Saturday, February 18, 2012


Truth is, I still haven't quite figured out where I "fit" into Idaho's film scene. Although I've been intrigued by its regional aesthetics and focus on local production values since first attending the 2007 Idaho International (now in indefinite hiatus), I'm not quite at peace with how so much of the work I've seen to date is content to stay confined within state borders supported by local audiences. Then there's the obvious fact that I haven't truly "settled" into my retirement home in Boise, Idaho, aware that I have indeed left my cinephilic heart in San Francisco, where I regularly return for my press screenings, cinematheque revivals and interview ops; where I remain a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle; and where I feel I am a welcome member of a thriving film community. I keep hoping for the same here in Idaho; but—other than a friend or two I've made in the past half year—Idaho remains primarily a place I come to write up my festival experiences from elsewhere.

Thus, it's with sincere regret that I'll be out of the state when Idaho launches its inaugural Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF) come March 15-18, 2012. The press release is, perhaps, necessarily inflated, boasting that SVFF's four-day festival "will screen films at the Sun Valley Opera House and the Magic Lantern Cinemas in Ketchum, and will bring filmmakers and film connoisseurs together to experience the best of the entertainment industry." SVFF promises a wide-range of film experiences, from shorts films, television and web series to documentaries and feature dramas and comedies, including family-friendly childrens programming, plus a morning discussion series aptly entitled "Coffee Talk" where filmmakers and industry experts are expected to engage their audience in a range of entertainment industry-related topics.

To date, however, a full program line-up has yet to be announced and ramp-up events are still in the seminal processes of fundraising and soliciting corporate sponsorship. They've done well. So far, CBS Affiliate KMVT (out of Twin Falls), Indieflix, Wild Gift, SVPN, Zion's Bank, and Concierge Q Travel Magazine have leant media and corporate muscle, while Tito's Handmade Vodka is the festival's official beverage, Sun Valley Resort the official hotel, and Alaska Airlines their official carrier. Additional funding has been provided by the Idaho Board of Tourism and the Frances E. Streit Foundation.

Local film production remains a presiding theme throughout the few features and documentaries announced to date, most of which have strong roots to filmmaking within the state and within local budgets and incentives. To that effect, SVFF is presenting a "One In A Million" Award to honor filmmakers who have made a standout film for under a million dollars, and a Vision Award, which recognizes producers and their filmmaking journeys. Naturally, there will also be an Audience Award.

All that being said, the question remains why films should be shot on location in Idaho rather than elsewhere? As if to definitively answer that question, SVFF has invited their wandering own back to the festival. For example, former Buhl resident Jaffe Zinn opens the festival with Magic Valley (2011), produced by former Idahoan Heather Rae (
Frozen River, 2008), while actor / screenwriter Jay Pickett—a graduate of Caldwell's Vallivue High School and Boise State—returns from Woodland Hills, California with Soda Springs (2012), whose tagline speaks to the overall state of Idaho filmmaking and / or its film culture: "Coming home is easy. It's staying that's the hard part."

Magic Valley co-producer and Boise native Laura Mehlhaff explained to Boise Weekly's Jeremiah Robert Wierenga that with much of the secondary cast and crew pulled from the Idaho filmmaking community (southern Idahoans Becky Hagerott and Frank Holesinsky had small speaking parts as extras), she hoped Magic Valley could serve as a test-case for economic programs designed to bring more films to Idaho. "Idaho has such a great range to offer," she said, "not only in terms of talented actors and crew, but also diverse landscapes and a great cost of living. Yeah, we didn't have a tax incentive to support us, but because we could get access to things much more cheaply than we could in other states and because the people here are such a community and were so supportive, in the end it did make sense for us for us to be in Idaho financially as well as creatively."

Actor Scott Glenn, a 32-year Blaine County resident, told Tony Evans at the
Idaho Mountain Express that Magic Valley had a positive economic impact on Gooding County, employing four actors, a production crew of eight from out of state and a "bunch of helpers" from Boise. "Even when a small film comes to a community, there's a big economic and emotional impact," he said. "Its good for a community. For better or worse, this culture is excited about movies. Everyone wants to help out."

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