WOODSTOCK–It’s a place where creative people bond and passionate filmmakers find a welcoming platform for their work.
So says Laurent Rejto, the co-founder of the Woodstock Film Festival, which opens for its five-day run on Wednesday.
“Emerging filmmakers come here–young people and sometimes, older people–who are just getting into the film business and have dedicated their lives to making a film,” he said. “They have poured all their soul into making a work of art, whether a documentary or a narrative.
“This is an opportunity for them to show it in a place where the audiences are wonderful and ask great questions. It sounds hokey by now, but the Hudson Valley is an incredibly creative area, and people come here from all over the country and all over the world, and they feel that vibe. It’s part of our ethos, and it’s what makes this festival so special.”
Late on Tuesday afternoon, Rejto and his staff were busy with last-minute preparations as filmmakers were beginning to arrive.
According to Rejto, who also heads the Hudson Valley Film Commission, 189 filmmakers, their crews and actors were expected to be on hand for the 18th annual festival.
More than 100 independent films, selected from 2,000 submissions, will be screened at 11 venues in the five communities of Woodstock, Saugerties, Rosendale, Kingston and Rhinebeck.
The festival will spotlight four world premieres, five North American premieres and one U.S. premiere as well as 20 East Coast premieres and nine New York premieres.
Two films shot in the Hudson Valley–“What Children Do” and “The Strange Ones,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, also will be screened.
Rejto said “The Strange Ones” was filmed in Woodstock, Willow, Accord and Kingston.
In addition, a number of filmmakers have local ties to the area, including Woodstock native Jordan Ancel, the producer of the short “Good Guys With Guns” and Matthew Gentile, the director of the short “Lawman.”
“I think his family bought 25 tickets, so it will be a family reunion,” Rejto said.
“The great thing about Matthew is that he originally attended the festival as a teenager. He actually had a film in our teen program when he was 15 years old. It’s always amazing when filmmakers come back to the area years later.”
In fact, Rejto said he and the others connected with the festival often see filmmakers catch the Woodstock bug.
“As part of my role at the Hudson Valley Film Commission, I hope they come back and shoot their next film in the area,” he said.
Of course, a main draw for many is the slate of famous actors coming into town. This year, Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon and actor Bill Pullman will be among them.
Sarandon, known for her roles in the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Thelma and Louise,” “The Witches of Eastwick and “Bull Durham.,” will receive the Maverick Award at a ceremony on Oct. 14 at BSP on Wall Street in Kingston.
The film festival also will screen her “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Sarandon served as the film’s executive producer.
Pullman, who starred in the 1987 film “Spaceballs” as well as “While You Were Sleeping” and “Independence Day,” will be honored with the Excellence in Acting Award at the BSP ceremony.
Meira Blaustein, the co-founder and executive director of the festival, said while the films and the galas often are the highlight, this year’s panels are not only “cohesive” but “provocative.”
“I would encourage people to check out not just the films, but also the panels, and especially those that are related to the films,” she said. “You can go to the film and learn more about it in the panel or vice versa.”
For a complete list of the films and a schedule of panels and events, go to http://woodstockfilmfestival.org/