Murder, mayhem, movie stars, zombies and baseball. All have been in the spotlight at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival in the past, and all have had Iowa ties.

That’s the caveat for entries in this cinematic celebration, set for April 6 and 7 at Collins Road Theatres in Marion.

Every movie, whether 2 minutes or 2 hours in length, must have an Iowa connection. It can have a story set in Iowa or about Iowans. It can be produced in whole or in part in Iowa. It can have a key actor or crew member who has some connection to the state, whether through birth, residence, work or educational experience.

Whatever else the film is about, Iowa must, in some way, be a part of its story, the organizers say.

They took last year off, but are back and ready to yell, “action.”

“We were tired after 16 years,” festival director Scott Chrisman said. “It was a nonstop six- to seven-month run to do it right, so we decided, let’s take a year off and see how we feel in a year. It’s one of those things where, yeah, it’s a lot of work, but you miss it when you’re not doing it.”

They’ve issued a call for entries, with a Feb. 9 deadline. Submission form and details are available at Crifm.org. Entry fees are $35 to $40 for professional and pro-am categories, and $35 for student categories. Fees are discounted $10 for films received by Jan. 26.

The festival accepts films of all genres and types: narrative, documentary, animation, music video, etc., from all kinds of filmmakers — students, amateurs, part-time professionals and full-time professionals. The festival has no date-of-completion requirement; however, films submitted to previous Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festivals are not eligible.

The Iowa showcase typically receives 60 to 80 entries, which then go to a panel of independent judges who make the official selections.

Technology has been a boost and a bane for filmmaking and festivals, Chrisman said. Eastern Iowa festivals proliferated because films became easier and less expensive to make, and then last year, the lights dimmed on Tipton’s Hardacre Festival, Iowa City’s Landlocked Festival and the Cedar Rapids festival.

“Everything kind of ebbs and flows,” Chrisman said. “To us and everyone after us, (filmmaking) became cheaper and easier to do, so you didn’t need a million dollars and a thousand people to get something made ... It became a lot easier to do it with a smaller group of people and with technology that was less expensive. 

“Now we’re at the other end of that parabolic curve — it’s become so easy and the same way it moved from the theater to TV, now it’s become easy to (show) anywhere. You can do it online, you can do it on Facebook and Instagram. YouTube has been a big boon and now, almost a detraction to the film festival, because the process has become so easy and distribution has become so easy that there’s content everywhere.”

The problem for viewers, he said, is wading through all the possibilities. “Everyone’s out there, and you don’t know what’s good and not,” he said. That’s where film festivals come into play.

“One of the things that makes film festivals nice, is that you have a group of things that have been approved by someone ... and you don’t have to float through 8,000 things to find it.

"The technology that made it easier for us to exist has now made it harder for us to exist,” he said. “I’m still a big believer in wanting the communal experience” of seeing films together in a theater, Chrisman said.    

The chosen films will be screened for the public during the festival, which also offers filmmakers the chance to see each other’s films, gauge audience reactions and network with their peers.

All films screened are eligible for Eddy Awards, announced at the end of the festival. Entrants also can schedule a critique session with the judges, to receive feedback on their films and notes for growing their artistry for future projects.

GUIDELINES

WHAT: Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival
WHEN: April 6 and 7
WHERE: Collins Road Theatres, 1462 Twixt Town Rd., Marion
ENTRY DEADLINE: Feb. 9
CATEGORIES: Student, Pro-Am, Professional in Short, Features, Long, Freestyle, Documentary
ENTRY FEES: $35 student, $40 professional and pro-am; $10 discount by Jan. 26
DETAILS: Crifm.org; updates will be listed on the festival’s Facebook page; send questions to festival director Scott Chrisman at scott@crifm.org or (319) 431-1320