Behind the scenes banter, local filmmakers and some wildly inventive programming stand out as the Santa Cruz Film Festival enters brand new territory
Under a newly created Leadership Team of longtime board members and Festival veterans, the ninth annual Santa Cruz Film Festival begins Thursday, May 6, and runs through Sunday, May 15. Expect 133 fiction—and non-fiction features and shorts—from 33 countries (40 of them locally produced), which will unspool at three venues in Downtown Santa Cruz: the Del Mar Theatre, the Regal Riverfront Stadium Twin, and Community TV. The festival also offers a full slate of panels, workshops, parties, live music and gala receptions.
SCFF IX continues its longstanding commitment to green politics, partnering once again with the EarthVision Film Festival to present nine features and 18 short films dedicated to environmental activism. Other local, national, and international features are organized into thematic categories: World Cinema, Documentaries, and “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”—local films by local artists. Five documentaries and five fiction features are in competition for Jury prizes. SCFF IX will also see the inauguration of a new prize: the Morton Marcus Audience Award for Best Feature. Several film-related panels and workshops will also be offered free to the public.
The festival kicks off May 6, the day this issue publishes, at the Del Mar, with the music documentary Soundtrack For A Revolution, followed by a gala reception at the Museum of Art & History on Front Street. The festival concludes May 15 with a closing night gala and awards ceremony at the Del Mar and a screening of the locally made feature, Etienne, followed by a closing night party at the Cypress Lounge.
In our ongoing coverage of the Santa Cruz Film Festival, GT interviewed several locally affiliated filmmakers whose work will be showcased this year. Dive in … | Lisa Jensen
Festival passes are available for $175 (general admission), $150 (senior) and $100 (student). Tickets can also be purchased on a per-program basis, $7-$9 for regular programs, $18-$20 for the opening night, and $10-$12 for the closing night galas. For a complete lineup of films, events, schedules, and ticket info, visit the festival website at scfilmfest.org. Film Schedule & Tickets
La Vie En Verte: The WAMM Movie
Directors: Charles and Bevin Hall
When Charles Hall produced a short documentary about medical marijuana in Santa Cruz for a UC Santa Cruz independent study course, little did he know that the project would later turn into La Vie En Verte: The WAMM Movie, a feature-length film that would impact the lives of countless people. Charles and his wife Bevin, both graduates of UCSC—he in anthropology and she in film and digital media—originally wanted to explore medical marijuana because they had been researching the use of vaporized marijuana in the treatment of asthma. However, they were reticent to broach the topic with a doctor for fear of legal repercussions such as the loss of their federal college grants. “We both wished the laws were very different so that we, and others, could feel protected and safe trying a natural medication for a chronic illness,” Bevin says.
During their research, the couple discovered the well-known Santa Cruz-based organization called the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) founded by Valerie and Michael Corral. “We were drawn to WAMM because we had heard about the 2002 raid of the collective and of their subsequent lawsuit against the Federal Government,” Charles explains. “And we had learned that the co-founders had a part in developing Proposition 215, allowing medical marijuana for medicinal use in the state of California.”
The documentary sheds new light on the controversy over medical marijuana and delves into the lives of those that use it. Opponents of medical marijuana may think that people who smoke pot for medicinal purposes are just using it as an excuse to get high. But through personal interviews, La Vie en Verte deftly shows that the drug is a godsend for individuals suffering from cancer, AIDS and other debilitating diseases. “The WAMM Movie is about a group of people to whom medical marijuana is a natural and inextricable part of their lives and deaths,” Bevin says. “WAMM members do see the world differently … not through rose-colored glasses, but perhaps through green-colored ones. We call the film La Vie en Verte (translated from French as ‘The Life in Green’) because we hope audiences will peer through the green lens to discover and contemplate a perspective they may not have seen before.”
