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Independence rules at Sparrow Film Project in Astoria

By Tammy Scileppi

More than 50 independent filmmakers will make their marks on Queens’ movie scene this weekend when the Museum of the Moving Image kicks off the seventh annual Sparrow Film Project in Astoria.

The Sparrow Film Project challenges movie makers to create three-minute shorts in three weeks.

With 53 submissions for this year’s edition, the event has truly become international.

“Only in Queens can a few creative people get together and form a short-film contest that ends up growing into a major phenomenon,” Rob MacKay, director of the Queens Economic Development Corp.’s marketing and tourism office, said.

Like many great ideas, this one started small.

Three guys with a vision got together over brewskies at their favorite Astoria bar, The Sparrow Tavern, from which the film project got its name.

They had a meeting of the minds; the topic of conversation was filmmaking.

When Rudy Mungaray, Evan Roumeliotis and Andres Rojas first started their project, a three- minute film would be made every three months. In those days, shorts were screened and nominees were given awards at the tavern and in local bars.

But as the event grew, it became harder to host as often, so it was scaled back to an annual screening, which meant they also needed a larger venue, so the Museum of the Moving Image was a perfect fit.

For more than 17 years, Roumeliotis has been one of the largest supporters of the local creative community here.

He owns The Sparrow Tavern, Mars restaurant, The Letlove Inn and Queens Ink Tattoo shop — all located in Astoria. He and his buddies soon realized a local outlet was needed where enthusiastic artists could express themselves through film.

“With the studios in our backyard, Astoria and Long Island City’s cinematic roots are deep,” Roumeliotis said. “I have always said that the film project is bigger than Sparrow. It took a little longer than I thought because it is a lot of work and we all have a lot going on. Now, we are all more organized and focused and can get it to where we want a lot quicker. It was a slow start, and we are getting there now.”

The goal, Roumeliotis said, was to make the Sparrow Film Project one of the borough’s artistic traditions.

This weekend’s screenings will be followed by a gala and awards ceremony June 11.

“The Sparrow Film Project is an incredibly lively, local event that taps into the creative energy of Astoria and the surrounding neighborhoods,” David Schwartz, MoMI’s chief curator, said. “We love the crowd it brings to the museum, and we’re pleased to be showing all of the entries the weekend before the big event.”

If you Go

Sparrow Film Project

When: Screenings — Saturday, June 6, and Sunday, June 7, from noon – 6 pm; Gala and awards ceremony — Thursday, June 11, at 7 pm

Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria

Cost: $6/screenings, $65/screenings and gala

Contact: (718) 777-6888

Website: www.movingimage.us

If You Go

Sparrow Film Project

When: Screenings —Saturday, June 6, and Sunday, June 7, from noon – 6 pm; Gala and awards ceremony —Thursday, June 11, at 7 pm

Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria

Cost: $6/screenings, $65/screenings and gala

Contact: (718) 777-6888

Website: www.movingimage.us

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