By Gabe Slesinger
The Carolina Film Festival will take place at The Independent Picture House on Saturday, October 14. I talked to founder Oliver Crooms IV about his journey into film and his mission for the festival.
When I asked you for an interview, you mentioned that you were just finishing up a Spiderman gig. I have to ask, what exactly is this Spiderman thing that you do?
Oh, this is fun! Thank you for asking that. I give back to the community by playing Spiderman at nonprofit events, parades, birthday parties and more. I’ve been at the Levine Children’s Hospital more than a few times and yesterday was doing Brownies and Burpees, an athletic event for both able and disabled kids, raising money for kids with special needs. I was there as Spiderman cheering them on and supporting this wonderful event. The look in kids’ eyes when they see Spiderman is awesome, and I love doing it. I actually started doing Spiderman as a joke at a friend’s birthday party, and it just took off. In fact, I am working on a Spiderman fan film, which is being written and produced here in Charlotte. You can find my alter ego on Instagram, @spideyncharlotte.
Can you tell us about your artistic background and journey into film?
I was born and raised in music — in church, plays and music studios. My mom is a two-time Grammy-nominated singer and my uncles all play instruments, sing and write songs. When I was a kid, I’d jam with my siblings, and at age 8, I’d make my own multitrack cassette recordings with drums and keyboard. I learned how to layer without anyone ever telling me it was a thing. Then I’d use tape and scissors to make my own album art and give the finished albums to my grandma. I majored in music business, management and merchandising. From there, I interned at EMI, worked a little bit in Chicago on Kanye West’s Graduation album and gigged on the saxophone. I still play saxophone, piano and keyboard.
One precise moment got me interested in filmmaking. I was on set of a music video a few years ago and inspired by how the director, producers and crew worked together to create. Seeing it all happen in front of me made me feel like I could do something like this and apply my artistry to film. I started educating myself, going to events, investing in equipment. I began making videos, commercials for small businesses, editing and networking with other filmmakers.
Why did you start the Carolina Film Festival?
Well, I woke up one day and thought to myself that I wanted to make something to motivate and inspire people long after I leave this earth. That was the moment that the Carolina Film Festival came to fruition. The festival has really taken off.
What are the challenges of running a film festival? What are the joys?
One challenge is that we don’t have a huge staff. It’s challenging but also rewarding when we accomplish all that we do with our limited resources. We may not have a team of grant writers or the connections that others might have, but we are progressing toward something amazing, and people are starting to notice in and out of North Carolina. We are the new kids on the block! The greatest joys are when people tell me how inspired they were by the films, seeing people make new friendships and professional relationships, as well as the education we do as a nonprofit. For example, we have worked with young people battling drug addiction and substance abuse at the Emerald School of Excellence. I love meeting these kids and showing them this world of filmmaking. Inspiring people is one of the great joys of doing this job.
What are the advantages of having an entire festival in a single day?
The festival is one day only and goes from 1 pm until around 5 pm. We only have time to screen the best of the best of the best! When we look at submissions, we look hard for creativity. We reward filmmakers who get out of the box.
I hope everyone can make it out this year to our festival. Tickets are a great value at just $10. In addition to the films, we will have three amazing panelists — Jerome Core of Amazon Studios, Kathryn Madsen, who worked on Breaking Bad, and the prolific writer/director/producer Chris Spencer.
Thank you so much for telling us about the Carolina Film Festival! Quickly, what are your top five films?
Ah — this is hard! Just off the top of my head: Jurassic Park, The Prince of Egypt, The Lion King, The Color Purple, The Dark Knight. Honorable mentions: The Shawshank Redemption and Cast Away.
Want more information? You can find it on the Carolina Film Festival website.