I originally met some of the members who later would form 518 Film through ACE! events and socially in downtown Troy New York. They registered strongly on my radar as an organizational force to be reckoned with last year when ACE! partnered up to amplify ‘The Monkey Short Film Fundraising Gala‘ in Albany New York. A collection of dedicated career film folks at a variety of levels in the film making ecosystem, 518 Film continues to be a part of a vibrant production feed that is increasingly making waves in the region and far beyond (in addition to throwing some great parties!). I caught up with Co-Founder and Community Engagement Director Michelle Polacinski to hear more about their vision and the big structural and programmatic expansion plans they have for the near future.
Please state your name, title, company name and what you do.
My name is Michelle Polacinski (she/her). I am the Community Manager and Co-Founder at 518 Film Network. I’m also a freelance director, producer, and production manager. I’m currently co-producing the visual effects for an upcoming Superbowl commercial. I have worked on titles including John Wick 4, A Man Called Otto, Resurrection, The Witcher, Modern Marvels, Shark Tank, and Food Network Star. I graduated from both Binghamton University and FAMU International (Prague, Czechia) with degrees in Cinematography and Producing.
How long has 518 FILM been in existence? Can you explain the structure of your business and what the organization’s aims and goals are?
518 Film Network was co-founded by local writer/film director Micah Khan and myself in 2019 after a handful of frustrating conversations about not being able to find local crew for our own productions. We wanted to meet more people in the area and we knew that they existed, so we started a database of 10 people we both knew, asking each of them to share anyone they knew and, like filmmaking itself, we grew by word of mouth and referrals. Since, we have hosted numerous creative networking events and as a collective were the catalyst for multiple local filmmakers to come together and make films. We have an active private online community with a job board and various subgroups such as ‘mastermind’ and ‘actors anonymous.’ We grew from 10 people to nearly 200 in the past 2-3 years. Our most active members, including but not limited to, Patrick Regan, Lakota Ruby-Eck, Spencer Sherry, and Victoria Diana have helped take 518 Film Network to the next level by spreading the word, co-hosting events, and bringing folks together.
Currently, we operate as a corporation under my film production company, Strangest Sea Films, but we plan to become a non-profit corporation within the year. We are in the process of asking for help in learning how to form a 501(c)3 that matches our goals.
As a group, we aim to connect local filmmakers to help them grow and create projects together, while bringing jobs from incoming film productions into the hands of local people. When productions hire locally, it benefits the local economy and also helps productions save money by not needing to pay for hotel rooms. We are currently in the process of expanding to provide education in the form of online courses and in-person workshops as well as partnering with local colleges to teach filmmaking courses. We plan to someday both receive and give grants to our local filmmakers so we can make more local films!
How are you different from other film organizations regionally?
We focus on building intimate connection between our members through collaboration and wildly creative networking events. It’s difficult to invite someone on something so intimate as a set, where anything can and will go wrong at any given moment, after talking with another filmmaker for 15 minutes and handed a business card. Our industry just doesn’t work that way. This is why we do things a bit differently.
We not only want local filmmakers to know each other, but also to help each other grow in a genuine way. We celebrate our local filmmakers by amplifying their projects, hosting regular screenings, and never shying away from sharing fundraising efforts. This is full-blown support with no strings attached. We benefit as a community by lifting each other up, period.
Can you talk about some specific projects that you are especially proud of being involved with?
It’s really hard to come up with an answer to this question. Every film our members make feels like a community film. My personal favorites are collaborations between members that wouldn’t have happened without them meeting through us or films that give others opportunity to grow and learn in a new role. It’s always exciting to see friendships blossom and turn into working relationships.
In regards to how I am directly involved, I’m vfx producing two corporate (non-local) commercials right now, one of which is a Superbowl commercial which is definitely a milestone for me. I am also producing Writer/Director/Comedian Victoria Diana‘s upcoming short film, ‘Second Coming.’ Second Coming is a raunchy twist on a Christmas film that is also one of the best scripts I have ever read. I cried laughing reading it and I can’t wait to bring it to life. We are hoping for a release close to the 2023 holiday season.
Anything coming up that we should know about or that your group is excited about?
There are truly too many amazing upcoming films right now. I hate not mentioning every incredible local film we have coming up, but there is no way I’d be able to fit all of them! Here are a few:
Writer/Director Joe Gietl recently worked with Producer Cameron S Mitchell to create the pilot for ‘The Fledgling Series‘, which is especially cool because not only was it shot in our region, but it stars ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s‘ Juliet Landau as well as an incredible local actress, Anastasia Veronica Lee. Lee was such a joy to have on set and it’s really exciting that she is so close that we can bring her on other independent projects in the future.
Micah Khan recently directed his first big budget feature film, ‘Zombie Wedding‘, with Weekly World News and a handful of big names.
I’m also excited about Ember Autumn Skye‘s recent short, ‘You’re So Shy,’ a human rights-centered film, which stars her own sister, Sage, and was an incredible collaboration with local Director of Photography Lakota Ruby-Eck.
‘Insurance’, by Writer / Director Steve Rock, is currently in production, a collaboration between his production company Abomination Films and Lakota Ruby-Eck’s production company, Tomb Pictures.
‘The Monkey‘ a Stephen King short written / directed by Spencer Sherry and shot by local Emmy award winning Director of Photography Jim Powers, should be out soon. That is still in post-production. Spencer is also producing ‘Anomaly‘, a magic film written/directed by Ryan Jenkins.
Also Dirty Sweater Productions (owned by amazing married filmmaker couple Charity Buckbee and Kyle Kleege) is working on editing their first feature film, ‘Earworm.’