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Area filmmakers gear up for '03


By PETER HANSON, Special to the Times Union
First published: Friday, December 27, 2002


It's almost time to make those dreaded New Year's resolutions, so, in that spirit, here's a sampling of projects that Capital Region filmmakers have resolved to complete in 2003.


On track for a release early next year is "Face of the Enemy," the first project created at the Digital Film Farm. As described in a Times Union feature earlier this year, the farm is the brainchild of West Sand Lake's John Holser, who envisions a rural setting dotted with educational facilities catering to indie filmmakers working on digital video.


"Face of the Enemy," which Holser directed from a script by Guilderland's Tom Mercer, is a topical drama about divisions within a terrorist militia group. The piece, which was created by a team involving many of the area's most active filmmakers and actors, has evolved from a no-nonsense 10-minute quickie to an elaborate 20-minute piece that may eventually be one section of a feature-length project.


Boasting some of the most impressive photography and production values yet crafted for a local digital film, "Face of the Enemy" is in the editing stage, with Penny Perkins handling the cuts. Perkins, by the by, recently stepped down after two successful terms as co-president of local filmmakers' group Upstate Independents. Holser, Perkins' former co-president, has taken over as sole president. For info on "Face of the Enemy," visit http://www.digitalfilmfarm.com.


Speaking of Upstate Independents, the group continues to grow by expanding its repertoire of programs. In addition to the ongoing Movies Without Pictures series of screenplay readings, UI recently launched a satellite program with the working title of "The Upstate Independents Screenwriters Caucus." And UI is continuing its relationship with the WAMC Performing Arts Studio, with the hope of launching a series of meet-the-filmmaker events. To keep up with the various UI comings and goings, check out http://www.upstateindependents.net or visit the group itself. UI meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at the Arts Center of the Capital Region (265 River St., Troy).


Busy Latham-based horrormeister Jeff Kirkendall has a handful of projects on tap. He's planning a January debut for his latest writing-and-directing effort, a feature-length vampire thriller called "The Temptress." The action-laced spookfest is extrapolated from a Kirkendall short titled "Three to Murder." And as if making "The Temptress" hasn't left the filmmaker with enough (fake) blood on his hands, he's also cutting projects for other directors.


Using his trusty Adobe Premiere editing system, Kirkendall is piecing together films including "London After Midnight," the long-in-the-works feature from Columbia County's Bruce G. Hallenbeck. Hallenbeck, the veteran helmer of such blood-and-yuks oddities as "Vampyre" and the bloodsucker-cinema documentary "Fangs," shot most of "London After Midnight" about five years ago, but the project has been held up by developments as horrifying as anything onscreen -- such as the real-life cancer battle fought by leading man David Louis. But now with Kirkendall in place as editor, "London After Midnight" should finally see the light of day.


Keep track of Kirkendall's endeavors by visiting his Web site, http://www.veryscaryproductions.com.


An extremely ambitious project scheduled for release in 2003 is "Wik," a sci-fi parable co-created by Troy writer-director Michael Swantek and Nassau cinematographer Justin Maine. Swantek and Maine, both of whom make their living doing corporate videos, have been lovingly -- and, sometimes, agonizingly -- crafting the picture for more than two years.


The hard-to-describe plot involves a bleak future setting in which characters such as the protagonist, a man-child named Adam, live in tiny, hermetically sealed boxes. One of those boxes comprised the main set for the picture, which Swantek and Maine built in the family room of the Swantek family home. Yet thanks to ingenuity, tenacity and a massive amount of eye-popping digital special effects, Swantek and Maine seem poised to create a movie far more impressive than its homespun origins.


To check out some of the picture's wild visuals and to stay abreast of the film's release schedule, visit http://www.wikthemovie.com.


And that's not all. Other local projects percolating include the latest installment of Mike Camoin's "Inside the Blue Line" documentary series, a movie about the now-defunct Adirondack fire-tower system; "Carbonated Pop Icons," a sly comic short about the day-to-day madness of working in a movie theater, directed by young movie-theater professional Mike Shannon; and the latest feature from the Masucci Brothers.


Although the Masuccis' proposed zombie movie, "Walking With the Dead," was derailed because of difficulties with the financier, the brothers are planning to roll the resources they amassed for "Walking" into a character-driven crime flick. Expect director Dan Masucci and cinematographer Joe Masucci to launch the new project in the spring. In the meantime, look for updates on their site, http://www.fountainheadpictures.com.


This is the final "Focus on Film" column because its author, longtime Capital Region indie-film chronicler Peter Hanson, is moving to Hollywood to pursue a career in screenwriting. Future developments in the local movie-making scene will be detailed in a new arts column debuting early next year. Send updates or story tips to staff writer Tania Garcia de Rosier, tderosier@timesunion.com, or phone 454-5478.