Farrell/Courtesy of the Times Union
Michael Ellenbogen put on three ambitious short-film festivals
in Albany back in the mid-’90s, each year as the festival
approached, it was the same grind: impossibly long days sorting
out all of the details of programming and planning, occasional
late-night forays into Justin’s for a hard-earned Scotch and
burger, and very little sleep. Often, he swore he’d never
do it again.
Ellenbogen finally made good on his promise, leaving the area
in 1997 for New York City, where he now runs Passport Pictures,
an independent film production company, and works as a film
analyst for USA Films. But this summer, he is involved once
again in a film festival, which will commence two weeks from
now in Manchester, Vt. The first annual Manchester Film Festival
runs from June 27 through June 30, and Ellenbogen is the director
of programming. And although this event is on a larger scale
than the short-film festivals Ellenbogen put together in Albany—the
advisory board includes such luminaries as Ken Burns, Spalding
Gray and Rebecca Pidgeon, and the festival will screen 24
feature-length films (some in competition), including a world
premiere of God’s Sandbox by noted Israeli director
Doron Eran, and “an amazing film called Dazzling,”
from Chinese director Xin Lee—Ellenbogen says the experience
has been very nearly the same.
still staying up all night long finishing the program,” he
says wearily. “I haven’t slept in 60 hours. One major difference
is I’m not chain-smoking anymore.
still a no-budget festival,” he continues, adding that the
frustrations are similar to those he faced in Albany. “And
once again, I find myself saying out loud to whoever will
listen that I’ll never do it again.”
Ellenbogen laughs, and quickly regains his sense of optimism.
“But if it grows,” he says, “you could be sitting on top of
the next Sundance.”
In fact, the festival’s cocreators, Michael Charles Hill and
Alan Scott-Moncreiff, launched the project with just that
idea in mind: to turn Manchester into the Sundance of the
Northeast. Both men now live in the Manchester area; Hill
is a native Vermonter and a film-industry veteran, while Scott-Moncreiff
is a Scottish-born artist, playwright and filmmaker. They
first started working on the festival three years ago, but
Ellenbogen got involved only last October, with a little help
from his mom and dad.
September,” he recalls, “I got a letter from my parents, and
in it was a clipping from the Manchester Journal that
mentioned these two Vermont boys and their efforts to launch
an annual film festival. And I actually went up to Manchester
a couple of weeks later, and went to the Southern Vermont
Arts Center Music Festival, and [approached] the artistic
director. . . . I made the assumption that he would know who
was launching this film festival, told him what I’ve done
in Albany, and that if he could find them and introduce me
to them, I would appreciate it. And I gave him my card.
couple of weeks later in New York, I got an e-mail from him
giving me the name of Michael Charles Hill, and a phone number.
Two weeks after that, I was meeting at an Asian noodle shop
down here on Greene Street with Alan Scott-Moncrieff.”
Ellenbogen wanted to make sure the festival founders were
serious about what they were doing, and then sell them on
his credentials and connections. They hit it off, and Ellenbogen
immediately got rolling on the programming.
And, more recently, on the party planning.
of a week and a half ago,” he says, “they only had two parties
[planned]. And I just wouldn’t shut up until they had six.
You just can’t embarrass us by having people fly in from China
and then have to go to a bar to buy a drink.” The social events,
he emphasizes, tie the festival together: People get a chance
to relax, meet new people, have a good time, talk about what
they’ve seen. Then they leave happy, and “happy people say
good things about your festival.”
And who knows, if enough people say good things about the
first annual Manchester Film Festival, maybe Ellenbogen will
do it again.
Your 15 Minutes Here
the next Star Search com- ing to Albany? We doubt it,
but those Capital Region residents who feel destined for fame
might want to show the world that they’re going to live forever,
they’re going to learn how to fly at the 2002 World Championships
of Performing Arts. Anyone who can sing, act, dance, model,
twirl a baton or do it all is invited to compete in a talent
contest in Albany, the winners of which will qualify to represent
the United States and compete against performers from 40 countries
in the final competition in Hollywood.
Much like the Olympics, contestants can compete for “The Gold”
in eight categories—dance, vocal, modeling, acting, comedy,
bands, instrumental and variety (which includes acts such
as juggling and flame swallowing). “We look for all kinds
of talent,” says Carmine DioGuardi, who piqued the interests
of several organizations and talent scouts when he won the
gold medal for country-music performance and the trophy for
overall vocal talent at last year’s championship. DioGuardi
was the person who suggested that a contest be held to investigate
Albany’s tome of talented performers.
meet a lot of different people in the business,” says DioGuardi.
“And you learn a lot about the business and how it works.”
The event certainly isn’t short of celebrity endorsements.
In the past, the competition, now in its sixth year, has featured
hosts and judges such as Pauly Shore and Mickey Dolenz (formerly
of The Monkees). Bob Eubanks, host of the hit game
show The Newlywed Game and the Game Show network, will
emcee this year’s “opening ceremonies.”
Residents of the Capital Region who wish to compete may submit
a bio along with photos (for modeling only) and a one-minute-long
videotape demonstrating a talent (the tape needn’t be professional).
Submissions are due June 15. An optional live competition
will be held at 9 AM on June 15 at the Steuben Athletic Center
(1 Steuben Place) in Albany. Performers who qualify at the
live competition will be chosen on the spot to participate
in Team USA. Those who don’t perform live will be notified
by Saturday, June 22.
Green Day, blink 182 and Saves the Day kicked off SPAC’s summer
season as headliners of the Channel (103.1 FM)’s Big Day Out
on June 4. The oversized day of overt rock & roll also
featured a second stage with acts Custom, Cold, 2 Skinny Js
and Attic of Love. With hopes of propelling them to even bigger
days out, most of the second-stage acts put in fan-time at
the autograph tent. One of the audience’s favorite pastimes,
crowd surfing in between—and even during—mosh sessions was
prevalent during the show (Did you expect anything less?)
Other highlights of the show included: a giant bunny who came
onstage right before Green Day to smoke a bong and a massive
pyrotechnics show during blink 182’s set. (Pictured is Green
Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong.)