“Stop trying to make this, like, educational”
Having run the gamut between big [Toronto International] and micro [Buffalo Niagara] film festivals as both a member of the press and public, I’ve begun to cultivate certain expectations from the events I attend. Possessing separate press screenings, VIP passes for all-access, an ability to catch true indie art you may never get to see again, and/or the opportunity to be the first to spy a big time blockbuster, each finds a way to set itself apart from the pact. As an attendee the one universal truth you hope all have is a dedication to the work shown and the artists gracious enough to spend time and money to come down and promote cinema together.
I’ve seen what happens when a filmmaker is drowned out by the start of another movie after voluntarily engaging his audience in a Q&A because the festival lacked awareness towards facilitating him as well as programmers going out of their way to let a filmmaker be heard. One of the greatest things is actually seeing the same event that dropped the ball learn from its mistake and ensure it never happens again. But never have I experienced the overflowing love shown at the Orlando Film Festival as witnessed through the lens of writer/director Jerry Cavallaro‘s documentary Nic & Jerry Get OFF. While culling together footage for the fest’s 2012 iteration’s publicity trailer, Jerry and his friend Nic Baisley (owner of FilmSnobbery Productions, LLC) found themselves involved in something much bigger.
Both men had enjoyed the sunny Florida festivities before, so right off the bat we understand how executive director Dan Springen and his cohorts have built an appeal earning return visits. Proclaimed in an early, inebriated rant and a later closing night speech as a “film festival for filmmakers,” Springen’s point fills the screen. A party rages each night, Stella Artois over-saturates to the point where the bar runs out, and impromptu karaoke to classic rock ballads by all in earshot of the speaker occur. There are films shown and interviews proctored too, but where else can you find filmmakers and film fans screaming Bon Jovi with an arm around each other’s shoulders? If Cavallaro’s account is to be believed—and its candor makes me think it can—the OFF is a celebration like no other.
Starring Baisley, Nic & Jerry Get OFF is as much about the industry letting loose as it is this critic helping spearhead a movement to expose independent film to the world. A jovial guy unafraid to ham it up for the camera, we catch a glimpse at his balancing act of work and fun. Side trips to video arcades, Steak ‘N Shake, and South of the Border for industrial grade ‘adult’ bang snaps show Nic’s lighter side as the strain of driving 26 hours weighs on his attitude and desire to be on camera. He must set up his camcorder and microphone for each new interviewee, sacrifice late nights and guided tours for sleep, and stick to his mission above all else. A candid, “You’re too busy to promote yourself? Sure, go get some food,” depicts his frustration for lazy filmmakers perfectly.
As someone who attends these functions in a similar capacity as Nic, I can completely understand this mentality. You genuinely love the people who stop at nothing to talk about their work and delve deep into the process or whatever else comes up in conversation and shake your head at those too busy to spend a few minutes allowing you to willingly promote him/her. There are so many new films each year that it doesn’t take more than a blink of an eye to forget one you tried hard to remember let alone a piece by a director who simply can’t be bothered. This is the time to be like Jerry when he went above and beyond creating buzz for his debut Stuck Like Chuck, especially at a festival affording the opportunity without big name celebs to steal the spotlight.
When Cavallaro catches these moments—whether Baisley to the camera or industry folk on panels and at parties—the film is a wonderfully informative piece on how passionate micro-budgeted creatives and those who spread the word are about the work. We see some Q&As, interviews, tipsy glad-handing, and unfiltered opinions throughout as well as the fraternity of men and women networking and making friends rather than getting caught up in overblown egos partaking in competition and rivalry. The OFF cultivates an atmosphere of love and support with little room for the bitterly scorned Sundance cast-offs feeling like the audience forking over hard-earned money are privileged to even get the chance to meet them.
I’m not sure about the decision to show trailers for Virgin Alexander and The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue in the gaps when Nic and Jerry attend screenings—its abrupt stylistic change is jarring and unnecessary, but find little fault with Cavallaro’s choices otherwise. Comic bits like Hotel Room Jousting and Springen singing the Ghostbusters theme are fantastic, but it’s moments like Baisley defending his stance on filmmaking being a selfish endeavor that end up relevant morsels of insight. Overall it’s a fun mix of humor and education transporting us into the experience of a critic’s nonstop week of festival activities. Some sequences may go overlong [karaoke] and Jerry may show Springen telling his Stuck Like Chuck story one too many times [he admirably never stops promoting], but you cannot deny its complete authenticity.
Check out Nic & Jerry Get OFF for free at the film’s website.
 Nic Baisley partying at the Orlando Film Festival
 Alex Italics & Carl Johnson for Blackout Roulette
 Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett for Virgin Alexander
photos courtesy of facebook.com/NJGetOff