The Palisades might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of locations to shoot a movie, but for Shoshana Rosenbaum, it provided a supportive environment to film her narrative short, “Hide and Seek.”
Rosenbaum’s nine-minute movie, filmed in the same neighborhood that she lives in, will premiere at the D.C. Independent Film Festival this week. The piece tells the story of a rock musician turned stay-at-home father who makes a spontaneous wish that transports him into an alternate reality.
The movie was filmed in locations around the Palisades, including in a friend of Rosenbaum’s home and another friend’s backyard playground. One of the main reasons Rosenbaum chose to film in the Palisades was because of the support she had from those around her.
“Not a lot of people film movies in Palisades,” Rosenbaum said. “So people are very generous and are like, ‘Oh cool, you’re making a movie, sure I’ll stop my lawn mower.’ People are very nice about it.”
However, Rosenbaum said airplane noise caused problems when shooting. Because the area is in Reagan National Airport’s flight path, Rosenbaum said planes were flying overhead every five minutes, a particular issue given that most of “Hide and Seek” takes place outdoors. Despite the challenges, Rosenbaum said the support she received from friends and neighbors made filming close to home worth it.
The D.C. Independent Film Festival received over 2,000 submissions this year, and about 80 films were chosen, Executive Director Deirdre Evans-Pritchard said. Most of the films are short, like Rosenbaum’s, but there are 10 feature films and five feature documentaries this year.
“I think we contribute to the sense that D.C. is a happening place for film, much more than people might think from the outside,” Evans-Pritchard said.
This isn’t Rosenbaum’s first experience shooting a movie in the District. A prior film, “The Goblin Baby” was filmed in the Palisades. “Hide and Seek” also features a cast with multiple local actors, including those in the roles of the lead’s former bandmate and his friend. Additionally, almost the entire crew was made up of locals, Rosenbaum said.
Rosenbaum is also a part of group “Women in Film and Video of Washington, DC,” through which she has made connections with other women working in film.
For Rosenbaum, including women in the project was important. About 75 percent of the crew was female, Rosenbaum said. She also explores gender within the film, choosing to depict a stay-at-home dad as the main character.
“People have asked me why I made the character male,” Rosenbaum said. “And the reason I did that was because… if we see work-life balance, or choices, or ‘should I have kids?’, that’s always depicted as women struggling with that. And I thought it would be interesting to put the man in that role.”
Rosenbaum said classifying her film’s genre is difficult. She compared it to “The Twilight Zone,” but said it could also be considered science fiction of fantasy.
The D.C. Independent Film Festival features works from a variety of genres, including categories for features, documentaries, narrative shorts, documentary shorts, animations and submissions from high school students.
Over the past few years, the festival has seen a decrease in horror submissions in what Evans-Pritchard described as the “zombie world,” and an increase in documentary short films and animations. This year one of the animations is nominated for an Oscar, as was a submission last year, with a film winning the Oscar the year before that.
“I feel strongly, personally, that animation is not just the cutting edge of filmmaking, but it is actually becoming quite dominant as digital techniques permit more and more crossing over between film and animation,” Evans-Pritchard said.
Because it is an independent film festival, Evans-Pritchard said they don’t accept commercial films unless there is a specific independent angle. When reviewing submissions, she said they look for the quality of the idea, creative energy and originality.
The festival provides people with the opportunity to have their films watched and discussed with other filmmakers, and to be presented to the public, Evans-Pritchard said.
“There’s a strong filmmaking community here in Washington, D.C., that people who aren’t part of it perhaps don’t realize are here,” Evans-Pritchard said. “I think that what we try to do is bridge that community with everybody else in D.C.”
The festival runs Feb. 14 through 19 at locations throughout the District. For tickets and more information, visit dciff-indie.org.