"My Name Is Jonah" makes its NYC premiere at the fest.

“My Name Is Jonah” makes its NYC premiere at the fest.

Deep pockets don’t impress Shannon Walker and Tony Castle, two of the directors of the upcoming LES Film Festival (and co-workers at Noho production company BFD Productions). “We like to showcase people who innovate with things other than money,” says Castle. “You know, there’s something endearing about watching a film where you can understand how they put it all together, in a really imaginative way.” Music to the ears of struggling filmmakers everywhere.

Walker used to be one of those impoverished visionaries. About five years ago, she and festival co-director Damon Cardasis made a film on an extremely low budget. “We thought, there’s a lot of young people like us making films for nothing,” recalls Walker. “Let’s get them an opportunity to show their work.” So in 2011—in collaboration with Castle and Roxy Hunt—they held the inaugural LES Film Festival in a pop-up space.

Since then, the fest has been dedicated to young, independent, low-budget and tech-forward film. The organizers also prioritize a “fun and unintimidating” atmosphere which translates as a BYOB policy (“if you’re discreet”) at each screening, and “multiple free glasses of wine” if you forget your own. “No one’s tried to roll in a keg yet,” muses Walker. “But we’d help them roll it on in if they did,” Castle declares.

We’ve already shared our excitement for Fort Tilden’s screening at the fest. Now here’s what the organizers are particularly stoked about.

The Lower East Side legacy

This year’s festival kicks off with The Sturgeon Queens — a documentary about the LES gefilte fish-and-lox stalwart Russ and Daughters, which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary. “We’re so excited that it’s our opening night film,” gushed Walker. “I don’t know any other films that star Ruth Bader-Ginsburg.” The filmmakers have confirmed that this is the documentary’s “non-Jewish film festival” debut.

Yes to tech
The festival is all about the newest filmmaking tools, hence the Glass Shorts soiree, hosted by (you guessed it) Google Glass in (gasp) Chelsea. “Glass could be a really cool tool for filmmakers,” says Castle—likening it to the now-ubiquitous use of GoPro. “We’re trying to be on the cutting edge of that trend.” Guests will also get a chance to demo the ultimate in geek chic for themselves, during the cocktail hour.

Pseudoscience gets real

Walker describes The Perfect 46 as “a sci-fi film about this guy who creates a test to see if your genetics are a good match with your partners.” Directed by Brett Bonowicz, the film is a fictional exploration of the burgeoning genome start-up culture represented in the real world by companies like 23andMe. “The trailer has quotes from scientists saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t all that out of the realm of possibility’,” says Castle. Creepy. And, adds Walker, the acting and cinematography are spectacular.

Get animated
“I always get excited for the animation,” admits Walker. “It’s a perfect example of what we’re trying to showcase, because it can be completely achieved by one person sitting down with the right tools.” On animation night, she says, she’s always left astounded by the filmmakers’ innovative approaches. This year’s line-up is yet to be announced, but Walker’s convinced us it’s got to be good.

Music videos are movies, too

Castle is most excited about Music Video Night. This is an all-new category for the film fest. Although they’ve shown music videos before, they’ve always been in competition with the other shorts. This year, they have a night all to themselves, and Marky Ramone (of The Ramones) will be in the judge’s seat. The lineup features The Boy Dahlia: Your Direction (trailer above), Boys Noize: Starwin, Trentemoller: Gravity, When He Comes Home, Let it Ride, Fear & Delight, Swift Arrows, Professor Kliq – Wire & Flashing Lights, RUN, and Dj SuperStereo/Stas feat. Péterfy Bori – Hajnal.

Don’t ef with the French

You’ll Be a Man is an indie French movie. “I know what you’re thinking!” says Castle. “But it’s truly amazing—just a really captivating film about a 20-year-old boy. He becomes a live-in maid. The mother and son love him. The father hates him. “Super weird and sexy!” It’s one of the hardest to market, Castle laments, but a brilliant film nonetheless.

The pool party is the new block party
Last year’s Block Party will not be returning, but the “outdoor weird place” theme continues with a rooftop pool party and a screening of the short film Dragula—a musical (of sorts) about a self-conscious high-school senior who is taught how to do drag and proceeds to win over his peers. The cast is a fabulous ensemble including Barry Bostwick, Carmen Electra, Cheyenne Jackson and Missi Pyle. Says Walker: “It’s a really fun movie and the music is amazing.” And Castle: “Hang out in the pool, drink free booze, and watch the sun go down”—and the queens come out.

The Lower East Side Film Festival, June 12 to 22; tickets, showtimes and venues at here