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September 6, 2001

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September 6, 2001

Melbourne Independent Film Festival goes global

Entries come from Florida, around world

Information on festival
  • What: Melbourne Independent Film Festival.
  • When and where: 8 p.m. Friday at Metro Cinema Cafe, 3020 W. New Haven Ave., West Melbourne; 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Henegar Center for the Arts, New Haven Avenue, Melbourne; VIP screening/reception starts 7 p.m. Saturday at the Henegar.
  • Cost: $5 for the Friday evening session; $5, Saturday admission; $30 donation for the Saturday evening VIP screening/reception. All proceeds benefit Unconditional Love Inc.
  • Information: Call (321) 723-8698.
By Breuse Hickman
Word is getting out about the Melbourne Independent Film Festival. In its short three-year history, filmmakers from around the world have gotten wise to Brevard's weekend film getaway. Witness the many features from New York filmmakers this year.

Terry Cronin Jr., a dermatologist by day and one of the festival's driving forces, says directors who have come to the festival invariably talk it up when they return home. "Mostly, they talk about . . . how much fun it was," he said.

That doesn't mean there's won't be plenty of cinematic works from local filmmakers screened. "Of course, we want to showcase Florida filmmakers," Cronin said.

The festival opens at 8 p.m. Friday at the Metro Cinema Caf in West Melbourne. The night will feature films titled "Beware" and "Mortice," as well as previews for "Scary Tales," "Addicted to Murder" and "The Haunting of Misty Creek."

Notice a theme? The festival received so many horror and science fiction titles that organizers capitalized on it - "Creature Feature" is the name of the Friday event. Dramatic features, comedies and documentaries will be shown all day Saturday at the Henegar Center for the Arts.

When the festival first started, Cronin received nine films and showed them all. Last year, 45 films were received and 22 made the cut. This year, 37 films will be shown out of 97 received.

Terry Cronin Jr.

As with many film festivals, MIFF relies on a selection committee to chose films.

"One of the questions we ask . . . is, 'Do you think this film should show to the Melbourne/Brevard community," Cronin said.

That's one of the reasons why "The Return Of Paul Jarrett" is on the schedule. The documentary by Clark Jarrett of Los Angeles is about a World War I veteran and Purple Heart recipient who returns to the site of his heroics in France - at age 93.

It's a good example of a "film that would play well in our community," Cronin said. "We have a lot of ex-military and vets."

Some films weren't selected because the audience isn't available here yet. Cronin cites the Swedish entry "The Shocking Truth," a documentary by Alexa Wolf that focuses on the availability of hard-core pornography on network television in Sweden.

Cronin praises the film, but says it wouldn't go over well in Melbourne, although "we are showing the preview." In fact, previews of praised-but-rejected films are scattered among the full-length and short film features this weekend.

A warning for those whose film-going experience doesn't extend beyond catching the latest action flick or Julia Roberts vehicle at a local Cineplex: Go to MIFF with an open mind or brace for an eye-opening experience.

MIFF organizers have received their share of complaints about past festivals, mostly because of language. Last year, a newspaper letter writer complained the films were "vulgar."

But filmmakers often view festivals as a testing ground for different - and often daring - works that big studios find too risky. A film that can find an audience on its own has a greater chance of attracting a distributor.

"We warn the audience," Cronin said, adding that an announcer introduces each film and notes whether it contains potentially objectionable content. "We tell them that it's OK if they decide not to see a particular film. They can come in a little later and catch a film they do like."

Visitors can pay $5 and see every film shown from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

It is in small festivals such as MIFF that filmmakers have a better chance of seeing their films hit the screen. Filmmakers enjoy the opportunity to learn through constructive criticism.

Altamonte filmmaker Billy Holley, whose first feature "Clay" kicks off Saturday's festivities, says showing his film in public has taught him much about what to do and what not to do while filming future projects.

Holley, 53, produced, wrote, directed, filmed and edited the 30-minute "Clay," which premiered at Maitland's Enzian Theatre.

"You learn as you do it," he said, adding he used to work as an extra for films and TV shows shot in Central Florida. It was during one of these experiences that he met Indian Harbour Beach's Ted Chaski.

"I got to show my acting chops a bit this time," said Chaski, who plays Clay, a man coming to terms with the death of a sibling. Chaski said he would like to see the festival grow and attract bigger audiences for home-grown and indie films.

Not an easy job, said Rick Rickey, owner of Metro Cinema Caf, which hosts the "Creature Feature" opening night Friday.

Rickey has championed independent and classic films since taking over operations of the theater five years ago. Two years ago, he showed independent and art films on Tuesday nights.

"Some nights were great and some weren't, and we still get calls from people who wonder why we don't do it any more," Rickey said. "But when five people show up, you just can't keep it going."

But he hasn't given up hope, and is encouraged by the Melbourne festival's growing popularity. "Doors do open, just not real fast," he said.

MIFF began after Cronin joined other filmmakers as part of 3 Boys Productions ( www.3boysproductions.com ) and produced the short feature, "Under the Bridge." They had so much fun showing it, they expanded the event into a film festival.

3 Boys doesn't have a film in this year's festival.

MIFF also has a greater purpose. The real force behind the festival, according to Cronin, is that proceeds will be used to benefit Unconditional Love Inc., a free standing, not-for-profit multidisciplinary care center for patients who are HIV positive or who have AIDS.

Last year, the festival brought in $4,500 for the charity. Cronin expects this year's festival, with its expanded venues, to attract more money for the cause.

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