Crossroads Film Festival: Mississippi Filmmakers On Screen | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Crossroads Film Festival: Mississippi Filmmakers On Screen

We all know that Mississippi is the "crossroads" where the blues were born. But, of late, the state is coming into its creative own in many artistic areas. Film is one of our new frontiers.

Over recent months, we have seen an independent film audience coalesce in Jackson, with packed theaters for edgy films from Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" to Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes." And these films are leaving Jacksonians clamoring for more.

This week, more is really more. Beginning Thursday, March 31, with an opening party on the roof of Fondren Corner sponsored by the the Jackson Free Press, the Crossroads Film Society presents its sixth annual film festival in Jackson. The festival has national cred—with "The Woodsman," a controversial feature starring Kevin Bacon; 2005 Oscar winner for Best Feature Documentary, "Born Into Brothels"; "Kinsey: The Documentary" (about the man who proved that Americans were into, er, "sexual diversity"; and "A Very Long Engagement," from the director and star of "Amelie."

Especially special, though, this year's festival explores what is uniquely Mississippi: the blues, Oxford, Civil War obsession, our brand of racial struggles, youth culture in Jackson, even the Fondren Corner building itself and the creativity that bubbles inside it. In the following pages, we celebrate some of the great line-up of films, as well as spotlight some folks we are very proud of: our own Mississippi filmmakers.

Name: Blake Buck, 19
Home: Jackson
Job: Student
Buck attends Hinds Community College. He graduated in May from the School of Mathematics and Science in Columbus.
Film : "Noir" is a comedy about a down-on-his-luck detective whose life is suddenly thrust into chaos when a mysterious woman brings his past back to haunt him.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Akira Kirasawa, a famous Japanese black-and-white filmmaker in the early 1900s. Quentin Tarentino because he started off with nothing and made a movie empire. He didn't know much about film, but he went with what he thought was right."
What message do you want people to take from your film?
"Have fun. It's a fun-loving comedy, not to be taken too seriously."
How many years have you been in film? How did you get started?
"I've been involved in film about two years. I got together with a group of friends when I went to the Mississippi School for Math and Science and made a film; all of the actors in my film are MSMS students. If I had not gone to MSMS, I never would have realized that this is my passion."
What do you find most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
"Getting money together was hard. Funding is probably the hardest part."

Name: Chris Moore, 15
Home: Jackson
Current status: Student, St. Joseph Catholic School
Moore has formed his own movie-making company, Golden Films, and will attend a film workshop this summer through NYU at MGM/Universal studios in Orlando, Fla.
Film: "Alone." On a windy day, Katie Corvino's car breaks down on a deserted road. Katie is not alone and isn't aware that this very well may be the last walk that she'll ever take in the woods.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"Wes Craven, John Carpenter—they know how to scare and awe the audience, and that is something everyone doesn't have."
What do you find most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
"For me, actors are not paid, (so) sometimes they don't come. You have to have everything organized at the same time. Everyone doesn't have the same schedule. Comprising time is the hardest thing for me."
What advice do you give to aspiring filmmakers in Mississippi?
"Keep doing what you do; eventually it will pay off. Starting off, mine were horrible, but now it's turned into this. Just keep going and be persistent."

Name: Dave Lacy, 37
Home: Ocean Springs
Job: Videographer, musician, founder and director of the Ocean Springs Film Festival.
Film: "Scourge" is a graffiti-inspired video complimenting the neo-expressionist style of the late New York artist Jean Michel Basquiat.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"Tim Burton: the sensibility of his characters is what I got most from him. They're real people, real situations, but with a mystical element that drives them."
How many years have you been in film? How did you get started?
"10 years. I got started through soundtracks, scoring student and independent films. I dabbled in photography and videography and ended up a production assistant. Through sitting in on editing, I thought to myself I could handle that on my own. Three years ago I made my first film and working on my third now."

