State of the Arts
Loranne Turgeon scouted the perfect location for her wedding with James Cyr. In her old job -- luring moviemakers to Vermont -- the former film commissioner was clued into the state's best sets. At the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn -- amidst spectacular flowers, fabulous food and well-placed antiques -- her nuptials last Saturday rose to the level of big-budget production. Not since the Bessie Awards have so many Vermont film folk been gathered in one place. The guest list included faithful funders such as Bill and Jane Stetson, State Senator Matt Dunne and union reps Ron Rabideau and Peter Letzelter-Smith. Turgeon's replacement, current Vermont Film Commissioner Danis Regal, was there, along with long-time deputy Jeannette Wulff.
Norwich filmmaker Nora Jacobson came with stories from the Lake Placid Film Festival, where her new film, Nothing Like Dreaming, showed three times. Vermonters won't get to see it until fall, when Jacobson takes her show on the road. She says distribution continues to be the greatest challenge for independent filmmakers in the Green Mountains -- especially those with a strong sense of place. "We're back to that issue of regional films having a bad rap," says Jacobson, who's pushing the idea of a cooperative distribution company for independent feature films. "We'd share resources, mailing lists, maybe a publicist," she suggests.
Tunbridge auteur John O'Brien would surely sign on. He's spent the last month shepherding his latest flick to theaters in Cleveland, Ithaca, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Rochester. The rust-belt reaction to Nosey Parker has been "great," says O'Brien, but that doesn't translate into 10-screen gigs. "It's part of my 20-year plan to build up a following in the Northeast," he quips. Next stop: West Newton, Massachusetts.
You have to travel way beyond New England to see what filmmaker Dave Giancola has been up to. For years, he's been making B-grade action-disaster flicks in his Rutland studio. Giancola wrapped a movie called Landslide last November, but, to his horror, two days of footage turned up blank after shipping. At first Giancola thought FedEx accidentally x-rayed the canisters. Now he thinks they might have been damaged by some nuclear waste shipped from Los Alamos. Hey, the guy makes a living imagining such scenarios. In the meantime, "the international distributor came back and said we needed to put a monster in Landslide," Giancola explains. He obliged, but is taking a month off this summer to rethink his business plan.
Since Turgeon left Vermont, the state hasn't seen any sequels to Me Myself and Irene or What Lies Beneath. Canada and Eastern Europe are landing all the big Hollywood shoots. That hurts Giancola, and everybody else in Vermont who counts on outside movie money. Despite film-friendly incentives Dunne pushed through the Legislature last year, "It's a tough slog in a very aggressive business in a labor climate that is really rough right now," says Giancola.
Kenneth Peck hired a Burlington College alum to help him make a one-hour documentary about the Burlington Intervale. When he's not focused on the farm, the former film prof hosts a show on Vermont Public Television, "Reel Independents." He also still coordinates the Vermont Filmmakers Forum -- a nonprofit offshoot of the Vermont Film Commission that aims to assist the local film community.
On Saturday, Peck was talking up John Douglas and his new "Homeland Security" photo series. Using a tripod, Photoshop and a machine gun, the Charlotte filmmaker has produced a body of startling images inspired by a vow: "If Bush gets re-elected, I'm getting an M-16." Most of the pictures feature multiple exposures of a naked Douglas in various scenarios, partially concealed only by his weapon. They express aggression and vulnerability.
One, at Lake Champlain's Split Rock, looks like an army of toy soldiers. "When I was shooting that, the police arrived," Douglas recalls. "I'm standing bare-assed on this little island with a black rifle. I don't understand to this day what was on their minds. They just slowed and drove off." Check out the "Homeland Security" photos -- and everything else -- on Douglas' website, http://www.redrat.net .
Missing from Saturday's celebration were Peacham filmmakers Bess O'Brien and Jay Craven. The couple was in New York casting a last-minute leading lady to play alongside Rusty DeWees in Craven's sitcom-to-be, "Windy Acres." Due to a health problem, the original actress had to bow out. Assistant Director Fran Stoddard represented the group at the wedding.
Turgeon has been living in Maine since she left Vermont two years ago, but the Newport native hasn't forgotten where she came from. Nice touch turning her union with Cyr into a reunion for everyone else.