PRISM Fest at Cedar Lee Theater 11/13/16

Nick Lotz
Taste the rainbow. Feel the rainbow. Watch the . . . rainbow?

If this is your train of thought when it comes to cinema, then PRISM Fest will be right up your alley. With a lineup of short films from a cornucopia of international filmmakers (including BAFTA and Sundance nominated filmmaker Tina Gharavi) this festival, which goes down on Sunday, November 13 at Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights, is going to be a surefire way to put you in the mood for a fun-filled film season.

 The gathering of cinephiles is headlined with a full length feature by Cleveland State University student Joe Kowalski , who wrote, directed, and edited this black and white flick which features characters splashed with color. Each from one of two dysfunctional families who are thrown together in an interlinked tale of love, loss, and meaning that culminates in some sort of awesome twist that director Kowalski has been tight-lipped about ever since production wrapped (Check out the trailer here!)

There’s no entry fee for this party, so welchers, mooches, and all you boring working folk alike are welcome at the door, although donations will be collected and given to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, 100% of which go directly to research (there will also be a tip jar left out for the poor, starving artists filmmakers).

I had a chance to sit down with the director of PRISM, Joe Kowalski and speak with him about his characters, the festival, and the secret ending to his film.
This is your first feature. How was it finally getting the chance to do what so many film students dream of?
Actually it's my third, which is even luckier I suppose! And I'm incredibly fortunate that I was able to pull something like this off. I'm a big fan of creating my own opportunities instead of waiting around for them, so it was really only able to happen through spending all my free time forcing it to exist, along with the help of so many incredible friends and colleagues who gave their time to make it. That and spending all of my extra paycheck money on the movie.
Writing, directing AND editing; you’re somewhat of a one-man dream team here with this feature. Take us through your process. Any highs or lows you’d care to speak of?
I think each one of those steps has it's own little arc of highs and lows. When you start each one of those processes, you're excited and impassioned with all the ideas in your head, but eventually you reach a point where you feel lost in it all and all you can think about is that the film's never going to be finished. But then you force yourself to keep working at it until that step of the process comes to a close and you get excited again. It's very emotionally tumultuous.
What was the main idea behind making PRISM i.e. your inspiration regarding plot, characters, etc.?
My brain is constantly throwing ideas together, probably for my own amusement. I had an idea pop up for a very short film about a little old lady trying to escape from her own house and having it feel a bit like a heist, which I thought was an entertaining idea. However, I started wondering more about who her family might be and soon I had a whole little web of interactions in my head that excited me to the point that I knew I had to expand the story.
Where’d you get the cool idea to do the black and white with splashes (instead of a full color scheme)?
I had seen films like Schindler's List and Pleasantville play around with that visual effect, but I couldn't think of a film in recent memory that utilized it on a large scale. I thought it might be fun to try and play around with it on a comedy sketch, but the more I started developing PRISM, the more I realized that it would be a great fit for this film. Due to the complex way in which all the characters are connected to each other and how different they are, you don't just get to see the "prism" of their experiences and lives, but a literally "prism" of color.
You hinted at a ‘grand event’ of sorts that happens towards the end of the film. Care to elaborate on that?
Nope. Only that it's more dismaying than grand.
You’re donating a portion of donations at PRISM Fest to Alzheimer’s research. Any reason for the personal interest in this cause?
Every time we do a premiere event, I try and fund raise for a charity that loosely relates to the plot. Our grandmother character in the film is hinted at having some form of dementia or Alzheimer's, so there's the connection this time around. However Cure Alzheimer's Fund is a great organization in its own right and funnels 100% of their funds directly into research, which is incredibly rare to find.
Any plans lined up for the future?
I never sit still too long. After the premiere I'll continue focusing on the weekly podcast I co-host called Can You Not? as well as my YouTube channel, but will probably taking a brief break from anything specifically film-related. I'll also be working on getting things to our Indiegogo donors and prepping the PRISM DVD and Blu-ray. Next year, I'm going to work on a book that I'm currently sketching out and a few other secret projects as well.