Name: Clay Hardwick , 18
Home: Jackson
Job : Graphic & Web designer
Film :"The Color of Freedom" is a symbolic display of perseverance and the freedom needed for happiness.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"Darren Arnosky, director of 'Requiem for a Dream' and 'Pi.' I like his techniques."
What is most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
"I have gone to New York and places in the East and they seem to have more access to places. But the production people are more easy to access and they are willing to do it (here). Mississippi seems more friendly when it comes to supporting films. The Mississippi Film Alliance has supported me greatly for the last two years."
What advice to do you give aspiring filmmakers in Mississippi?
"I started out young; my friends and I would seem very easily intimidated. At least try to get a finished product that you can count. But the intimidation factor is big, especially with kids."

Name: Johnson Thomasson, 17
Home: Louisville
Job : High School Senior
Film: "Private Detective" is a Southern, small-town story about a boy named Joel who spends his nights reading detective stories and his days honing his crimefighting skills, waiting until he is old enough to get a real job fighting crime.
How did you get started making films?
"I caught the filmmaking bug when I was 11 or 12 years old when my grandparents accidentally left their video camera at our house."
What message do you want people to take from your film?
"That as teenagers we don't have all the answers. We are always searching. We are always learning."
What do you find most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
"A place to find interesting props. There are no weapon or costume stores. There aren't too many big cities in Mississippi with that sort of stuff. There aren't a lot of film houses and studios, that kind of thing."
What advice to do you give aspiring filmmakers in Mississippi?
"Don't hold back. Think about what you have access to. Think about what Mississippi has to offer to use in your film. Plan accordingly: that's why I enjoyed making this film."

Name: Katy Smith, 19
Born: Jackson
Job: Junior at Mount Holyoke College. She was in the Power APAC theater program for six years, before heading north for college. Next year, she will begin the process of applying to film school
Film: In "Her Stories," the filmmaker traces the stories of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother through letters and diaries in an attempt to discover an alternate female history within a patriarchal society.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"I have two main role models: my father and film teacher. My father has been doing film off and on since he was college. It's just been interesting to watch his creative process. My film teacher is eager to encourage women in film."
What message do you want people to take from your film?
"Both are about gender issues. Women's roles in history and in society have been glossed over by the dominant male history and our male patriarchal society. Now more women are coming out with their own stories and version of that history."
What do you find most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
"Access to funding, large crews and actors like they would have in New York or L.A. I think that the commitment of filmmakers is extraordinary. To have people to help you with your production, this is a great place to be for that."

Name: Kenneth Earl Stiggers, 43
Home: Jackson
Job: Media Artisan, Filmmaker, Video Technician, Writer, Television Producer. Stiggers serves as Multi-Media Services Coordinator for the City of Jackson?s Public, Education and Government Network-Channel 18. He also writes a satire column for the Jackson Free Press, hosts open-mic poetry at the Lyric Lounge, performs as the Cream of Wheat Man on "The Drinking Gourd" radio program and is known as Jackson's resident satirist/humorist.
Film: "Y-2-K Bugg and Roach Spray." This short animation/video, produced December 1999 and re-mastered October 2004, is a satirical, prophetic and retrospective look at a fear-based American society of the new millennium.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"Spike Lee and Michael Moore, mainly because they are different and original in what they do in terms of storytelling. I like what they do, and that is what inspires me."
What message do you want people to take from your film?
"The message I want them to see is a fear-based society. What fear reflects on our society and what it has become in these last 100 years. What it's like to live in a nation that scares people all the time; it's driving people nuts."
What do you find most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
"The challenge is people participation in it. There is a misconception that filmmakers are suppose to be from Hollywood, and they're suppose to come with big lights and cameras. Filmmaking isn't this big, big thing. As long as you have a camera and a good story you can make a film."

Names: Kent Moorhead and Pia Moorhead Törnberg, 50 and 53
Home: Oxford (Miss.); Stockholm, Sweden
Job: Filmmaker & Investigative journalist
Film: "The Most Segregated Hour" is about two churches, just 200 yards apart, yet divided by a racist history. For over 10 years, he followed the congregations from inside, into private homes and open meetings.
What message do you want people to take from your film?
"That we need to start telling the truth, we are in a time warp. We're never going to change unless we start speaking straight about what's going on here. This film is an attempt to look at the steps that are needed for change and to face down what stops that change from happening. In the end, it does show changes taking place. The question is, will it leave white people behind?"
How many years have you been in film? How did you get started?
"Nearly 30 years. I started at the University of Mississippi as a Biology English major. Then I took a film criticism course, which got me interested. I went to New York University for film school. In 1980 I came back to Mississippi."
What do you find most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
"Money and resources, making a living. It's a struggle to go six months without pay. The Mississippi Film Commission—without them it would be impossible. Mississippi Public Broadcasting is a great resource. I am hoping that over time they will be able to support filmmaking."