Charles and Bevin feel strongly about the film, not only because they feel that medical marijuana is a core civil rights issue, but because they have seen how the drug positively impacts the lives of the sick and dying. “We’ve seen friends’ imprisoned, we’ve seen friends property and security threatened, all because they used a legal substance [in the state of California] to maintain their quality of life,” Bevin says. “We’ve seen the often miraculous effects that medical marijuana has had on the human body, and yet doctors and scientists are not even allowed to do medical research with the plant in the United States.”
Until the day when smoking pot for medical reasons is no longer considered taboo, people like the Halls will continue their hard-fought crusade. | Leslie Patrick
La Vie En Verte: The WAMM Movie will screen at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 12 at the Regal Riverfront Stadium Twin Theater.
Director: Deva Blaisdell-Anderson
Screenplay: Matt Struthers
In the life of every person, there is always more than meets the eye. Beneath one’s smiling exterior, there may be sadness, remorse, guilt and a host of other emotions that never bubble up to the surface.
The Triangle, a locally written and directed short film, takes the idea of internal tragedy and personifies it in the form of a young couple struggling through a difficult time in their marriage. “At the heart of The Triangle is the fractured relationship between [husband and wife] Katie and Ian, who love each other deeply and are trying to cope with a tragic loss,” explains local Deva Blaisdell-Anderson, the film’s director. “We meet them at a point when they’ve drifted extremely far apart but haven’t yet confronted that fact. They’re trying to hold their life together, to keep moving forward, but it’s clear they are in trouble.”
Blaisdell-Anderson graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in cinema studies. She says that she was drawn to the screenplay, written by Matt Struthers. “The journey of these two central characters as they circle the tragedy that destroyed their lives, seek spiritual answers and attempt to come to terms with a future that’s very different from what they had planned and expected,” she notes.
Struthers also stars in the film as Ian, one of the lead characters. Although he studied creative writing and poetry at UC Berkeley, he found that screenwriting has a unique draw all its own. “I’ve always been in love with film, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started exploring screenwriting,” Struthers says. “In that time I’ve penned three short films. What I’ve discovered is that the transition from poetry to film is more natural than I imagined it’d be. Every single one of my poetry professors said ‘show, don’t tell’ in regards to always giving an image the upper hand. What better place to write in images than in film.”
He says that his inspiration for writing The Triangle was to explore the idea of hidden tragedy. “There is in many of our lives some type of submerged emotional scar, some form of past traumatic experience that heavily influences if not outright determines the particular way we navigate the world,” he notes.
This isn’t the first time Blaisdell-Anderson and Struthers have teamed up to create silver screen magic. Last year they produced Wilde’s Run, another short film delving deep into human emotions, which was also an official selection of the Santa Cruz Film Festival. The creative pair is currently collaborating on a new project, so keep an eye on the big screen. | LP
The Triangle will screen with a collection of other short films beginning at 12:01 p.m. Sunday, May 9 at the Regal Riverfront Stadium Twin Theater. For more information about the film, visit thetrianglemovie.com.
Program Chair: Beth Regardz
Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are among the most influential film directors of all time—The Godfather, The Departed and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Their vision and ingenuity have created award-winning films—The Godfather, The Departed, Schindler’s List—that have garnered accolades and fans the world over. But these movie-making icons were once young people with the dream of making it big in Hollywood, and as it turns out, many local high school and college students share the same lofty ambition.
This year’s Santa Cruz Film Festival may indeed be the break these students need to begin their directing careers, specifically with Reel Fresh: Next Generation Video, which makes its debut. It’s a diverse collection of student-made films consisting of short subjects, documentaries, animation, interviews, music videos, commercials, experimental effects and other video explorations.
Beth Regardz, program chair and faculty member of Cabrillo College’s Digital Media Department, says the Reel Fresh group, composed of high school Regional Occupational Program (ROP) video classes that are aligned with the Cabrillo Introduction to Video Production class, was formed in January.
