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Grab your popcorn: Film festival grows in Brainerd

Phil Holbrook, director of “Tilt,” and film festival coordinator, watched the Ch1 / 2
A film festival promotion for EgoFest appeared on the screen at the Chalberg The2 / 2

For movie buffs, a film festival at the Chalberg Theatre in Brainerd may be an opportunity to see the early work of future masters. 

The two-day EgoFest short video film festival this Friday and Saturday grew from a single event in 2006. 

Filmmaker and event coordinator Phil Holbrook of Brainerd said it was amazing to see how much the event has grown. 

“We have entries from all over the country and Canada,” Holbrook said. 

In the recently renovated Chalberg Theatre, Holbrook was checking through a stack of DVD and Blu-ray movies for the event. 

There will be filmmakers from Chicago, Seattle, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Two filmmakers, Isaac Overland of Baxter and Ethan Seneker of Seattle, are teenagers. Others are in their 50s. The festival received more entries than could be shown. To encourage filmmakers, entries were accepted without an entrance fee. 

Holbrook said a goal is to show people the kinds of independent, short films that are out there and encourage filmmakers of all ages to make their own films. With multiple options for cameras that are within price reach of many and free digital software for editing, Holbrook said filmmakers have opportunities to create. 

“If you have a story to tell you can make a film,” he said.

The 36-year-old Brainerd native’s passion for film developed early and were influenced by his mom’s classic film tastes where Sunday afternoons included Frank Capra, who directed the Jimmy Stewart classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and Alfred Hitchcock movies. 

He took television production classes in Brainerd as a student. In his early 20s, Holbrook’s film interest had him working on his own short films, using VHS tapes and editing on two VCRs. 

But Holbrook said he didn’t get serious until seven years ago. Encouraged by his wife, he worked on several short films and then tackled a feature film “Tilt.” 

The thriller, now in post production, was shot in the Brainerd lakes area in a blistering nine days. Actors came from Chicago, Detroit and Fargo, N.D. Holbrook’s film was based on a dream. Jeremy Doyle was the cinematographer and Julie Keck and Jessica King of Chicago wrote the screenplay. 

The feature-length film story follows the strained relationship of a father and daughter through a tragedy and has the father faced with a choice of doing the right thing or making things right, Holbrook said. A few scenes from the movie will be shown at the film festival. 

Area businesses offered shooting sites and props. When Holbrook needed an older looking bike, he went to Easy Riders on Washington Street and they took one down from a display and loaned it to him. The Last Turn Saloon closed down on a Sunday to allow shooting of scenes there and the Crow Wing Food Co-Op also made room for filming. 

When Brainerd Lakes Beer found out about the movie, they provided some refreshment for the filmmakers, received a bit of product placement in the movie. As a surprise, Brainerd Lakes Beer created a special batch in honor of the production using the movie poster as the label for an ale. 

The hand-numbered bottles will be at EgoFest and the after party at the E Squared Cafe in Brainerd. 

The Crossing Arts Alliance assisted with a grant to the Five Wings Art Council to tap into Legacy funds for the film festival. 

For more information, go online to and click on “the event” to get a list of films, running times and itinerary. The movie website is

The event includes a question and answer session with filmmakers who are attending the festival and others will connect via Skype to reach filmmakers from such distances as Los Angeles. Meal breaks are provided at the festival with concessions available at CLC. 

“Phil’s done a terrific job of putting this together,” said Patrick Spradlin, CLC theater director. “Maybe some of these folks you’ll see later doing Hollywood films.”

Once post production is completed, Holbrook plans to send “Tilt” to film festivals and make the film available to people via DVDs, through streaming video, and via an iPhone and iPad app that provides the trailer for free viewing along with Brainerd trivia and then allows customers to upgrade to buy the movie. 

Holbrook said in this economy, independent filmmakers have to reach an audience through any means possible. As for the film festival, Holbrook would like to see it grow to be an annual activity that becomes a destination event bringing people to Brainerd. 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.