up on couches and munch Pop-Tarts while viewing 30 film shorts, animated clips, and experimental movies on a big-screen TV. The move across town to the Carefree Theatre, says Kemp, is in line with his desire to see his festival grow.

"The quality of the films has gone up," he says, "and holding it at the Carefree is going to bring it up a notch."

Kemp had a better selection of entries to cull this year, and by screening just 17, he's upped the festival's quality. Instead of last year's strictly video format, the two longer features will be shown on film, and the sound quality and sightlines will be better for audiences. "It's also more pleasing to the filmmakers who might be coming from out of town," he says.

One pair of filmmakers plans to travel all the way from California. Blair Witch Project director of cinematography Neal Fredericks and his wife, writer-director Ann Lu, are bringing her debut feature, Dreamers, to the Flo fest.

The movie, about a pair of Midwestern teenagers who move to Hollywood and try to break into filmmaking, won the Best Screenplay and Audience Choice awards at the Malibu Film Festival. A final distribution deal is in the works, but before the flick goes mainstream, South Florida audiences can check it out at Flo.

The fest is also the final chance to see Orlando filmmaker Johnathan Figg's The Brothers, at least in its original, indie format. The half-hour short about two guys from the suburbs who try to make it as rappers is currently being turned into a feature film.

Pending bigtime deals don't detract from Flo's underground spirit, though. The other 15 films include the comedy short The Tell-Tale Vibrator and the three-minute animated piece The Mysterious World of Birds, a South Park- style look at a bird's life.

Besides, says Kemp, "We're still serving Pop-Tarts. We'll have a couple of toasters at the concession stand, a couple of Ataris in the lobby, and maybe a few couches, to keep that vibe."

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John Ferri