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Film Festival Casts Spotlight on Asheville!

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*Sorry to be posting this a day late, but for some reason I couldn't access skyscraperamerica yesterday!*

From the Asheville Citizen-Times (11/06/03)


By Paul Clark, Staff Writer

ASHEVILLE - To a city that attracts people from all over the world comes a film festival today that celebrates the spirit of human potential.

Nearly three years in the planning, the Asheville Film Festival premieres tonight with a Grove Park Inn lights- camera-action party to kick off the festival, and runs full- tilt through 51 movies downtown. There's an awards ceremony Saturday and a Sunday evening closing reception.

Sandwiched between opening- and closing-night films about gambling and gamblers, the festival marks an art city's leap of faith into the sexy, risky realm of A-list film festivals on a national scale.

Based on ticket sales so far, event organizers estimate more than 5,000 people will attend the festival, produced by the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department, with supporting roles by the Asheville Film Commission and the Film Festival Advisory Committee.

Downtown shops and restaurants, aware of the $38 million the film industry has spent in Western North Carolina since 1995, have organized "On Location Asheville," a progressive party Friday night that will guide festival-goers through a series of cafes and clubs.

All weekend, downtown's sidewalks will be buzzing because nearly everyone settling into a theater seat knows that some film producer may walk away a winner. Film distributors Porchlight, IFG and Mindfire Entertainment are here, looking for something that might hit big on screens around the country.

"As an artist," said Paul Bonesteel, the Asheville director of the documentary "The Mystery of George Masa," "it's always exciting to have new venues to show your work and collaborate with other artists. That's why we do it."

Asheville and WNC have a rich history of film - more than 40 feature films have been shot here since "Conquest of Canaan" was filmed in Asheville in 1921. Josh Tager, an Asheville-based film distributor whose stock footage shows up in movies and commercials, estimates there are at least a dozen small production companies locally.

Those include Bloody Monkey Pictures, which is filming "Golden Blade III," a kung fu movie by T.J. Wiedow, who wants the festival to do well.

"Hopefully, it will bring somebody with some money here, and they'll meet me before they meet the rest of the producers," he said. "And they'll see someone like Paul Schattel (Asheville creator of the movie "Sinkhole"), and hopefully Paul will have another script in his back pocket and he'll be able to say, `Why don't you take this with you?'"

Festival competition categories include feature-length, short, documentary and student film. "AFFy" awards, named for the Asheville Film Festival and designed by local glass artist Sam Stark, will be presented at the Charles Schwab Spotlight Celebration on Saturday to winners and audience favorites in each category.

Reflecting the festival's "Spirit of Human Potential in Film" theme, a special Spirit of Asheville Award will be given to the filmmaker who portrays a world that best affirms the human condition.

The festival's throwing the spotlight on WNC's growing film industry "could push us over the edge," said Merwin Gross, executive producer of Blue Ridge Motion Pictures. "We've done all our homework, and now it's class time."

With tours scheduled of the east Asheville studio, summits on the politics of attracting projects and seminars on the particulars of filmmaking - all nearly completely led by local filmmakers - the festival is hanging up a huge "available" sign to the location scouts and movie producers it hopes to attract.

The region snagged "The Last of the Mohicans," "Hannibal" and other movies over the years partly because of its growing colony of actors, directors and movie technicians who have moved here.

"I get calls from at least one or two people a week that want to move here that are film professionals," Tager said. In September, he was on the French Broad River when he ran into a film editor camping there to scout jobs in the area.

The festival will be long on glitz. Actress Andie MacDowell ("sex, lies and videotape," "Four Weddings and a Funeral") will launch the festival tonight at the Grove Park Resort and Spa. Actor William H. Macy ("Seabiscuit," "Magnolia," "Fargo") is expected to support his movie "The Cooler" at the festival's closing Sunday.

Ang Lee, director of "The Hulk" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," has entered "One Last Ride," a movie he produced. Sam Kitt, a producer/acquisition executive with 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, is coming.

The festival also features a special screening of 1978's "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," marking the international cult classic's 25th anniversary. Cinema in the Park, the summer series of free silent movies at Pritchard Park downtown, will screen "A Dog's Life" (1918 ) and "Sherlock Jr." (1924) Friday night.

The festival is something Leni Sitnick has been championing since she was Asheville's mayor from 1998 to 2001. Sitnick has been working with state representatives to make North Carolina competitive with other states and countries that subsidize film production.

The festival will further show the value of the talent and locations WNC has to offer, she said.

Contact Clark at 232-5854 or [email protected]

Big Bucks:

-- Film companies have spent $38.1 million in Western North Carolina since 1995. --North Carolina is the third-leading state for film production, with more than $6 billion in production revenue since 1980. Sources: AdvantageWest, N.C. Film Office

Asheville Film Festival categories Read about the documentaries here: http://www.ashevillefilmfestival.co...ocumentary.html

Read about the feature-length films here: http://www.ashevillefilmfestival.co...turelength.html

Read about the short films here: http://www.ashevillefilmfestival.com/filmsshorts.html

Read about the student films here: http://www.ashevillefilmfestival.com/filmsstudent.html

On the Net More about filmmaking in Western North Carolina:






*hauntedheadnc sez, "Cooooooool..."*

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More Asheville Film Festival News!

From the Asheville Citizen-Times (11/07/03)


By Jennifer Brevorka, STAFF WRITER

ASHEVILLE - Drive on by the Hollywood hills. Forget the streets of New York. Instead, head to the Blue Ridge Mountains and make your next movie in Asheville.

That's the message Asheville Film Festival coordinators want producers, directors and actors to remember the next time they begin scouting for a film's location.

"We may not be able to compete with the big bucks, but we have so much else to offer," said Leni Sitnick, chairwoman of the Asheville Film Commission and former Asheville mayor. "We have a film-friendly and festival-friendly city. It's real important to further educate (people) that film is an economic engine unto itself."

Sitnick and dozens of movie directors, producers and film buffs rubbed elbows at the Grove Park Inn to kick off the city's inaugural film festival. More than 200 people donned tuxedos and evening gowns to sip wine and nibble at sushi before watching the premiere of "One Last Ride."

At a film summit before the cocktail party, people brainstormed ideas to make Asheville the next Hollywood. Sitnick and other local officials hope the industry could begin replacing the thousands of jobs, and dollars, lost from a decline in manufacturing.

Economic incentives and better production facilities could lure moviemakers from Hollywood to Asheville, said Jonathan Mertz, producer of the film "Miles Ahead." The movie about an aspiring writer filmed in Asheville and Waynesville is being shown at the festival this weekend.

"North Carolina in general has real potential," Mertz said. "It has unique scenery and culture in spades. Within four hours, you can go from the mountains to the coast."

Diane Vanderlinden, a Buncombe County resident who's already appeared in two movies filmed in Asheville, said the city will sell itself.

"Once people are in Asheville, they'll see what makes us so unique," Vanderlinden said. "We're like New York City, but a smaller version that can get along much better."

Contact Brevorka at 232-2938 or [email protected]

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