Despite ongoing COVID-19 challenges, the show must go on for the 2020 Ridgefield Independent Film Festival (RIFF), now in its fifth year of delighting and inspiring local moviegoers with compelling films from around the world. This year (Oct. 14-18) the entire festival features both live, socially distanced screenings (at the Ridgefield Theater Barn) and virtual screenings at home, including the perennial favorite of “PSYCH Night” (Friday, Oct. 16 at 9:15 p.m.), a collection of shorts that are alternately thrilling, creepy, scary, and campy. One such short this year is The Ooze, by emerging filmmaker and Wilton resident, Emma Keating.
Keating, a senior in the highly selective Conservatory program at SUNY Purchase, is pursuing a BFA in film. The Ooze, which was initially an assignment for class, is a classic good-versus-evil story, but with a twist. The story features Michael, a scrawny, introverted teen who concocts a unique plan to exact revenge against Brody, the schoolyard bully. “I like to play on standards we see in films,” says Keating, “I want my hero to go through a journey where he grows strong mentally instead of the typical physical transformation.”
Although the subject of bullying is a serious one, Keating intentionally weaves humor into the storyline to get her message across. “I think humor is one of our greatest assets. Being able to laugh gives you your power back over a difficult situation,” she notes.
The film was shot entirely in Wilton—all the outdoor scenes at Comstock Community Center and interior shots at the Keating household—over the course of two days. The timeframe was condensed by an unexpected snowstorm. “We were up at 4 a.m., frantically trying to get as much in before the roads became impassable,” she says. Keating was very appreciative of all the support given by her family during the shooting of the film, both financially and literally. Whether helping her with the sets or confirming her editing choices, “they are my biggest cheerleaders, they always have my back,” she says.
Bringing the character of the Ooze to life created another obstacle and forced Keating to be creative. Through trial and error, she landed upon using slime infused with magnetic powder to simulate the viscous blob moving across the floor. Working with a small budget can be a challenge, but one that Keating welcomes. “I believe that if a director that can work with limits and still create a great film, they can only go up from there,” she says.
Keating is delighted and honored to be selected for RIFF 2020. “I feel like I am part of a family. I’m proud to be included alongside these other fantastic filmmakers and thrilled that The Ooze will be appreciated and seen.” While Keating wore many hats in the making of The Ooze–writer, director, editor–her passion lies in directing. “I just love working with actors to bring a film to life,” she says. The future definitely seems bright for this young filmmaker.
The Ooze screens as part of PSCYH Night on Friday, Oct. 16 at 9:15 p.m., along with the shorts 1971, Abe’s Story, Bakemono, Bottleneck, Canal, Chocker, DeadMe, Our Boy, Per Tutta La Vita, Shift, and Unspoken. RIFF 2020 offers an array of great films Oct. 14-18, both virtually and live at the Ridgefield Theater Barn (37 Halpin Ln., Ridgefield). For more information or to buy tickets or passes (in-person or virtual), visit the RIFF website.