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November 9, 2005


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November 9, 2005

The gift of film

Festival spotlights celluloid works that might otherwise go unnoticed

BY BREUSE HICKMAN
FLORIDA TODAY

Paul Marquis is proof pursuing filmmaking doesn't always require going to film school. Consider a year ago he didn't know the first thing about making movies, he said. This weekend, his short film "A Bad Day" is showing at the seventh annual Melbourne Independent Filmmakers' Festival.

Each year, festival officials rifle through hundreds of entries from independent filmmakers from all over the world. Some, like Marquis, are new to camera work. Others are seasoned veterans who regularly have their works shown at film festivals across the country.

And each year, MIFF officials turn down hundreds of entries.

"This just proves to me what people can do if they set their mind to it," said Marquis, who does marketing by day. "My vision is to shoot major films, but here in Central Florida. There is so much great talent right here."

And that's part of MIFF's mission.

While it follows the familiar film fest template by raising awareness about celluloid works that might otherwise go unnoticed, it also draws attention to Brevard as a place for filmmakers.

In addition to the screenings, the festival boasts many opportunities for local filmmakers to see, hear and learn.

Saturday's sessions cover everything from how to get a film made to how to shoot a stunt.

"We try to promote Florida filmmakers and local talent while we're also showing there is a local, cosmopolitan audience for these kind of films," festival organizer Terry Cronin said. "We get some of the larger audiences (for screenings). Usually we'll see audiences of about 300 where a lot of festivals around the country are lucky to bring in 100 people."

The festival's come a long way since Cronin and members of his 3boysproducctions -- which includes Bob Lizek, Pat Martin and webmaster Jeff Hall -- began it with the showing of just a few films.

Last year was a different story when the festival was couched between two major hurricanes. The show went on anyway, albeit, an abbreviated version.

Lesson learned. Cronin moved the festival this year from September to November with a lineup that includes a make-up day of sorts. Films that couldn't be shown last year post hurricane Frances will get their own screening Saturday.

Most of the films are shorts grouped by genre or theme.

Mafia matinee anyone?

"We just seemed to get a lot of good entries this year that had to do with the mafia," Cronin said. "I don't know if it's because of the popularity of 'The Sopranos' or if people are just interested in the subject again."

The four full-length feature films are certainly not garden-variety movie entertainment.

Canadian film "Karla" about a serial killer isn't done. It's a work in progress and the film's producer, Brevardian John Remark, might attend the event to poll the audience, Cronin said. The film stars Laura Prepon, Donna from Fox's "That '70s Show."

"Chance," directed by and starring Amer Benson, is a black comedy about finding "the one" from a young, sexually aggressive woman's viewpoint.

"Vlad," directed by Michael Sellers, tells the tale of four exchange students who dare to enter the heart of Vlad the Impaler.

"Saving Star Wars" also made the cut. It arrives at MIFF after winning several awards.

Written and directed by Gary Wood of Indiana, the film is about two grown-up "Star Wars" fans who raid a "Star Wars" convention and kidnap George Lucas -- played by Lucas look-alike George Starkey -- and set out to convince him to continue the series. Yes, it's a comedy.

And it was a hit at the London Sci-Fi Film Fest, where it won several awards. Pretty good considering "Saving" is filmmaker Gary Wood's first film.

His credentials? "Forty years of sitting in movie theaters -- that was my training," Wood says by phone from Indiana. "I had been screenwriting since the late '80s and finally thought 'Hey, I'm going to quit waiting around for someone to give me permission to make a film. I'll just do it.' And that's what I did."

Contact Hickman at 242-3789 or bhickman@flatoday.net