Spotlight on Local Filmmakers: Jack Galvin

By Andrea E. McHugh

The Newporter began hosting a film festival in his backyard that expanded to the Jane Pickens Theater

JACK GALVIN GREW UP in Newport making home movies every summer with cousins and friends — simple recordings on inexpensive store-bought digital cameras — capturing their summertime shenanigans, impromptu gatherings, such as going to the beach and other unremarkably mundane things that kids do.

At the end of the season, they’d collect and edit the footage to produce the aptly named Summer Movie, which would be screened to family members and close friends in Galvin’s family’s backyard. “I think once we realized that we could make them laugh, we were like, ‘Oh, let’s keep trying to do that’,” Galvin says.

His parents encouraged Galvin to pursue film more formally, propelling him to pursue filmmaking at Fairfield University in Connecticut. The Summer Movie tradition continued in Newport, and the collective showing of the seasonal film made by Galvin, his family, and friends gained traction. In 2018, his backyard became home to the annual9 Central Film Festival — a name derived simply from the location of the family home.

Audience at the backyard edition of 9 Central Film Festival.

“Me and my cousin, Dave Dougherty, always know that we want to make something, but we definitely need a deadline, so we figured if we just tell everyone that we’re having a party and we’re gonna show some movies and call it a film festival — then we’d have to make something,” explains Galvin. “Then it just kept growing year after year and got bigger and bigger.”

The annual event grew to include submissions from other local filmmakers, including the Little Compton-based Kinnane brothers, who directed the 2022 hit Netflix film Home Team, produced by Adam Sandler and starring Kevin James, as well as the Water Brother documentary about local surf icon Sid Abbruzzi.

In advance of the 2023 showing, it was clear the 9 Central Film Festival had outgrown its backyard home, drawing hundreds despite no concerted effort to market the event. Thus, the festival moved to the historic Jane Pickens Theater.

“Really the whole point was just to get people, even if they had no experience in filmmaking, to get them interested in wanting to do it, to get out there and make something with their friends just for the sake of doing it because it’s a lot of fun, and that was pretty much the whole genesis of it,” says Galvin.

Jack Galvin in a still from his film “Scenes from the Beach.”

Today, the end-of-summer festival hosts a selection of 15-20 short films of any genre, from live action films and animated pieces to documentaries (last year, Hannah Eaton showed her sci-fi short The Stewards). Longer films, under 20 minutes, are also considered for the festival. As the event started out as an opportunity to give local filmmakers an audience and a chance to display their work on the big screen, films from Rhode Island/New England based artists are given top priority, but submissions are accepted from far and wide and can range from the work of experienced filmmakers to first-timers who shoot on the iPhone.

“It’s definitely a really big community event, and that’s my favorite part about the whole thing, getting the community together, having them make movies and show them on the big screen,” says Galvin. “It’s pretty fun.”