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Flagler Film Festival, Drawing on Works Near and Far, Flicks On For 3rd Year Friday

| January 13, 2016

david karner

Cameraman Gary Lester, left, and writer-director David Karner discuss shots for the film “Spot On” at Palm Coast’s European Village. The five-minute film will screen during the Anything Goes (Dark) block at 3:45 p.m. Saturday Jan. 16 at the Flagler Film Festival. (David Karner.)

As an 8-year-old kid growing up in Colorado, David Karner would get the willies watching “Night Gallery,” that creepy post-“Twilight Zone” TV series by Rod Serling.

“It scared the crap out of me, but I absolutely loved every moment that led up to the surprise ending,” said Karner, a Palm Coast web designer, ex-Marine and Desert Storm veteran.

And now Karner is hoping to scare the crap out of film fans, particularly horror movie buffs, with his two entries in the Third Annual Flagler Film Festival. Karner’s 11-minute film “The Killer Inside” landed him a nomination for Best Director Horror/Thriller.

The festival, which runs Friday Jan. 15 through Sunday Jan. 17 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Palm Coast, will feature 47 films from Florida, California, New York and other states, as well as movies from Spain, Australia, Canada and a co-production from Uganda, Britain and the United States.

According to, the event’s mission is to “showcase emerging, new filmmakers of all genres, features and shorts.” The festival welcomes “innovative, low-budget, micro-budget” or even “no-budget” films.

“Only point-4 percent of films made each year get distribution,” said Kathie Barry, festival director and co-founder with her husband, Jim Barry, a retired Connecticut Department of Corrections employee, and Orlando film critic and entertainment writer Orion Christy.

“Festivals are one way to help filmmakers get their work seen,” said Kathie Barry, who works in a transportation logistics business. “I view it like a writer writing their first novel. Somebody has to see it somewhere and recognize that it’s good in order to get it published so other people can read it. Or like an artist who does a bunch of paintings but never has a gallery showing, so nobody gets to see how good this artist is.

“Festivals are recognition that this is good work. Many of these films are done with very little budgets. What they come up with is quite amazing. We want to help aspiring filmmakers get their work out to the public.”

Don’t expect Karner’s “The Killer Inside” or his other festival entry, “Spot On,” to make you jump out of your seat.

Kathryn Barry. (© FlaglerLive)

Kathryn Barry. (© FlaglerLive)

“I like horror films that get to that place inside you where you haven’t explored it and it makes you extremely uncomfortable and it spooks you,” said Karner, who attended the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television in the late 1990s. “I’m not so much into the jump scare because jump scares are kind of cheap. People use them to effect but afterwards you’re left with an empty taste in your mouth because there’s no story.

“I love horror and I love a good story. So for me the campfire tale at night is one of my favorites.”

“The Killer Inside,” which screens as part of the festival’s Horror/Thriller block at 8:30 p.m. Friday Jan. 15, is “a tale of what could be in someone’s mind might be scarier than what’s outside,” Karner said. “It’s a psychological twist that’ll remind you of ‘Night Gallery.’ ”

“Spot On” is based on an idea by area writer Eric Jordan, who also stars in the film. The trailer for the five-minute work, which is viewable with many other trailers on the fest website, depicts a sexy blonde woman having an espresso at an outdoor café — even as a sniper’s rifle is trained on her. (Palm Coast residents will recognize the European Village location.) The film will screen as part of the Anything Goes (Dark) block at 3:45 p.m. Saturday Jan. 16.

“Spot On” is “almost a thriller-slash-romantic comedy,” Karner said. “I hate to say this but it almost defies genre.”

After USC, Karner worked in Los Angeles in commercials and infomercials before going into corporate video and communications. In 2002, he moved with his daughter to Palm Coast, where his parents live, and started a web design business.

He was lured back into movies after volunteering at the Daytona Beach Film Festival, where he became friends with local filmmaker Gary Lester. They now have been collaborating on film projects for five years.

“Sometimes I’ll direct, sometimes he’ll direct,” Karner said. “He’ll be my cameraman, I’ll be his cameraman. Gary is a brilliant camera person and special effects guy.”

While cinephiles may subscribe to the auteur theory, which says that a filmmaker who exerts artistic control over a movie is the lone “author” of the movie, Karner cites support from numerous colleagues whom he calls “a really nice core group of people who like to work together.”

Having a “good team” who share their expertise, skills and equipment is important because, Karner says matter-of-factly, “Well, we have no budget.”

Along with Lester, Karner also cites sound engineer Amanda Waldman of Flagler Beach and Marco DiGeorge, co-owner and program director of Truthful Acting Studios in Orlando, which has been a conduit for a number of actors who have appeared in Karner’s films.

“There are thousands of film festivals in the world, and everybody would like to get into Sundance and Toronto and Cannes,” said Barry, the Flagler Film festival director. “But they have 10,000 submissions a year, so the chances of getting in without a big name movie star in the film are slim.

“But smaller regional festivals are one way to get your film seen. It’s even more amazing that independent films can be made for such small budgets and they can tell really good stories and can have very good actors and crew. There is a lot of talent that is not a household name. People should see these films because they’re well worth it.”

Karner noted, “there are a lot of people here in town who have helped me and encouraged me, and I want them to see my film. For two of my films to be in the Flagler Film Festival is just a treat. Anybody who makes films is trying to communicate to the world their ideals about the world and how they view things. That worldview can only be communicated if people see the film.”

He cited one of the most renowned auteurs in the history of film: “I think Orson Welles said something to the effect that working on a film is the biggest toy train set a man could want, or something like that. It’s very true. It’s very heady stuff and so much fun.”

The juried festival received about 150 submissions, 47 of which were accepted. The first year the festival received about 100 submissions. Last year it received about 125.

“Our admissions are increasing in quality, too,” Barry said.

Screenings include numerous Documentary blocks as well as blocks of Drama, Comedy, Horror/Thriller, Anything Goes (Light) and Anything Goes (Dark). Q&A sessions with the filmmakers will follow each of those blocks.

A two-film block to benefit the annual Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic in Flagler Beach will be screened at 6 p.m. Friday Jan. 15. Admission to that block is free.

Both jury awards and audience favorite awards — some 25 in all — will be announced during a ceremony at 10 p.m. Sunday Jan. 17.

Here’s a sample of some of the films:

“Imba Means Sing,” 5 p.m. Sunday Jan. 17 — A documentary about the Grammy-nominated African Children’s Choir, shot in Uganda, Britain and the U.S.

“Coastal Dune Lakes,” 1:45 p.m. Saturday Jan. 16 — This documentary by Elam Stoltzfuz, an Emmy-winning filmmaker whose work has been broadcast on PBS, depicts a unique area in the Florida panhandle.

“Animals,” 9:15 p.m. Saturday Jan. 16 — This drama about young, heroin-addicted lovers was written by and stars David Dastmalchian, whose credits include roles in “Ant-Man,” the “CSI” franchise and “The Dark Knight” as the Joker’s deranged henchman. The film was directed by Collin Schiffli.

* “I Remember Better When I Paint,” 1:45 p.m. Sunday Jan. 17 — Narrated by Oscar-winning actress Olivia de Havilland, who is 99, this documentary by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner explores the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer’s.

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