Lights, Camera, Syracuse

Bonk looks for originality and entertainment, and doesn't worry about seeking A-list actors, said Dacko. "Ron has created an avenue for people to basically come out of the woodwork and actually submit movies to him," he said.

To avoid the "B-movie" stigma and draw bigger audiences, Bonk wants to change the festival's name; his website at Bmoviefest.com offers the encompassing title, "Alternative Movies and Events." It promotes local screenings and other regional events throughout the year, many taking place at the historic Palace Theatre in Eastwood.

Filmmakers and critics seem to agree that what separates independent films from other movies today is the freedom from Hollywood influence and pressures. "With indie films you get people that basically just go out with new and fresh ideas, and they're creating their vision," Martin said. "They just deal with whatever budget they have and they make the film the best they can."

Bonk is one of the many local filmmakers who shoot right in Syracuse, taking pride in the city's onscreen appeal. He will be shooting scenes downtown for his next feature film "Clay" throughout the fall.

"It's a beautiful city," Dacko said. "It's so accessible and it looks so great on film that when you see it on the screen you're just like, 'Wow, I can't believe I live in that city.'"

Bonk hopes to draw more local audiences with his growing list of events, which include rare, classic film screenings and B-movie celebrity appearances, the most recent being actor Bruce Campbell, a B-movie favorite.

For the inexperienced independent moviegoer, Martin advises audiences to give local films the benefit of the doubt.

"Go into it with a sense of fun and wonderment that you had as a kid, and you're really going to have a good time," he said. "You're going to enjoy it and you're going to want to see more of it."

And if Dacko has his way, there will be plenty more to see.

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