When Josh Goldbloom saw the oversized screen going up on the wall at the Piazza at Schmidts a few years ago, his gut instinct told him he needed to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself.
“I was just kind of seeing that screen on the wall when it was first built,” explained the Northern Liberties resident. “I just thought, someone’s gotta take control of that screen and make it happen.”
So he decided to setup a meeting with Tower Investments Inc., the developers behind the Piazza.
He pitched the idea of hosting a free outdoor screening series of well-known independent films that people would not be able to see otherwise.
The Northeast Philly native’s intention was to pair his love of independent film — he’s an indie filmmaker himself — with his love for the city that he’s from.
“Philly’s great, I don’t think anyone can argue that,” Goldbloom explained. “It’s an amazing city with a lot of talented artists, but where’s the rock star in it?”
Being a filmmaker himself, he knows how hard it can be to get a film without a big production company behind it out to the masses.
The folks at Tower were excited about Goldbloom’s vision, and last year marked the first-ever Philadelphia Underground Film Festival.
This weekend marks the start of the second season of screenings, but the festival has a new name.
“We are in the final process of a major relaunch/rebranding of the festival,” explained Goldbloom via e-mail. “It is now The Awesome Fest and well, um, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be awesome.”
“I feel like it gives us more personality and edge,” he explained.
Goldbloom’s intention with these screenings is to help create a love for independent film throughout the city.
“My goal is to turn Philadelphia into the Hollywood of the East Coast,” he explained. “It’s not just me, there are plenty of others creating stuff like this.”
With the success of the first year’s festival and the connections he has made from his work programming this year’s Philadelphia CineFest, The Awesome Fest is going to be much bigger than last year.
“People like Josh are taking things to another level,” explained Bart Blatstein, founder and president of Tower Investments. “It’s a one-of-a-kind venue, not just in Philly but in the world.”
Goldbloom also has partnered with Rooftop Films, a non-profit group from New York City that runs a festival with a similar concept as The Awesome Fest.
“They screen all over New York City — Manhattan, Brooklyn — all on rooftops,” Goldbloom explained. “They’re doing screenings all across the country now. This year they’re doing the whole summer with me.”
The screenings, though, are not just screenings. You don’t just show up, watch a movie then go home.
“I want to build events out of these movies,” Goldbloom explained. “The summer series is about how we can utilize the space. This summer we’re getting out of control with it. We’re in talks to build a wrestling rink to go along with a wrestling documentary. We’re in talks to build an entire video game arcade in the Piazza surrounded by all these video game documentaries. We’re in talks to do a drive in for romance films. I’m working with a bunch of Hollywood studios for promotional events.”
“Our opening-night event is going to be through the roof,” he said proudly.
Goldbloom is starting the Awesome Fest off with a bang as he has partnered with the company behind the new Steven Spielberg movie Super 8 to promote that film’s opening weekend.
On Sunday, The Awesome Fest will host a screening of the 1985 Spielberg classic The Goonies at the Piazza. That’ll be followed by Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial at the Trocadero Theatre on Monday night.
The Trocadero screening includes free Reeses Pieces candies, free passes to see Super 8 and more; the Piazza screening includes free Baby Ruth bars, movie passes, a “Truffle Shuffle” competition and a Goonies costume party.
Next weekend will start off the actual indie film slate with screenings starting at 8:30 p.m. at the Piazza, 2nd Street and Germantown Avenue.
Just how long will the screenings go on?
“One a week, starting June 3, until we feel like stopping,” Goldbloom laughed. “Last year, we went ’til the end of October.”
Helping to make each screening an event, Goldbloom has enlisted the services of Northern Liberties’ own Woodshop Films to host a half-hour of pre-movie entertainment as well.
“I’m going to be giving him a half-hour show,” Marc Brodzik, the man behind Woodshop, explained. “It’s just going to be a variety” of the programs they do.
Brodzik’s presentation will start at 7:30 p.m. each week with movies starting at 8 p.m.
For more information on The Awesome Fest screenings go to www.TheAwesomeFest.com.
For more information on Woodshop Films and Scrapple.tv go www.scrapple.tv.
For more information on The Piazza at Schmidt’s go to www.atthepiazza.com.••