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Movie makers, film buffs gather in Lake Placid

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The 12th annual Lake Placid Film Festival opens Wednesday, with new stars, new movies and a panel discussion on the future of small town theaters. This year's festival will feature screenings of films from local, national and International filmmakers, special guests and events such as the North Country Shorts and the return of the 24 hour student film-making competition, "Sleepless in Lake Placid."

Todd Moe spoke with Tim Brearton, the festival's project specialist. He's helped out since the inaugural forum in 2000. He calls it an event that brings people together, supports local artists and allows film students from area colleges to learn about the rigors of the film industry.

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Todd Moe
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Organizers of the 12th annual Lake Placid Film Festival faced several challenges this year. The most pressing contemporary issue faced by the local film industry is the potential loss of independent theaters as digital film becomes increasingly popular; up to 5,000 small theaters across the country may close. However, the festival will feature a wide variety of films for the public.

“The role of film festivals has changed so much. The advent of digital filmmaking has really made a democratic process out of filmmaking,” said Tim Brearton, the festival’s project specialist. Making films is less cost-prohibitive now, and it is easy for individuals to upload distribute films online. “Film festivals were once kind of the gateway, and that has changed,” said Brearton.

The Lake Placid Film Festival has had to adapt to the changing times but has attempted to remain true to its original purpose and remain committed to the discussion of filmmaking. Keeping an open dialogue allows the film festival to embrace the issues currently facing the industry.

Given the switch to digital delivery of films, independent theaters may suffer since they cannot afford to invest in a digital projector. This will be the topic of a panel discussion at the film festival this year at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 16. The panel includes Nelson Page, a local theater owner, and Alan Hofmanis, the festival’s programming director for its first four years, among others. “We thought we needed to bring together a group of very knowledgeable people,” said Brearton. “These are people that can talk about the different aspects of the impact that this digital conversion is gonna have.”

The Palace Theater  is a historic landmark that has been in Lake Placid since 1926. “It’s the anchor of Main Street. Everybody’s got a memory of a first date or taking their kids for the first time,” said Brearton, who took his own son there to watch his first film. The Robert Morton Organ was installed in the theater in 1926.

“Sometimes it takes a village, it takes a community, to rally around something that everybody cherishes, and see that it’s able to adapt and continue to thrive, ‘cause it’s a thriving business. It’s not something that has sort of been in shambles. It’s the movie theater in the area,” said Brearton.

The Lake Placid Film Festival has been unique from other festivals since its inception. The goal has always been to keep the focus on the filmmakers and on bringing people together to share ideas. According to Brearton, the festival has also gone through several different incarnations over the years. “Even though the idea from the beginning was to keep things intimate, it was so much fun that, you know, people couldn’t help but growing and it sort of blew up,” said Brearton.

By 2004, the festival was a large event, and in the aftermath of that year, the film forum has been more sustainable. “It’s also reached out and connected with more of a regional fan base and regional filmmakers,” said Brearton. Products of this have been the “Sleepless in Lake Placid” and North Country Shorts programs, which were started in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Both of these programs are intended to involve the local community.

Brearton said, “We’ll always seek to show films and have events that draw people in from all over the place, but we don’t want to neglect people who are so important to us who live and work right here in the area.”

This festival will feature an outdoor screening on Main Street of “Girl Walk All Day,” a 77-minute dance music video set to the DJ Girl Talk. “We think it’s going to connect with a young, fresh audience. It’s going to be a good time,” said Brearton.

“I like to see this event unfolding, and to see people smiling and having a good time,” said Brearton. As a screenwriter and novelist, he is involved in many facets of the film festival. The films shown at the festival range from those started by kick-starter funds that are being self-distributed to adaptations of graphic novels to the student-made films in the competition. “It’s the perfect storm,” said Brearton.

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