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Film Fest could lead to bigger things

November 25, 2015

(Source — David McGee) The just concluded PUSH! Film Festival could be the catalyst to promote greater local interest in the art form, a panel of filmmakers said Sunday.

The three-day festival concluded with a panel discussion of 10 filmmakers from four states, who generally agreed its future impact could be significant. Bristol, Tennessee, native Jason Liggett, who now produces films in California, predicted that success.

“There was never that presence,” Liggett said of his time growing up in the Twin City. “When I heard about this film festival, I was like ‘that is so awesome;’ to give the kids a platform of something they can be exposed to or see other people doing. I think just by planting that seed all kinds of artists are going to pop out.”

Liggett was awarded the festival’s Best Tennessee Film award.

Another Bristol Tennessee native, independent filmmaker David Gwaltney said the region has some key components like East Tennessee State University and the Barter Theatre that could nurture those interested in the craft.

“There is a lot of stuff here in this area. The creative community is here,” Gwaltney said. “You just need to work on coming together. There are kids interested in filmmaking and people all over that know video who can help. But it’s here. It really is.”

Tim Altonen, director of “The Human Virus,” a thriller set in Appalachia, said success will be accompanied by funding.

“Let’s not mess around here. We need money to make movies too,” Altonen said. “This is the reason why a lot of people move away from this area is because we don’t have the kind of financial resources that areas like Atlanta, New York or L.A. have. The $3,500 it took to make my feature film wouldn’t pay for the bathrooms on a Hollywood set for a week. We’ve got a strong community here. We’ve got ETSU. What we’re lacking is financial resources.”

Filmmaker Chris Gervais of South Carolina said just hosting the festival and giving filmmakers a place to show their work offered a tremendous benefit.

The festival is expected to continue next year, according to Christina Blevins, executive director of sponsoring organization Believe in Bristol.

“All the filmmakers say they’re getting a vibe from Bristol and that’s exciting. We are happy to say there will be a PUSH! Film Festival in 2016, we just aren’t sure what time of year,” Blevins said, adding it may move to spring or fall to be more inclusive of students and area schools.

“We have learned a lot. There were only a few people on our committee of 14 who had even been to a film festival, so we are soaking in things from the filmmakers. But overall it was off the chain. We did very, very well,” Blevins said.

About 200 people attended many of the feature films while most workshops included between 20 and 50 attendees. Its film contest received submissions from across the globe.

“We’ve received numerous suggestions. We just want to make this the best it could be,” Blevins said. “We actually could get rid of curated films and just show submitted, juried films all weekend. That was a suggestion we had. We’ll consider all that but we may move the festival to another time to maximize cultivating creativity.”

New filmmaker Samantha Macher of Alexandria, Virginia, walked away with the Best Virginia Film for her work writing “Last Pyramid,” a documentary about a woman who created stained glass pyramids to honor her son who died having an epileptic seizure.

“She’s an incredible woman and I am so tremendously honored to be able to tell the story and share it,” Macher said. “This has been really wonderful. I’m a playwright and this was my very first film. I’m very pleased. Our whole team is thrilled. I’m pleased as punch to be able to share it with the Virginia communities, especially to be able to raise awareness for epilepsy.”