Sunday, January 5, 2003

Local film community gains focus

Shaping culture in 2003

After years of halting progress, Cincinnati's film community is on the brink of important advances that could bring more and richer cinematic experiences to a wider audience.

For one thing, local filmmakers and film lovers are finding one another. Cincinnati Film Society has begun to showcase the works of area filmmakers. SSNova gallery has ambitious plans to bring the best of its local short-film series called Underneath Cincinnati to a regional audience. Covington's smartly renovated Madison Theater has opened its doors to premieres of local independent films as well as the popular Oscar-winning shorts programs presented by the newborn Cincinnati World Cinema.

Encouraged by its success at drawing audiences to select one-shot screenings of chiefly foreign films, Cincinnati World Cinema is laying the groundwork for a full-fledged film festival. At the same time, filmmaker Scott Wegener is seeking to mount a dramatically expanded edition of 2002's small Queen City Film Festival to showcase regional independent works.

Among dozens of local features and shorts, a handful show promise of attracting attention beyond the immediate neighborhood. Among those with serious aspirations for commercial distribution are Artworks from Jim Amatulli, Tattered Angel from writer Duffy Hudson and director Will Benson, and Three Barbecues from Jay Metz and Rob Gray.

Among short films, Shawn Adams' surreal mystery The Thicket rated among the top-10 shorts on the online movie site; Greg Newberry's wry comedy Homefree scored entries in several high-profile film festivals, and Terry Lukemire expanded his prize-winner King of Karaoke into the feature-length Limelight.

On the strength of monthly mixers and group e-mails, membership in Southern Ohio Filmmakers Association neared 400. With friendly links to counterparts in Dayton and Columbus, plus the Independent Feature Project in Chicago and Cincinnati-based American Screenwriters Association, SOFA is reaching critical mass as a networking resource. The launch of its long-delayed Web site would solidify its role as both clubhouse and clearinghouse for media artists.

Similarly, the newly energized Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission vows a useful Web presence this year, to expand both its appeal to outside producers and to link local talent with professional opportunities.

25 forces that will shape culture in 2003
1. The big economic squeeze
2. Clear Channel's dominance
3. Suburbanites: Will they roam?
4. The plea for racial healing
5. The media's message
6. A whole new ball game
7. Edgy art center opening
8. Tall Stacks rolls back
9. Will tourists go home happy?
10. How Fine Arts Fund carries clout
11. You can't fight City Hall
12. Laura Long: Downtown force
13. The CSO's growing empire
14. Rosenthals' big impact
15. Northern Kentucky development
16. Museum Center's main man
17. Lobbyist Weiland
18. UC at crossroads
19. The Nederlanders make a comeback
20. MidPoint: Rebuild the city on rock 'n' roll
21. The Schuster Center alternative
22. Another public art project goes to bat
23. The brain drain
24. Local film community gains focus
25. Dancing around visa problems
The wild card of 2003: War
2003 dates to keep in mind

DEMALINE: The arts
KENDRICK: Alive & Well
Get to it!