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StudioFest in Phoenicia

Finalist Filmmakers Screen and Compete at New Festival

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Any filmmaker, no what level they’re working at, will tell you the same thing: The biggest, most important—and, usually, the hardest—part of making a feature-length film is finding the funding for it. Even for a modest indie feature, production costs can be astronomical, easily running into tens of thousands of dollars or more. And, of course, securing the budget from investors that’s needed to take a film from the screenplay to the screen is especially difficult for unproven filmmakers—promising new cinematic artists who, with access to the necessary financial resources, could turn out to be the Tarantinos of tomorrow. But StudioFest, a new international film festival-cum-competition making its debut September 21-23 in Phoenicia, aims to improve the odds by giving some of these aspiring auteurs the opportunity to compete for a truly grand prize: the backing needed to get their film made.

“My partner, Charles Beale, and I are both filmmakers ourselves,” says StudioFest’s cofounder and producer Jessica Jacklin. “We’ve met so many talented short-form filmmakers who’ve been unable to make the jump to doing feature-length films due to limited opportunities. Either they don’t have the cash or they don’t have the contacts, or they have neither. Filmmakers and screenwriters go to Sundance or South By Southwest to try to network and find backers or other people to work with them on their projects, but those festivals are so big and so overwhelming, with so much going on, that it can be really hard for them to make connections and get exposure. So with StudioFest being a much more intimate and manageable size, we’re looking to trim the fat from the film-festival world.”

Jacklin and Beale announced the launch of the festival earlier this year. After receiving hundreds of submissions, they selected five short-form filmmakers and five feature-length screenwriters as finalists for StudioFest’s inaugural weekend, at which the contestants will screen submitted shorts and present public script readings at the Phoenicia Playhouse before a panel that includes Grease star Jamie Donnelly; filmmaker and No Film School podcast editor Liz Nord; producer and filmmaker Shruty Ganguly, known for her work with James Franco; The Jazz Singer screenwriter Stephen H. Foreman; and others. (Tickets for the screenings are available online; admission to the readings is free.)

The competing finalists make up an exceptionally diverse and talented group of 10 young directors and screenwriters from Norway, New York, Las Vegas, Canada, and Australia by way of Los Angeles. At the end of the weekend, one director and one writer will be chosen to partner with StudioFest and awarded a budget of $30,000-$50,000 to make a film.

How did Phoenicia become the location for this auspicious new festival? “It’s been a special place for me since I started coming to the area, about five years ago,” Jacklin explains. “I stayed at the Graham & Co. [the boutique hotel that’s hosting festival staff and finalists as well as the red carpet-and-cocktails Filmmaker’s Soiree] and just fell in love with the town. Phoenicia’s such a great place to escape to from the city.”

StudioFest is, by design, a rustic, modest-sized antidote to the glitzy glamor overdose of bigger and better-known film festivals, and the goals of its founders are right in line with its humble aesthetic. “At the end of the day, we just want to see good feature-length films get made,” says Jacklin. “So, besides the film that comes from whoever the winning finalists turn out to be, our hope is that more films and projects will come from people being able to meet and hang out while they stay for the weekend while they enjoy the location, the festival, and each other’s company. Our plan is to do it every year, so we’ll see what happens from here.”

Profiles of each of the 2018 inaugural StudioFest finalists and judges, as well as tickets and a full festival schedule are available at https://studiofestofficial.com.

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