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Hollywood on Delaware Avenue

 

A large white wall loosely advises you to “Abandon Hope” in the middle of the Spectrum 8 Theatres’ back parking lot. A mob of 7-year-old, white-faced zombies make their way toward a pie stand, as a woman with huge blonde pigtails balances atop a VW van-turned-pirate-ship. At least a half-dozen stressed-out directors lug their paper coffee cups through separate film sets. It’s hard to say if the Spectrum will ever be home to such wonderfully campy horror again—that is, unless it hosts the Edwood FilmFest next year.

“Just last night we decided maybe we should organize something,” said Peter Barnett, head organizer of the Edwood FilmFest and sort-of head-honcho of last Saturday’s “microsode” filming.

Barnett is joking, obviously; the Edwood FilmFest has been attracting amateur filmmakers since 2000, when locally made mini-films were screened at a Lark Street bar. (The festival is named after late filmmaker Ed Wood, with whom you should already be familiar.) The festival features a short-film contest as well as a newly introduced “microsode” script contest that gives writers a chance to see their work made into sub-5-minute films. This year the festival moves on-and-up to Delaware Avenue, and will screen its movies at Spectrum 8 Theaters come September. The Spectrum also lent its back parking lot to the Edwood clan on Saturday, where crews were allowed to shoot scenes for the 10 winning microsodes. Hence the zombies.

“Albany really needs this sort of thing. The whole community can get involved,” said Jeff Knight, owner of East Greenbush-based Knight Owl Entertainment and director of the microsode, The Lost Children of Computer Camp.

Local directors, writers, cinematographers, producers and actors make up the crews for Edwood FilmFest; no previous experience is necessarily required, only dedication, practice and the willingness to sign up. It is the self-proclaimed “People’s Film Festival,” after all.

“The amount of dedication is incredible here,” said Knight. “I don’t think anyone anticipated how much work goes into these things.”

Knight and the other microsode directors have been working on their pieces since May, and finished up the last scenes last Saturday; after the films are completed, the rough cuts are sent off to Hollywood for final editing and finishing. That’s right, Hollywood: A professional editor who once worked at the Spectrum will work on the films.

“Hollywood has some effect, I’ve found, even in Albany where we’re tough and hardened and know Hollywood’s never comin’, ” said Barnett.

Whether it was all the Hollywood name-dropping or not, the Edwood FilmFest has grown in recent years, in step with an increase in community interest. A long list of sponsors have lent their names to the festival this year, including distinguished organizations such as UAG, Capital Repertory Theatre, the New York State Theatre Institute, and, ahem, Metroland.

“Edwood is different because the market is so small. We have a lot of great local sponsors,” said Eric Vollweiler, director of business development and co-producer of the Festival. “There’s no other [film festival] like this in Albany, which is a great pitching point—it’s very eccentric and unique.”

Despite all the newfound attention, the Edwood FilmFest remains fun and experimental. Again, hence the zombies.

“The Edwood tradition is just to keep it fun. The minute a film director takes it too seriously, it’s done,” said Ed Bablin, winner of the first Edwood FilmFest and director of the up-and-coming short film, The Shaved Yetty. (The Shaved Yetty?)

“The trick is to get it bigger and to get more people involved, but keep it light at the same time.”

The Edwood FilmFest will screen the completed short films and microsodes between Sept. 24 and Oct. 4, in a week filled with giveaways, parties and general campy celebration. After a top-secret deliberation, the winner of the short-film contest will be announced on Sept. 28 and will receive film classes as well as a trophy.

—Carlene Willsie


Photo: Shannon DeCelle

Dedication

The late, longtime Metroland and Saratogian dance critic and journalist Mae G. Banner was honored Wednesday, July 18, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center by New York City Ballet master-in-chief Peter Martins and SPAC executive director Marcia White. The presentation was to honor Banner’s passionate commitment to the arts in Saratoga Springs, and, in particular, the NYCB at SPAC. That night’s performance of George Balanchine’s Jewels—one of Banner’s favorites—was dedicated to her.

 

 

 

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