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Part II of a Series of a IV Part Series

Film Festival almost ready to roll

by Liz Warren

If the general public is counting down anything, it’s probably the days until Christmas or the final days of the year 2000. But Sedona Cultural Park is engaged in another countdown - Days Until the Sedona International Film Festival.

Having two whole months (this year’s festival runs March 2-4, 2001) to prepare for the event may seem like quite a lot. But not in the Cultural Park’s film festival microcosm, where frenzied activity will continue up to the very last moment.

The 21 members of the film festival steering committee and the 18 members of the workshop committee meet separately on a biweekly basis to hammer out the details that will keep the three-day festival and the one-and-a-half day workshop running with clockwork precision. The Park’s five full-time staff members work in conjunction with the committees and nearly 200 volunteers to make it all happen.

This year’s festivities, more than ever before, will take careful planning - there’s a lot on the film festival plate, and coordinating it to run smoothly is a Herculean feat. In addition to programming the 50-60 films that will encompass the weekend’s cinematic celebration, the festival also features an annual workshop and gala event.

Just as last year’s workshop on scoring flavored the festival (with Academy Award-winning composer Elmer Bernstein accepting the annual tribute), this year’s workshop, Visual Effects: Image With Imagination, provides a starting point for the 2001 theme.

Looking at the films the workshop panelists have made over the years, it is easy to see how technology has inspired the film industry to imagine what the world will look like in the future and what the world looked like in the past. From John Nelson’s amazing supervision of the effects that recreated the Coliseum in Gladiator to Harrison Ellenshaw’s groundbreaking work on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, all things can be imagined and realized in the realm of visual effects.

Last year, the film festival gala reveled in the past with a Golden Age of Hollywood theme. This year, the festival has an eye to the future with a new theme - cinema, space and science. The gala, scheduled for Friday night, March 2, at Enchantment Resort, will be a truly otherworldly experience. Extraterrestrial? No. But expect to be transported into a galaxy of stars and nebula of unmatched beauty.

The festival promises that its tributee will tie into the theme, and actor Dennis Weaver (Gunsmoke, Duel), who was not able to attend the festival last year due to an unexpected schedule change, will also be on hand to accept the festival’s first annual Environmental Award.

But while many individuals will enjoy the gala well into the wee hours, there will be another group of people who have been up since before 8 a.m. absorbing the rich, complex world of visual effects at the festival’s fifth annual workshop. Visual Effects: Image With Imagination, will provide an in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes wizardry of effects in its many disciplines, including production design, animation, traditional and digital matte painting and cinematography.

Produced in cooperation with the Visual Effects Society and the University of Arizona Department of Media Arts, the workshop will include numerous demonstrations and informal Q&A sessions with industry professionals, and participants will leave with the foundations of a working knowledge of the effects industry.

So far, workshop founder and coordinator Frank Warner (Academy Award-winning sound editor of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, among others) has lined up six panelists to lead the way into visual effects territory.

A visual effects artist and filmmaker, workshop moderator Harrison Ellenshaw has spent more than 25 years in the film industry, with credits that include Star Wars, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Tron, The Empire Strikes Back, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Captain EO, Dick Tracy and James and the Giant Peach, among many others. He currently supervises all effects for Renaissance Pictures’ television projects including Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules, The Legendary Journeys.

Michael Fink has supervised visual effects on countless films, including X-Men, Lethal Weapon 4, Contact, Mars Attacks!, Eraser, and Braveheart. He received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Batman Returns, which included supervising the creation of the first digital creatures based on actual animals in a feature film. He also worked on visual effects for Hunt for Red October, Short Circuit, Back to the Future, Last Starfighter, Blade Runner, and The China Syndrome. His commercial work includes the Coca-Cola Polar Bear spot and ads for Budweiser, Taco Bell, Cheetos and more.

John Nelson has worked for Industrial Light and Magic, Mental Images GMBH, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Dreamworks, among others. He has been nominated for Clio Awards six times, winning twice. He animated key scenes in Terminator 2, most notably where the shot-gunned head of the chrome terminator re-seals itself. For Imageworks, he supervised effects for So I Married an Axe Murderer, My Life, The Pelican Brief, Wolf, Johnny Mnemonic, Judge Dredd, The Cable Guy, Anaconda, and City of Angels. In 1998, he joined Dreamworks to supervise effects on Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. He is currently working on Evolution for Ivan Reitman.

Joe Alverez has designed everything from man-eating sharks and aliens to futuristic, high-tech contemporary, period and western settings. He is educated in art, architecture, drama and motion picture design, and was recruited by Disney Studios’ animated special effects department right out of school, later moving to Universal Studios where he had the opportunity to work with Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kramer. His career as a production designer really took off when he after meeting Steven Spielberg. Alverez designed The Sugarland Express, Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the last two garnered him Academy Award nominations. Additional credits include Geronimo, Fire Down Below, Starman, Escape from New York, and Everybody’s All-American.

Lynda Thompson’s career in film has included work on such notable films as Tron, Ghostbusters, 2010, Dick Tracy and the 102 Dalmatians. She has worked as a visual effects producer at a number of major visual effects facilities including Boss Film, Dream Quest Images, Olsen Lane and White, and Buena Vista Visual Effects. Since January 1998, she has been visual effects production executive for Walt Disney Pictures, responsible for overseeing more than 2,300 visual effects shots in over 40 films in the past two and a half years. Additional credits include Disney’s The Kid, Gone in 60 Seconds, Bicentennial Man, Inspector Gadget, My Favorite Martian, Enemy of the State, and The Parent Trap.

Ron Tippe has worked in the entertainment industry for the last 29 years, serving in many capacities from production assistant and production manager to assistant director, ultimately writing and directing television commercials, industrial, educational, rock video and short dramatic films. He has worked for Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Brothers Feature Animation, DreamWorks SKG, Universal Studios, and Industrial Light and Magic, among others. His credits include the Academy Award-nominated animated short Runaway Brain, Space Jam, the upcoming Shrek, the re-make of The Incredible Mr. Limpet, and Frankenstein and the Wolfman.

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