In one room at the new Woodstock Film Center on Rock City Road, where everything’s speeding up fast as the countdown progresses towards the upcoming 12th Annual Fiercely Independent Woodstock Film Festival, running September 21 to 25, WFF Executive Director Meira Blaustein is talking about the numbers of filmmakers who have attended the festival and decided to make their next film locally. In the next room, Hudson Valley Film Festival Director Laurent Rejto points out the numbers of film professionals who have actually moved to the region, because of the festival. The movies, he says, are becoming one with Woodstock and the surrounding Hudson Valley and Catskills.
Every year, we look at the works that will be in the WFF line-up with local connections. And every year, that list seems to grow in myriad ways.
There are the growing numbers of big Hollywood films shot here, such as the festival opener, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, or such indie works utilizing local scenery as the Friday Fright Night feature, Another Kind. Then there are the filmmakers based here, but shooting elsewhere… including Louisiana-based documentaries Fightville, a look at extreme martial arts by the Dutchess County-based filmmakers Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucke, fresh off a quartet of Iraq works starting with the now-classic Gunner Palace; and the long-awaited premiere of Gillian Farrell’s 9 Pianos, about Adam Markowitz’s post-Katrina donations of pianos to musicians, and schools, in recovering New Orleans (see sidebar).
Add to that a flurry of shorter works, both narratives and documentaries, that focus on local characters or incidents, from a Vassar College student’s documentation of the 2004 New Paltz gay weddings, I Now Pronounce You Husband and Husband, to Old Man River — The Five Points Band, a Woodstock band’s first music video.
Mother’s House, a short narrative shot in and around Stone Ridge by Davis Hall, is a creepy reverse ghost story full of hauntingly non-violent surprises (including performances by some well-known local actors). Taking a Chance on God, a feature documentary about John McNeill, an 86-year-old gay pioneer tossed from his priesthood, was scored by Kingston-based composer Peter Wetzler and edited by Poughkeepsie-based editor Ilene Cutler, and will see its protagonist travel north from Florida for this world premiere.
No Lights — Yassou Benedict was shot by Montrealers in an old Victorian home in Hudson. The Sea Is All I Know is a short first film starring local Oscar-winner and festival friend Melissa Leo. Mother-Blondie is the director’s cut of a music video for the famed New Wave band shot in Kingston by Rejto. A Bridge Delivered is a time lapse film by photographer Stephen Mallon that captures the journey of the new Willis Avenue Bridge down the Hudson from Albany to The Bronx.
There are NYU and Columbia University student films shot in this area, now premiering here, too (with one starring Rejto, for good measure). Stefan is a look into the world of a single-parented child by a young filmmaker who counts her treasured summers in Woodstock as inspiration, and whose student film has now won an HBO Young Filmmakers Development Award. Everything Becomes Whole is Woodstocker Sarah Fimm’s new video, premiering here.
Talk about running the gamut, from the broad humorous takes on old hippie-dom in the Jane Fonda starring big flick to the scary Catskillian winter woods no one in their right mind (or of local origins) would venture in for a camping trip at night.
“I loved Jonathan Blitstein’s first film, which we premiered when he was 23,” said Blaustein of the maker of Another Kind, the winter horror film set to play Fright Night on Friday, September 23. “I love even more that he decided to make his second feature up here. He’s like family now.”
Yes, it’s nice to see everyday vistas screened large in the dark. Even nicer is to know how the area is inspiring great works focused elsewhere, utilizing the quiet and our greater community as a sounding board.
Of course, many of these films don’t get seen much outside of festival occasions such as that provided by the WFF. So get tickets now.++
For full catalogue information, and reservations, stop by the WFF box office in the Woodstock Film Center at 13 Rock City Road, Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 6 p.m., call 679-4265, or visit ulsterpub.staging.wpenginefilmfestival.com.