“This is the first appearance of the Reel Fresh program,” she says. “While a few individual pieces have appeared at local high school events, the show on May 8 will be a group of video creations designed to be seen as a body of work from Cabrillo College and its articulated high schools: Aptos, Harbor, San Lorenzo Valley, and Watsonville Video Academy.”
Student work has previously been featured in the SCFF through a program called Youth Empowering Youth (YEY), in which video production students at UCSC and Cabrillo mentored area high school students. According to Regardz, the program was designed to help local students produce insightful documentaries about issues that had relevance to students and the community in general.
“Since the YEY program did not plan to participate in the 2010 SCFF, I wanted teachers and students who were part of YEY to carry on that tradition and be represented at the SCFF,” Regardz says. “I contacted the teachers at high schools and Cabrillo to see if they’d like to show selected work from their classes. We met to coordinate the effort and see if we had enough recent work for a program.” And thus Reel Fresh: Next Generation Video was born. | LP
Reel Fresh: Next Generation Video will screen at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, May 8 at the Riverfront Twin.
Sillywalks for Hunger, Honoring Monty Python’s 40th Anniversary
Director: Gabreal Franklin
Cinematography: Gabreal Franklin
Remember Michael Jackson’s Thriller video? There’s nothing quite like it. But a new video, Sillywalks for Hunger, might be a runner-up to the King of Pop’s worldwide hit. Staged at the Universal City Walk in the Los Angeles area, an enormous group of dancers took over the walk in late 2009 and did their own group dance to music by Aerosmith, Madonna and Justin Timberlake. The event was created in an effort to raise money for the Feed America campaign. Local filmmaker Gabreal Franklin helmed the video project to capture the dancers, and that video will be shown at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 13 at the Riverfront Twin. The movie will show alongside the documentary, Here I Am: Denny Doherty and The Mamas & The Papas, on which project Franklin did a bulk of the cinematography.
Franklin, who has lived in Santa Cruz since 1991, lives a full cinematic life. When GT caught up with him recently, he was in Asia, looking for some stunt people for an upcoming action feature film that he’s working on. The local filmmaker also runs a company called All Planet, which produces a variety of different projects, including work on 18 DVDs for the Dalai Lama, and he has teamed up with Santa Cruz’s own Digital Media Factory. Keep an eye on this filmmaker—he’s going All Planet on us. | Christa Martin
Sillywalks for Hunger, Honoring Monty Python’s 40th Anniversary will play with Here I am: Denny Doherty and The Mamas & The Papas at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, May 13 at the Riverfront Theatre. For more information, visit allplanet.com.
Buster Jones (trailer)
Director: Dylan Hobor
Producer: Flax Glor
Technically, it may be deemed a trailer, but Buster Jones can hold it’s own on the film festival circuit. More like a short film, Buster Jones was created by childhood friends-turned-filmmakers Flax Glor and Dylan Hobor of the Santa Cruz-based entertainment company Smoothio Films. The trailer will be screening at the Santa Cruz Film Festival as well as the prestigious Cannes Independent Film Festival in France. “We have been making videos together since high school (San Lorenzo Valley), which is now 15 years ago.” Glor says. “We made our first works together, but have gone our own ways creatively yet remained close friends, only to come back every so often and collaborate again.”
Buster Jones is a kung fu action movie that takes place in the 1980s. According to Glor and Hobor, “Buster Jones details the adventures of an African-American minor league basketball star that is also trained in martial arts. After his cousin Bootsy is murdered by weapons dealers from Asia, Buster finds himself thrown into a turbulent battle with the organized terrorist ring. These pursuits lead Buster to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles where he finds himself plunged into the ultimate fight to save the fate of the free world.” The duo has envisioned creating a film like Buster Jones for more than 10 years now. But two years ago Glor and Hobor decided to proceed with the trailer in the hopes that it would glean a following and the full-length feature would soon follow. “The promotional trailer exceeded my original expectations of it in many areas,” Hobor shares. “I am hopeful we will get to bring to life the full version of this project someday.” After viewing the trailer, if you fancy action movies of any kind, you’ll also be counting the days until this feature film premieres. Santa Cruz Film Festival 2011 perhaps? | LP
Buster Jones will screen with the festival’s closing night film Etienne!, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 15 at the Del Mar Theatre.