Name: Mark Pett and Chris Myers, 34 and 32
Home: Indianola
Job: Cartoonist and Director at Non-Profit Organization
Film: "Fly" follows two mysterious men chasing each other through the cotton fields and landscapes of Sunflower County, Miss.
What message do you want people to take away from you film?
Pett: "It was done in the spirit of having a good time. We don't have aspirations of being filmmakers. We are from a small town, where they always say there is nothing to do. This was a way to show a small town there are things to do, if you put your mind to it. It's about making your own entertainment rather than relying on television or a movie."
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
Pett: "So many. I like David Lynch. We were inspired by
Sergio Leone, who directed 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.'"
What do you find most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
Pett: "We always make films in the summer, so … heat. A low budget, working within the constraints is a challenge, but it encourages us to think creatively."

Name: Michael Modak-Truran, 11
Home: Jackson
Job: 5th Grade at St. Andrews. He is also the kid movie reviewer for the ABC affiliate WAPT Channel 16. Modak-Truran's big dream is to perform on Broadway.
Film: "The Haunted Hopson Plantation"
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"Steven Spielberg. I like the movies he's involved in. He always tries to be creative. He inspires me."
What message do you want people to take from your film?
"Have some fun, entertainment. This film is about the (blues) legend Robert Johnson. I like his music, and that is what I made my film about."
How many years have you been in film? How did you get started?
"I've been interested in film about four years. My mom got a film camera, and I wanted to test it out. So I made a film with some of my best friends. It was fun."
What advice to do you give aspiring filmmakers in Mississippi?
"Just go out there and have fun and put your message there. Show what you want to show."

Name: Steve Smith, 51
Home: Jackson
Job: Professor, Millsaps College
Film: "The Halls of Montezuma's Academe" "My film is a professor's idea of an intense on-campus experience. It's a two-part joke. Currently co-director of the Film Studies Concentration at Millsaps, Smith teachs Philosophy of Film and a Religious Studies seminar on religion and film.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"There are a number of people's works I find inspirational. Wes Anderson ("Life Aquatic") in terms of shooting and editing."
What message do you want people to take from your film?
"A joke film, 'ha-ha' would be the message. I am hoping that people will get insight to how a college professor views a college campus."
What advice to do you give aspiring filmmakers in Mississippi?
"I try to encourage college students to learn the basics and go through the creative process. The human network of Mississippi is a plus; it is easy to get to know, and the cooperative attitudes are good in Mississippi."

Name: Yvetta Williams, 32
Born: Jackson
Job: Independent Filmmaker
Film: In "Broken Silence," a love story between a young man, young woman and a child.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"Spike Lee, because he addresses a lot of social issues. He is not a surface filmmaker. He challenges you to think beyond what you see visually. He introduced me to experimental techniques through camera movement, editing, framing shots in an artistic kind of way. He paved the way for a lot of people in our generation to feel that it's possible to make films."
What do you find most challenging about filmmaking in Mississippi?
"Getting people outside of film to take you seriously. Film as a career is foreign to people here. Getting people to do things in certain places. In the last two to three years, people have opened their thinking about film."

Name: Will Nail, 18
Home: Clinton
Job: Student. "My plans for the future are to go to film school in Denver, Colo., and make films and eventually have my own independent production company."
Film: "Will's Prom" is about a prom experience gone terribly wrong. so the video shows the visual side of the song.
Who are some of your role models in film and why?
"Spike Jonze; he's real creative and has the same background as me. He grew up a skateboarder. That is how I got into film."
How many years have you been in film? How did you get started?
"I have been a skateboarder since I was 11, and in some weird way I got interested in film through that. I always wanted to make a skateboard video even before I had even seen a skate video; it just seemed interesting."
What advice to do you give aspiring filmmakers in Mississippi?
"Keep doing it; the best learning is to do. Get a buddy involved, get editing software and add the creative aspect to it."

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