MARCELLUS | When Stephen Long lived in New York City, he witnessed an independent film industry in which people work full-time and make a living by producing a variety of projects.
While the same isn't the case for the independent film scene in central New York, the Marcellus resident feels that the Syracuse International Film Festival's Spring Fest could someday make that true through a full weekend that highlights local filmmakers and their projects.
"The hope with this is that we can maybe put a few more of these sometimes desperate filmmakers together," Long said, noting Spring Fest helps connect filmmakers so they can work on one another's projects.
Along with Skaneateles' Lisa Ford, with whom Long worked as the gaffer on her short film "The Wish Horse," Long was also featured at the Sunday portion of Spring Fest that highlights short films produced by local filmmakers during a series of showings at The Palace Theater.
Long's film "Crucicle," runs just four minutes long but is "a neat little production" that has "got a great energy," he said. It tells a story about the need for freedom in a futuristic, dystopian society that purposefully mirrors events happening around the world today.
While Long had to miss a day of shooting for "The Wish Horse" to film another of his own movies, he said he met Ford through that project and that partnership has since mirrored what he hopes would eventually happen with other filmmakers through Spring Fest.
"Since then, she's been reading my scripts. I've been looking at her revisions," he said. "It's become quite a nice little incubating, central New York independent film world. ... That's the idea (of Spring Fest)."
Spring Fest is run through the Syracuse International Film Festival, which Long said "does a great job of bringing films of historical importance and artistic importance to Syracuse," while he said Spring Fest can do a great job of bringing important to the local film scene.
Long pointed to the television series "The Undersigned," which takes place and was filmed in Syracuse and "looks really cool," he said, as an example of local filmmakers working together.
But, he added, he doesn't know any of the people who worked on that project even though he works in the industry every day through his Upstate Down production company. Spring Fest gives him and others the opportunity to get to know one another.
"I assume I don't know all of the players in Syracuse, so hopefully I can meet them and they can meet me," Long said, referring to the "Erie Canal circuit" as the area from Albany to Buffalo and from Utica to Binghamton from where he encourages people to submit films.
He said Owen Shapiro and Mike Massurin from Syracuse International Film Festival "have been very supportive of what I've been trying to do" in terms of fostering local talent and use Spring Fest as an incubator for the area's industry.
Long also credited the team at The Palace Theater for allowing the theater to serve as a location both for shootings of films and showings of films.
"There's a lot of synergy coming up with this whole push to make Syracuse a production hub," Long said. "It's starting drive people from New York (City) that I didn't think I'd see here."
When Long moved back to Marcellus close to four years ago, he said he expected to make corporate and industrial videos — which is what he does full-time with his company — but now he sees a blossoming independent film industry with plenty of potential.
"It's really becoming more than I expected it would be, which is nice to see here," he said.
One key that could grow the industry, Long said, is a sound stage that would allow filmmakers and their clients the equipment and power sources they need to produce quality projects.
"There's an interest," he said. "As indie filmmakers begin to command larger and larger budgets, that would add to the sustainability of such a stage."
As far as he own film, Long said he was "looking for any excuse possible to get my name out there" and looked for auditions, calls for entries and others places where he could submit his work.
Filmed in The Gear Factory in Syracuse, "Crucible" takes place with "a great little art installation scene" and all but two members of its crew are from the area. Its script came from a feature-length script that Long wrote for a longer film that he hopes to be able to produce someday.
So, with that in mind, the filmmaker said his goal with "Crucible" — particularly as the central New York film scene grows — would be to eventually make his feature film and film it right in the Syracuse area.
But, as he called short films calling cards that filmmakers such as him use to draw attention to their other work and their talents, Long emphasized that "Crucible" does have a message to send.
"Another goal would be to just encourage conversation about why we do art and why it's important to have the freedom to do art," he said.