Director: Joshua Pomer
Trippy sepia-toned footage of popular Santa Cruz surf spots, music by Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and narration by the one and only Rosanna Arquette, Santa Cruz director Joshua Pomer’s feature film The Westsiders, about the famous Santa Cruz surf gang, will resonate with locals whether they be hard core surfers or not. A documentary featuring the lives of surf trio Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Shawn “Barney” Barron and Jason “Ratboy” Collins, who all aspired to be pro surfers before the age of 24, The Westsiders expounds on local surf history and lore from the point of view of a Santa Cruz-raised surfer-turned-filmmaker himself.
“I’ve always been interested in films and filmmaking, and watching movies has always been a great escape in my life,” says Pomer, who grew up surfing on the Westside of Santa Cruz. “The lives of these surfers are what inspired me to create this film. Ratboy’s father dying on the beach when Ratboy was 12 years old, Barney being such a naturally gifted surfer in the water and inventing maneuvers that no one had ever tried, and Flea, who obviously came from a broken home but blew everyone else’s success out of the water by winning Mavericks three times in a row. Their personal stories and journeys are so inspiring,” Pomer says.
Pomer began surfing at Steamer Lane at 12 and has a degree in film studies from UC Santa Barbara. He has been making films and videos since his high school days at Santa Cruz High School. “Every film is like a journey in itself, and there’s always going to be challenges that you didn’t see coming,” Pomer says of the filmmaking industry. “I love collaborating with people that are inspired and I love to be able to share my personal vision with people, and I think filmmaking is powerful,” he explains.
The Westsiders is enjoying a season of fame. Recently featured in the Newport Beach Film Festival, slated later this year for the Maui Film Festival as well as the upcoming Santa Cruz Film Fest, Pomer is experiencing a newfound stardom of sorts.
He says he is so grateful to the city of Santa Cruz and the people that shared their lives so openly in order to help him create his artistic vision. The Westsiders is not only a jaunt back in time, but also provides a historical perspective of how surfing came to be big business in Santa Cruz. | LP
The Westsiders will screen at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 8 and again at 11:30 a.m. Monday, May 10 at the Riverfront Twin.
Director: Chris Bower
Producer: G. Craig Hobbs
In today’s world of Fringe, Lost, Twilight, and all things sci-fi, director Chris Bower has culled together a brilliantly imagined, and visually fascinating film, Solatrium. The 20-minute narrative short-film was shot in North Carolina, but the local connection here is his producer, G. Craig Hobbs, who lives in Santa Cruz and is a friend of Bower’s. The pair met years ago when Hobbs (a former North Carolina resident) was serving as a juror on a film festival in Asheville. “When I came up with the script [for Solatrium], I knew that I would need someone to help with all the technical details,” Bower says. So he enlisted the help of Hobbs, who traveled out to the East Coast to be heavily involved in the project. The movie has been making the film fest rounds and was recently seen at Slamdance in Utah. Solatrium is a captivating, and very quiet movie. For the majority of the film, there’s actually no dialogue, which is an ode to “Old fashioned cinematic stories being told through images and sound,” Bower says. “I feel like it’s a type of storytelling that isn’t used a lot and I felt like that would also be a lot more challenging than a lot of dialogue explaining everything.”
The movie tells the story of a female astronaut in space who has an addiction problem. There’s a heavy experimental style to the film, which was cleverly shot predominantly in Bower’s home—a studio in North Carolina. The movie features very few actors, and, in fact, the lead actor, Arielle Nicole Cartee, who plays the astronaut, had never acted before, according to Bower, who met her at a party and knew that “she had the look, and an amazing presence.”
