When we spoke to Carrboro filmmaker and video producer Nic Beery in May, he was closing the city's monthly Century Center Cinema series, which he curated for three years. He said he was shutting it down to work on other projects, including a new film festival called the Blue Sky Film Festival.
Cut to this weekend: The Blue Sky Film Festival is a reality.
To be held in two auditoriums at the Lumina in Chapel Hill today through Sunday, Blue Sky is Beery's attempt to mash the down-home pride he feels with the Carrboro Film Festival (which he co-founded) and the international flavor he gets from Durham's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (where he serves as a volunteer coordinator).
"Since I do both, I said, 'Why don't we do something that shows narratives and comedies and dramas and documentaries and has a good, Carrboro Film Festival hometown feel, but brings in international films as well as local,'" Beery said.
Blue Sky certainly has a sky's-the-limit lineup of films.
It kicks off this afternoon with a block of shorts done by filmmakers from around the world as well as the Triangle. (Many of them will be in attendance.) At 8, there will be a benefit screening of "The Horse Boy," a documentary about an autistic boy whose condition improves when he has contact with horses. (Proceeds will go to the Arc of North Carolina, which helps children and adults with mental and developmental disabilities.)
Silent, with music
Saturday morning, the festival will show Buster Keaton's 1924 silent movie "The Navigator," with improvised piano accompaniment by Chapel Hill musician Erich Lieth. (He played music for Buster Keaton films when they played at Century Center Cinema.) This will be followed by more shorts in the afternoon, including a series of viral videos from Fuquay-Varina musical-comedy duo Rhett & Link. That night, there will be a horror double feature: Kathryn Bigelow's 1987 vampire Western "Near Dark" and "Hellphone," a techno-thriller shot in Madison about a cell phone possessed by a vengeful, deceased cult leader.
Sunday morning, Full Frame executive director Deirdre Haj will introduce the 2009 Chinese documentary "Last Train Home" (which briefly played at the Chelsea in Chapel Hill). Another block of shorts and an awards presentation will round out the festival.
But it's not just films and filmmakers that will be on display: There will be a trio of free workshops. Greensboro filmmaker/cinematographer Stephen Van Vuuren will hold a workshop on filming with DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras Saturday at 1 p.m. That will be followed by retired engineering master/Raleigh resident Rich Greb showing how to film with camera stabilizers (particularly the Blackbird, which he invented) at 2. And Sunday at 12:15 p.m., British film and TV producer Will Battersby ("EastEnders," "Trumbo") will hold a film production workshop.
Beery launched Blue Sky on a meager budget, getting $6,500 from sponsors. (He was aiming for $45,000 - "We were delusional!" he jokes.)
Thankfully, Beery knows a lot of North Carolinians who were pleased to help out.
The 35mm print of "Dark" was provided by Matt Pennachi, who curates the monthly Cinema Overdrive film series at the Colony.
As for the made-in-North-Carolina film that follows it, Beery knew one of the producers from a previous project they had worked on, who hipped him to this film. "He invited us to be in [the festival], I think, even before we actually finished 'Hellphone,'" says Jason Marc Pierce, the movie's Greensboro-based director. "Even before we actually finished the edit."
Greb, who also worked with Beery in the past, was willing to take part in Blue Sky mainly to show more filmmakers his product. "We're putting on this workshop to maybe introduce some videographers to hand-held stabilizers for the first time." He is also planning to give away one of his stabilizers via a raffle.
And if you think Beery is worried that people will be too wrapped up in the Super Bowl to go to his festival, he planned all along that the fest would be over in time for kickoff.
"We talked to the Visitors Bureau of Orange County," Beery explains, "and we said, 'When would be the best time? There's so much stuff going on.' ... And she said, basically, 'If you finish before the Super Bowl, it's this weekend.' This was over a year ago when we started planning this."
Beery wants Blue Sky to do well so the festival can continue next year.
But he doesn't want people to forget why it's here in the first place.
"Basically, the point of the Blue Sky festival is to show off North Carolina as a great place for outside filmmakers and for local filmmakers to see and talk to outside filmmakers," he says. "And the third thing is for people that live in this area to come and experience a very accessible, very inexpensive, very inviting, warm and wonderful film festival, right in their hometown."
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