Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Film festival hopes to shine focus on Western N.C., Asheville

Wilmington may get most of the hype when it comes to North Carolina's viability as a film-making destination, but Western North Carolina more than holds its own. Just think about the films that have been filmed (or partly filmed) in our state's mountains: "Dirty Dancing," "Last of the Mohicans," "Forrest Gump" and also "Nell," among many.

A film festival in Asheville hopes to take advantage of this history.

"Asheville is rich in filmmakers who, because of inexpensive, powerful equipment and a fast Internet connection, can live here as easily as the media metros of Los Angeles and New York," says the Citizen-Times. "Asheville visionaries are trying to make the city a center of digital arts — an effort that gets no small boost this week with the opening of the Asheville Film Festival.

"The festival features a variety of independent films, including features, documentaries, shorts and animation, as well as a student film competition. There are industry panel discussions, studio tours, parties and galas, and free professional development courses. The Asheville Film Festival, now in its fifth year, adds hundreds of people to downtown’s already busy sidewalks, amping up the excitement of pre-holiday season shoppers, art gallery aficionados, and lovers of fine food and drink. Last year’s festival attracted some 8,500 visitors, with a quarter of the people coming from outside the area. Each year, three-quarters of the films sell out. ...

"Festival promoters hope the film festival helps the city make a smooth transition into the lucrative digital arts.

"They already are pretty valuable. The nonprofit arts and culture industry in Buncombe County generates $65 million and 2,192 jobs annually, according to a study by Americans for the Arts, the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. The Asheville Hub Project, an ambitious plan to create economies on existing strengths, contends the arts are already one of major engines driving moneymaking in the area.

"The film and video production industry spent about $5 million last year in Western North Carolina — up from $3.5 million the year before, according to Mary Trimarco, director of the WNC Film Commission. Locally last year, crews shot the feature films 'Don’t Fade Away,' 'A Dance for Bethany' and 'Ghost Town: The Movie.' Several film and video production companies have moved or opened in the area in recent years, including 2 Bruce Studio and See No Evil Films, both of Asheville. ..."

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