Whether you’re a filmmaker, a film enthusiast or just looking to mix up your weekly routine, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) has got you covered for the month of February.
The UICA will kick off its 17th Open Projector Night (OPN) with a diverse range of thought-provoking short films created by local, regional and national filmmakers who all have distinct ties to Michigan.
From narratives and commercial pieces to experimental shorts, OPN serves up an exciting, emotional and attention-grabbing night packed with one-of-a-kind entertainment, networking opportunities and promotional prizes for winning filmmakers.
“Filmmakers finally have a place to gather together and talk about film, and how to grow the community and grow as artists,” Nick Hartman, UICA film coordinator, said. “OPN allows you to meet people you’d never imagine you’d get to work with. It gives people an opportunity to ask about others and what they do and exchange contact information.”
The 80-minute program features several films, all under 20 minutes, that were carefully selected by Hartman and a panel of five local filmmakers including: Jackson Ezinga, Lajanae Smith, Spencer Everhart, Dylan Sauber and Dale Jackson.
“What I’ve noticed in the past and what I’m trying to stay with is keeping Open Projector Night unique and not overwhelming,” Hartman said. “I want all of the films to be different, but they also need to work together in way.”
Each film has a chance to win large prizes facilitated by the UICA, including special screenings before UICA feature films, flattering promotions plastered on the UICA’s social media platforms, free movie passes to the UICA theater and a membership to the organization.
OPN maintains an air of mystery, filling viewers with pent up anticipation as they wait anxiously for the screenings to be revealed. Each filmmaker knows two weeks in advance that their film has been selected for OPN, however, audience members are purposely left in the dark.
“I would say that each OPN event is different depending on the films that are selected,” Katie Zychowski, UICA marketing coordinator, said. “It’s a unique experience every time because you don’t know what you are getting yourself into.”
Upon entering the impressive theater nestled on the bottom floor of the UICA, guests will be provided a ballot revealing the titles and directors of each film that will be screened during the event. At the end of the night, audience members ultimately decide which films take home the prizes.
“OPN is fun because, as an audience member, you have a say,” Zychowski said. “Whether you are a film enthusiast or just enjoy film, you have a chance to make your voice heard and decide what your favorite film is.”
What sets OPN apart from other film screening events is more than just the participation aspect and the rapid-fire content consumption, it’s the collaborative spirit floating around the room and genuine support that fills the theater to the rafters.
“OPN is for everyone. There’s an energy in the theater that you can feel–and a lot of cheering,” Hartman said. “We strive to create a really fun environment for everyone.”
The event will conclude with an insightful panel discussion with the filmmakers, a chance to mingle with other people at the event and an invitation to the afterparty, a popular, unspoken OPN tradition.
“People are not done talking by the time we are ready to close the doors at the UICA, so a full crowd of people will go somewhere else to continue the conversation,” Zychowski said.
Come alone or bring a friend, purchase a box of popcorn and a drink at the fully-stocked UICA concession stand and open your mind to the sights and sounds of OPN. You’re in for a heart-racing, mind-bending ride.
What: 17th Open Projector Night
Where: The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, 2 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids
When: February 15, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $4 for members $8 for general public