Another interesting note about this flick is that because Cartee had several nude scenes, along with a co-star, Bower chose to film those scenes with him naked as well. Can you imagine? The guy behind the camera strips down as well as his actors? It was definitely an experiment, as was the whole film. And it was one that went over really well. | CM
Solatrium plays at 1:45 p.m., Wednesday, May 12 at the Riverfront Twin. For more information, visit solatrium.com.
Beyond the FilmsTake note of SCFF free lectures and presentations.
Yes. It’s free, so why not dive into some of the SCFF’s unique lectures.
As last year, the fest always strives to titillate as much as it can educate. That’s apparent in this year’s roster. Take a peek:
WHAT: THE HOOPING LIFE PERFORMANCE AND AFTER-FILM PARTY
WHEN: Friday, May 7, 7-8:30 p.m. in San Lorenzo Park Location link - 10:30 p.m., 131 Belmont Street at Emeline. Map link
THINGS TO KNOW: 7-8:30 p.m. in San Lorenzo Park, local hoopers and guest hoopers from the film will demonstrate why the culture of hooping remains mesmerizing. There’s performance art by The Hoopalights, HoopGirl & Hoopalicious. But take note of the Innovative Hoop Dance moves and impressive tricks that will be highlighted and framed by a wild array of flashing and pulsating hoops. Expect fun dance beats and creative costumes, too.
WHAT: PANEL: MY JOURNEY AT PIXAR, FROM NEMO TO UP. A DISCOVERY IN ANIMATION
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday, May 8, Digital Media Factory, 2809 Mission Street Extension at Swift
THINGS TO KNOW: Paul Topolos. He’s the UCSC alumnus and digital matte painter now with Pixar Animation Studios. He describes his innovative work philosophy at Pixar and, oh, so much more. Presented by the Digital Media Factory in association with the Santa Cruz Film Festival, UCSC and Pixar.
WHAT: PANEL: THE WO/MEN’S ALLIANCE FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA
WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday, May 8, Filmmaker HUB, 1101-F Pacific Avenue (entrance on Cathcart Street)
THINGS TO KNOW: Experts featured in the documentary, La Vie en Verte: The WAMM Movie, are on hand to explore topics related to the medical marijuana issues highlighted in the film. The panelists will discuss the film, as well as the recent settlement of the WAMM lawsuit against the federal government. But there’s more, particularly the history and future of WAMM. (Presented by The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana and La Vie en Verte:The WAMM Movie. This event is sponsored by The Food Bin & Herb Room, the Law Office of Ben Rice, and Beth Regardz.)
WHAT: PANEL: EARTHVISION MEETS ITS MAKERS
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 9, Community Television of Santa Cruz County. 816 Pacific Avenue at Birch Street.
THINGS TO KNOW: Filmmakers from Santa Cruz Film Festival’s EarthVision section are on hand to discuss the impact of independent films on the environment and culture. (Presented by Community Television of Santa Cruz County and Solar Technologies, Inc.)
WHAT: PANEL: HEALING THROUGH CHINESE MEDICINE
WHEN: 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, SCFF Filmmaker HUB, 1101-F Pacific Avenue (entrance on Cathcart)
THINGS TO KNOW: Five Branches University, sponsors of the Locally Grown program and the film Semshook will present and discuss healing through Chinese Medicine. Hang on …
WHAT: PANEL: LIFE AFTER FILM SCHOOL
WHEN: Noon Friday, May 14, Digital Media Factory, 2809 Mission Street Extension at Swift Street.
THINGS TO KNOW: Several filmmakers will discuss methods to maintain support networks, develop a resume and bio, hone creativity, and create a reel, while breaking into the industry. This is a stellar opportunity to learn more about filmmaking and getting into the business as filmmakers will reflect on their early experiences—how they did it, and what they would do differently. (Presented by the Digital Media Learning Foundation and the Santa Cruz Film Festival.)
Find out more about all the after-parties, receptions and galas at http://scfilmfest.org/events-1
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