Contributing writer

After a four-year hiatus, the Bakersfield Independent Film Festival is back -- for the current year, anyway -- and this time at a different venue, The Empty Space.

"We are starting back from scratch," said Roger Mathey, who founded the festival in 2006 at Spotlight Theatre. "The whole idea is it to give local filmmakers a place to show their work."

About 20 locally produced films and music videos will be shown in four-hour time blocks over a three-day period starting Thursday at the Oak Street theater.

"The Empty Space is perfect for this; it has a good sound system and we'll rearrange the seats a little so everybody can see the screen," Mathey said. "And I think some of them (filmmakers) will be there and do a little Q&A afterwards."

Among those helping Mathey revive the festival are Keith Stoller, Rickey T. Bird Jr., and Nick Belardes.

First up Thursday evening will be works done by students in Bryce Hatch's film class at Frontier High School.

Among those being shown on Friday will be animated videos by Dean Boedigheimer whose "Annoying Orange" was sold to MTV and can be seen on YouTube; and a sci-fi short done with computer graphics by Justin Zachary and Brendon Bradford.

The festival will close with "The Lackey," a 94-minute feature film produced by Hectic Films of Bakersfield. The film, which was shown at the Fox Theater in August, is now making the rounds on the regional festival circuit and recently won four awards at the SoCal Film Festival, including "Audience Choice Award."

One of Mathey's goals in doing the festival is developing a network of local filmmakers and producers. His criteria for being termed a local product is a broad one. He defines it as a film produced by people who live here, or who have lived here, or was shot in Kern County, or has a crew that came from here.

"The payoff is really about making connections and getting their work seen on a big screen," he said. "As the BIFF grows, we hope to attract the eyes of producers. I am inviting filmmaker friends of mine to see it and as the festival grows, we hope to get more and more people with influence to come see the works of Kern County filmmakers."

Mathey, formerly the artistic director for the Spotlight Theatre, has been active as a director and actor in Los Angeles and Bakersfield for about 15 years. He has a degree in theater and film from Chapman University.

Shortly after resigning his position at Spotlight, Mathey said he planned to go back to college and get his teaching credential along with doing some substitute teaching.

"I started and then did some subbing," he said. "But my dad got very ill and my mom needed help with him at home, so I ended up putting that on hold."

It appears that film is his preference at the moment.

"I like film because it is a more enduring media -- it's something to take with you and watch it over and over again," he said. "With stage, you see it one time and then it's gone."

For the past year or so, he spent much of his time writing -- mostly scripts for screenplays, which he is "shopping around." Even so, he's kept in touch with his local contacts.

"I moved to LA in the summer of 2012 and had been in talks to revive the BIFF for over a year, " he said. "And after (his company) seat of your pants productions got their nonprofit status this year, I agreed to try and bring it back."

None of the festival entrants are being charged a fee to have their work shown, Mathey said, adding "I'm paying for it out of my own pocket through SOYP."