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Picture this: a Naperville film festival
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/18/2007 1:06 AM

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Naperville soon may have more in common with Park City, Utah, and Cannes, France, than inflated property values.

Organizers are hoping to bring an independent film festival to the city next September.

The celebration would span several days, and screenings likely would be held at venues throughout Naperville, including North Central College's Fine Arts Center that's currently under construction.

"We have a little over a year before it actually happens," said Gary Pradel, one of the founders of the Naperville Independent Film Festival. "We've been trying to put things together for the past several months."

The plans are preliminary and specifics are few, except that a reusable popcorn container will be a featured attraction for visitors.

"It sounded like an opportunity to jump into a larger arena with our local talent," said Mary Lou Wehrli, an advisory committee member. "We have such a leg up with all of our high schools having such strong programs.

"I would expect younger submitters because you have so many more dabblers at home because the economy of it all has come down so much."

Dann Gire, the Daily Herald's resident film expert, agrees that it's a shrewd move to get in on the film festival circuit.

"The business is exploding with the advent of the digital age," he said. "The things that only a few people could do 10 or 20 years ago can be done by almost anyone with a laptop and a digital camera now -- and done better."

It's a stretch to believe that Hollywood's A-list will show up at the inaugural festival, but Pradel expects the event to draw talented visual artists.

"We're opening the festival to both feature-length films and short subjects," he said. "The average film festival gets several hundred entries and that's what we'd expect before we whittle it down to the finalists."

Organizers are still trying to work out the logistics of staging the event. They're seeking volunteers to help with a variety of aspects of coordinating the celebration through the festival's Web site, www.naperfilm.org.

Pradel said talk of the proposed festival already has attracted many people who are interested in moviemaking.

"When you start talking about something like this, it's amazing how many people approach you about their connections to the film industry," he said.

Organizers will be meeting during the coming months to shore up details, he said. One of the big decisions that remains is what the prize for the winning movie will be.

"There will be a ceremony at the end, and we're in the process of figuring out what kind of trophy there will be," he said. "The one thing we've been told is filmmakers want that thing they can hold in their hands, so we're working on what that will be."