Hudson Valley Honors Screenwriters, "Frogs for Snakes"
Debuts at the Drive-In
by Shael Stolberg
The Hudson Valley Film and Video Festival began differently than it had
in previous years. In its 4th incarnation the festival has condensed its
programming to a compact 5-day event, running from Wednesday to the
closing night tribute on Sunday rather then two weekends and a week as
in previous years. According to head Denise Kasell, the outgoing festival
director, this new format "gives people more opportunity to experience
the same number of events in a shorter time period."
The program started off with a day of screenplay readings, which is
appropriate considering Hudson Valley's slogan is "celebrating the
screenwriter". The two works read were "The Agreement" by Marsha Johns
and "Blue Moon" by John Gallagher. The readings continued on the two
successive days and included performances by Rob Morrow, John Heard,
Gerrit Graham, Alice Drummond and Bernard Hughes. In Adrienne
Shelley's "I'll Take You There" Marin Kunkle and Alice Drummond were
the audience favorites as a granddaughter and grandmother, respectively.
After the reading, Rob Morrow was heard to have said to Kunkle "I'll be
watching you" in reference to her spirited reading.
After the second day of screenplay readings, there was the "drive-in."
Taking place at an actual drive in, the program began with a 50's
B-movie style short called "Flying Saucer Rock 'n Roll" directed by Enda
Hughes. The feature film was the U.S. premiere screening of Amos Poe's
new film "Frogs for Snakes" which stars Barbara Hershey, Robbie
Coltrone, Debi Mazar, and Ian Hart as part of a group of Lower Manhattan
hoods who want to be actors. The film is peppered with monologues from
some great cult films and much of the violence in the film revolves
around the casting of a production of "American Buffalo". On having his
premiere screening at a drive-in, Poe felt "insulated" and couldn't
gauge the audience's reaction because "the people are in their cars."
The evening ended with the screening of the B-Movie sci-fi classic
"Invaders from Mars".
Amos Poe was also a part of the lively screenwriter's panel that took
place Friday night at the Mills Mansion. He called himself "the
accidental screenwriter" and explained how in his first few films the
screenplay "was a bunch of notes on pads of paper". The rest of the
panel, moderated for the second year by John Pierson, included Tony
Gilroy, Peter Hedges, Laurie Weltz and Max Mayer. When a member of the
audience asked for the panel to reintroduce themselves Tony Gilroy ("The
Devil's Advocate," and "Extreme Measures") stated that he was
"definitely the Hollywood slime on this panel". When asked about the
importance of structure, their sentiments were echoed quite clearly by
Peter Hedges ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape?") when he said "the problem
with structure is that it is the only thing that can be taught". They
also agreed that "it is the responsibility of artists to rebel against
Six feature films were screened on Saturday at Upstate Films in
Rhinebeck starting with the animated feature "Kiki's Delivery Service"
by Hayao Miyazaki. There was also a special screening of "Went to Coney
Island on a Mission From God. Be Back By Five" straight from its
screening at the LAIFF as well as "Mixing Nia" which won the best
picture award at Worldfest-Houston. Richard Schenkman co-writer and
director of "Went to Coney Island" was "surprised the film did not get
picked up in LA." He decided to attend the festival and use this special
screening to show the film to "family and friends in New York". "Mixing
Nia" is Alison Swan's first feature about a woman of mixed racial
heritage trying to find her own voice. It has not received distribution
and Swan says she "is anxious to get to her new project". She just
received a 2-year option on the book "The Other Side Of The River". Two
films, one by and about Guy Maddin were also screened as well as Laurie
Weltz's Sundance entry "Wrestling with Alligators."
There were two programs of shorts scheduled during the festival. The
"Scored Shorts" program kicked off the first night of the festival.
Shorts screen here with live music which has been composed strictly for
the film event. According to composer Randall Craig Fleisher, one of the
films he scored "Cryptic" by E. Steven Feid, needed little additional
music while on the other hand, an entire score was created for "8 days
of Eve" by Beth Fairservis. Mirroring this commitment Peter Wetzler had
set up his computer on stage to be as precise as possible with the score
for David Caudle & Anezka Sebek's "Landfill". One filmmaker, Gina
Barnett responded to the additional score for her film "Alone at Last"
with much gratitude: "after watching it a zillion times you appreciate
anything that could make it better." The second program of shorts took
place on the last day of the festival and mixed shorts created by 6-18
years old, college students and other independent filmmakers.
[Shael Stolberg is the author of the International Film Festival Guide.
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