Eugene Hopes to Become a Player with Film Festivals

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), May 10, 2006 | Go to article overview

Eugene Hopes to Become a Player with Film Festivals


Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

The Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts has one, so does Planned Parenthood, the University of Oregon Women's Center, the UO Disability Studies Committee and the city of Eugene. The Archaeology Channel and the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture both bring their own traveling events to town. There's also the Disorient Asian American Film Festival and the Youth Visions Festival for teens.

From the OpenLens Film Festival in January to this weekend's inaugural Eugene Film Festival, there are more independent film events happening in Eugene than ever before. But the trend isn't just local, experts say. Thanks to digital advances in filmmaking it's cheaper and easier to make a movie. Consequently, more people are making films.

More movies equals more film festivals, says Chris Newman, an Academy Award-winning engineer who has served as a sound mixer on dozens of major Hollywood films including, "The Godfather," "The French Connection" and "Amadeus."

"Everyone and their brother is making films, and there's tremendous pressure to find an outlet," says Newman, a featured presenter at this weekend's Eugene Film Festival. "Some of the films are dreadful, some of them are fascinating. Some of them are in between."

Kaethlyn Elliott, director of the Eugene Film Festival, would like to think she and her team of volunteer organizers found films worth watching. The festival, which is being held in a half-dozen downtown venues, will feature films from the Northwest and beyond. After advertising on the Web site WithoutABox.com, Elliott and her team received hundreds of submissions from as far away as Japan and Australia.

"They have connections to 72,000 films," she says of the Web site. "They are the pivotal point between filmmakers and film festivals."

But Elliott and the 12 other members of the festival board of directors weren't just inspired by the number of films available. They wanted to create a festival that would celebrate Eugene, put the city on the map by attracting outside filmmakers and highlight the burgeoning local film community. One of the featured presenters is Susan Emshwilller, a filmmaker and former set director who is moving to Eugene from Los Angeles.

Festival co-organizer Jeff Johnston, says the event has also had an unanticipated benefit: It has brought the small but vibrant community of local filmmakers and film fans out of the woodwork.

"Once we started planning this event, once the initial core group started and the word started to get out among the film community, that's when we started to hear from other people who said, 'We'd like to help,' ' Johnston recalls.

The Eugene Film Festival is not the only local festival in its inaugural year. Last month the city of Eugene's Parks and Open Space Division sponsored its first event, a one-day screening of short films with outdoor themes at the McDonald Theatre called the Children's Nature Film Festival. The idea was inspired by a number of new children's film festivals cropping up in cities across the country.

Also this year, the UO Women's Center added a lesbian-themed film festival to go along with its Out Loud music festival, organizer Stefanie Loh says.

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