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Film festival to make its red carpet debut
By Stephanie Penick | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/24/2008 12:04 AM

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Do you remember the first time you saw a movie on the big screen?

Was the film in Technicolor or black and white? Were you spellbound at the larger-than-life images? Horrified? Amused?

Did you recognize a soon-to-become familiar lion roaring in the credits? Or wonder if the film had been produced by some major motion picture mogul from one of the big studios? Are you aware the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers was established in 1941? Or have you always appreciated independent filmmakers called "indies"?

The first theater experience I recall was when my grandparents took me to see "The Wizard of Oz," the classic based on the 1900 children's book by L. Frank Baum. Likely you've seen TV documentaries about how "The Wizard of Oz" was produced on the big lot of Metro Goldwyn Mayer, a.k.a. MGM, still remembered as the most powerful studio ever where actors were under strict contract to perform.

Though the movie first appeared in 1939 - before the days when films were released to television almost as quickly as they opened in the theaters - "The Wizard of Oz" was rereleased in movie theaters back in the 1950s. That's when I saw it for the first time.

About the same time, I saw independent filmmaker Walt Disney's animated feature Snow White.

And to my surprise, my adult daughter mentioned her first recollection of going to a movie theater was to see "Snow White," another movie that's been rereleased, restored and reissued often.

I guess my point is first-time experiences can last a lifetime.

Film festival

This week a team of organizers and sponsors led by Gary Pradel, Edmond Coisson and Glessna Coisson will launch the inaugural Naperville Independent Film Festival, a four-day event where you just might create some lasting memories with some first-time filmmakers.

When I first met Edmond Coisson about a year and a half ago, he handed me his business card, noting his plans for a film festival in the fall. "Not this fall," he said. "Fall 2008."

The festival opens tonight and continues through Saturday, Sept. 27, at locations in Naperville.

All film festivals start someplace. According to World Book, the first one was in Venice, Italy, in 1932.

Behind the scenes, I've watched this one take action to introduce the independent spirit of movie making to many of us. The magical mix of art and commerce - an industry that's been entertaining and educating the masses since the late 1800s when inventors at Thomas Edison's Menlo Park operation developed the movie projector - promises to be an enlightening experience in Naperville.

Filmmakers respond

Since October 2007, filmmakers from coast-to-coast have submitted original works. Venues for screenings and workshops are set from North Central College to Ogden 6 and the Comedy Shrine to NIU in Naperville.

And dazzling trophies have been selected that you might say rival the Oscar. I said, "You might say."

Opening ceremonies are slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. today, Sept. 24, at All Saints Catholic Academy, 1155 Aurora Ave. Celebrity arrivals will step onto the red carpet to be welcomed by flashing cameras and Naperville's version of "Joan Rivers."

Appetizers, music, movie clips and star-studded surprises will be featured, too. Tickets are $40 and casual business attire is OK.

Screenings, workshops and panel discussions at multiple locations will run Thursday and Friday, Sept. 25-26. Most screenings are $7 per seat.

For the complete schedule and prices, Publicist Kay Severinsen urges you to check out the comprehensive showcase of events at where you also can purchase tickets.

The Family Matinee will be staged from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, in the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center, 305 W. Jackson Ave., and in the "back lot." Tickets are $5.

Entertainment will include stunt men demos, improv classes, an interactive "wild west" movie set, "greenscreen" display, hands-on Claymation "and a TV camera class - all for kids." Disney TV star Kay Panabaker, formerly of Naperville, will appear, too.

The closing Champagne reception and awards ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at the new Hotel Arista, 2139 CityGate Lane. Tickets are $75. Black tie is optional.

Following Severinsen's advice, I visited where I noticed "REBS" by David Devane of Naperville is among the seven nominated works for best screenplay.

Here's hoping the festival attracts tourists, putting heads in the beds of local hotels and butts in seats at our restaurants and all the venues featuring these short and feature-length movies.

Perhaps while the film festival challenges, inspires and prepares candidates for professional work in the motion picture industry, it will also attract distributors looking for profitable new films.