Alumnus works to build connections that deepen and broaden the reach of the Indy Film Festival.
Introducing a movie at the Indy Film Fest is one of Chris Overpeck’s favorite duties as a volunteer.
“I love getting up and doing it because I’m finally able to thank Indiana State. It’s my alma mater,” said the 2004 electronics and computer technology graduate.
Indiana State is also the festival’s title sponsor — a relationship Overpeck helped develop in 2016 with his former classmate and friend, Indiana State Director of Marketing Kris Rogers. “Our relationship with State reaches a new audience for the university, and it’s a point of pride for me, personally,” said Overpeck, who is serving this year as the festival’s board president.
Developing partnerships and building relationships is what the Indy Film Fest does best. Well, aside from bringing thought-provoking and independent films to Indianapolis each year, that is.
“We have a pool of over 100 volunteers who come out here and tear tickets and point people in the right direction, answer questions, etc. Without them, we would be lost,” Overpeck said. “The community partners are so huge to us, and so it’s important to make sure they feel love from us. I think our reputation is built on the relationships we have on all levels — with the community, with the filmmakers, with our sponsors, with our friends who help.”
The Indy Film Fest started in 2004 as a 10-day event in the summer. Fifteen years later, it’s grown into a calendar of year-round events. “It’s an effort to get our name out there and stay engaged with the community,” Overpeck said.
Roving Cinema showcases cult classics in venues appropriate to the film. For example, “Die Hard” was shown on the top floor of the Salesforce Tower (formerly the Chase Tower) in downtown Indianapolis, and “The Blair Witch Project” was shown on the grounds of Newfields (formerly Indianapolis Museum of Art), about a half-mile into the woods.
“I had to leave early that night, and walking alone back to my car through the woods in the dark was a bit of a harrowing experience,” Overpeck said with a laugh.
“We provide milk and cereal, and people bring their families here to watch. Some of these are ’80s movies that are kind of near and dear to the parents, and some of them are new, like ‘Inside Out,’” Overpeck said. “I always joke that we’re looking for our future board members, 20 years down the road.”
Some of their audience-goers only know them only for a spin-off event and never attend their flagship festival. And that’s OK. For others, it’s an introduction to their entire lineup of programming.
“We have parents who come to Cereal Cinema and see what we’re doing and learn about Indy Film Fest. Other times, it’s parents who get sitters for our other events and then want to bring their kids out to see something. So, we see familiar faces often. It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “We want to keep doing what we do, but find ways to make ourselves truly unique.”
The 2018 festival, which marks a change from its usual summer schedule, is April 26-May 6 at Newfields. “Being in April means we should have a bigger pool of movies, because they wouldn’t have been grabbed by distributors yet, but that also means we’ll be looking more to the big fall film festivals to use them as inspiration,” he said.
One thing that won’t change is the connections they’ve made. “We develop personal relationships with the filmmakers while they’re in town. We have a really strong reputation for being terrific hosts,” he said.
Ultimately, it was a relationship that helped Overpeck first learn of the festival. His friend Jason Roemer, who is the board’s vice president this year, gave Overpeck and his wife a pair of all-access passes.
“So you go to a movie on Tuesday night, and you come back on Wednesday night,” he said. “You start seeing the same people come to the big screenings every evening, and so it started to feel like summer camp.”
Overpeck quickly became a fan and started helping write blogs and social media posts to help promote the festival.
“I love movies, obviously, and I like independent art in general. I really was surprised by and really loved what they were doing and wanted to get involved in some way. I think that was Jason’s plan all along — to get me on the board,” he said with a laugh. “That’s a strategy I use now to get people who I think are community leaders and people who will be really valuable on our board involved. I want them to fall in love with it the same way I did.”
Depending on the time of year, Overpeck spends anywhere from five to 20 hours a week volunteering for the festival.
“We have a handful of studio movies that we show that tend to be our biggest nights, but on weeknights, it’s our independent films. They can be really small budget, so it can be from all over the world, and it’s movies you can’t see anywhere else. And in some cases, I mean, really, literally, you won’t have another chance to see it, ever,” he said.
Or you could see it before anyone’s heard of it. Last year, the festival screened “Hell or High Water,” which went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards.
“The fact that we were able to show something at our festival before anyone else could see it, and the people who were there got to say, ‘I was there when,’ ‘I saw it six months before you knew what it was.’ I just love that. I live for those moments,” he said.
Overpeck works as a Scrum Master at Aprimo, a marketing operations and digital asset management company in Indianapolis. His choice to attend Indiana State was one rooted in family tradition (his parents and brother are Sycamores) and growing up in Terre Haute.
“When I think back, it’s all good memories,” he said. “I remember often driving to campus and hanging around out there on a nice evening, taking photos, just kind of thinking, sitting and contemplating.”
And while his line of work isn’t exactly what he majored in, Overpeck always welcomes the chance to thank his alma mater. “College taught me how to think. That’s the biggest thing it does for you. You learn a lot, obviously, but it teaches you how to be successful in the world,” he said.
IF YOU GO
Indy Film Festival, April 26-May 6, Newfields, indyfilmfest.org