The alternative to the alternative film fests

A north-metro filmmaker and the Elk River Arts Alliance are bringing a novel event to new audiences.

David Gustafson, Star Tribune


In an ambitious first for the north-metro area, Arden Hills filmmaker Christopher Mihm and friend Josh Craig are bringing a condensed version of their Twin Cities Underground Film Festival to Elk River.

After Elk River Arts Alliance director Laurie Beil attended the festival -- held for the first time this fall in Bloomington -- she asked Mihm and Craig if they would screen it again in the north metro, giving residents a unique opportunity to see a few dozen independent films that the arts alliance describes as "out-there, quirky, hard-to-find and truly indie."Most everything seems to take place in Minneapolis/St. Paul," Mihm said. "To do something sort of farther out like that is pretty novel."

The daylong event will feature experimental, animation and comedy shorts, as well as documentaries, science fiction and Mihm's feature film "The Monster of Phantom Lake." The day begins with a free talk with Mihm and Craig, who will discuss digital filmmaking on a shoestring budget. (They shot "Phantom Lake" for $2,000 -- about the price of a decent digital video camera and editing software).

The two founded the Twin Cities Underground Film Festival this year after the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival passed on their film, a spoof on the B-movie horror flicks of the 1950s.

Rejected by festivals nationwide that were "looking for more Sundance-worthy stuff," Mihm, 30, and Craig, 32, set out to start their own, sifting through roughly 300 films from producers and students nationwide to find flicks that were fun or quirky, but without the pretentious artiness sometimes characteristic of indie movies. Their philosophy was simple: If it's entertaining, that's enough.

"We always knew it was bad when the description of the film started with 'It will challenge your preconceived notions of ...' We always knew we probably weren't going to like it," Mihm said.

The Elk River Arts Alliance is hosting the event, its first film festival, in an effort to broaden its programming and audience.

"We know that there are a lot of teens and young adults that are getting more into digital filmmaking," Beil said. "So we thought that maybe we would be able to attract a new audience that could experience the arts through film."

David Gustafson • 612-673-773 • dgustafson@startribune.com