Film Fest 101: A Q&A with Chris Opper

Winter in Door County is the perfect time to hunker down with a good movie. But at this point in the year, the cabin fever might be setting in, and the indentation on your couch might be getting uncomfortably deep. If you’re looking to change your surroundings while keeping the movie binge going strong, take yourself to the Door County Short Film Fest.

This year, two full-length films will accompany the short-film marathon. During intermissions, festival director Chris Opper will discuss the production process with featured filmmakers. 

The Peninsula Pulse chatted with Opper early through this Q&A. Responses have been edited for clarity.

Sam Watson (SW): How did the film fest start?

Chris Opper (CO): Back in 2009, my friend Joel Kersebet owned a coffee shop, Base Camp, in Sister Bay. I have a background in filmmaking, so we would have a film night in their basement, where we’d show films from UW-Milwaukee. It was a very small space – maybe 20 or 30 people fit in the room. 

We both enjoyed it, but it tended to be more abstract films coming from UW-Milwaukee, and Joel liked more narrative films. So I said, “Well, I’ve thought about putting a film festival together.” And when you say stuff like that, you automatically become the director. 

SW: Why did you make the switch to the Gould Theater this year? 

CO: We always wanted to get into a bigger space. We moved from Base Camp to the Sister Bay Town Hall after two years, and even there, it was always pretty crammed. Usually we’d have around 100 people in there – maybe 200 or 300 over the weekend. At first we never thought we’d have enough people to fill an auditorium. It seemed too big. But we have a good number every year.

SW: What films are you especially excited about in this year’s lineup?

CO: There are several locally produced ones that I’m really excited about. We have Project 500, which was filmed on Washington Island. It’s such a good movie, and the fact that it’s local just adds to it.

Then on Saturday night, the feature closing out the festival is Confessions of a Sailor. The director started making the movie around 2010. Then his computer crashed, and he had to start from scratch and try to recover some of the original footage. It’s taken this long to put it back together. 

SW: If you’ve never gone to a film festival before, what should you expect? 

CO: When you go to a film fest, you have to know that these are movies made by people who are still learning the craft. And the beauty of short films is that if you’re not enjoying this particular movie, just stick around another six or seven minutes, and we’ll be moving on to the next one. 

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