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Keeping it short in Shepherdstown: First-ever Cut to the Chase Film Festival opens Friday

July 05, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Bill Veldran, left, and Natoma Reed-Vargason are the driving forces behind the first-ever Cut to the Chase Film Festival in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
By Benita Keller

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. -- — There is no law set in stone that says a film has to last for several hours.

In fact, long before Hollywood embraced marathon blockbusters like “Gone with the Wind,” cinema consisted solely of short films, with stars such as Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin delivering memorable performances on just one reel.

Now, everything old is new again and the short film is back in vogue.

But for filmmakers, the opportunities to share those stories are often few and far between.

With that in mind, two area residents have provided an outlet for creative minds whose screen projects are short, sweet and to the point.

Well, not always sweet. But definitely short — eight minutes, in fact.

And the point?

“We want to encourage people to engage their artistic desire, to share their imagination, opinions and vision,” said Natoma Reed-Vargason of Sharpsburg.

Reed-Vargason and Bill Veldran of Charles Town, W.Va., are the driving forces behind Cut to the Chase Film Festival — a first-time event that provides a platform for filmmakers.

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When the call for entrees went out, the rules were simple, Reed-Vargason noted. Films could cover any subject matter, could be produced with any medium — including a mobile phone — and were limited to a maximum of eight minutes in length. But they also had to showcase the number 100, an element chosen to honor Shepherdstown’s long-running Contemporary American Theater Festival, which will celebrate its 100th produced play this summer.

The submitted films and their creators will be spotlighted when the festival kicks off on Friday, July 12, with a premiere party at Bellevue, a colonial mansion overlooking the Potomac River in Shepherdstown. Screenings will be held Saturday, July 13, at the Historic Shepherdstown Opera House at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.; and Sunday, July 14, at noon and 3 p.m. Judging will take place Saturday evening, followed by an awards ceremony at 7 p.m.

Cut to the Chase is an interesting concept made even more interesting by the fact that neither Reed-Vargason or Veldran are filmmakers.

Instead, they have both worked in arts and event planning for several decades.

Reed-Vargason is the founder/director of The Artist’s Gallery in Frederick, Md., The Frederick Festival of the Arts and has served as an onsite manager for more than 10 years for one of the largest craft festivals on the East Coast. She currently manages Gifts Inn BoonsBoro and is the owner of Cookie’s Cooking Co.

Veldran has worked as a freelance audio technician at such events as The White House Correspondents Dinner, Presidential inaugurations and TropFest, the world’s largest short film festival that takes place around the globe.

“We had been searching for a creative outlet to utilize our combined experiences,” said Reed-Vargason. “Having worked with a diverse clientele led us to create a film festival that would enhance and complement existing art and performance programs in our community.”

While this is the first year for the festival, “our long-term goal is to produce one of the most prestigious short film festivals in the mid-Atlantic region,” she said.

The two organizers said they reached out to filmmakers using social media, direct contact, conventional press and radio.

“We’re pleased with the response and the quality of films that we have received,” Reed-Vargason said. “We received seven films and all will be featured.”

“Bill recently participated in Tropfest in New York,” she added, “and had the opportunity to speak with the founder and director, John Polson. He was supportive of our efforts and offered encouragement. He received nine entries for his first festival 21 years ago and it now is considered to be the largest short film festival in the world.”

The films and filmmakers that will be featured at Cut to the Chase include: “100 Words From Home,” Claiborne B. Lashley, Shepherdstown; “100 Ways to Awaken,” Robert Owens, Martinsburg, W.Va.; “Emirate Road 100: Going Nowhere Fast,” Katherine Walsh Ryan, Shepherdstown; “A Bike’s Point of View,” Tara Roberts, Knoxville, Md.; “Folly Land,” Jim Surkamp, Shepherdstown; “100 Smiles,” Bridget Ellsworth, Queens, N.Y.; and “Birds of a Feather,” Susan Videtti, Sharpsburg.

Reed-Vargason said a People’s Choice Award will be announced after Sunday’s screening.  

Festival winners will be awarded a cash prize.

Judges who will be selecting the winning films include Tony Mendez, retired CIA agent, artist and writer of “Argo;” Benita Keller, award-winning photographer; and Lawrence Cumbo, Emmy-nominated and award-winning producter-writer-director and owner of the Shepherdstown Opera House.

SCHEDULE       

Friday, July 12

 Festival premiere party, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Bellevue,  292 Shepherd Grade Road, Shepherdstown, W. Va. Tickets cost $20 each.  

 Movies on the Wall, Kids’ Entries, 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Shepherdstown Public Library, 100 W. German St., Shepherdstown. Free to the public.

Saturday, July 13

 Screening I: 1 p.m.

 Screening II: 4 p.m.

 Screening III: finals/judging/awards ceremony, 7 p.m. 

All screenings are at Shepherdstown Opera House, 131 W. German St., Shepherds-town, W.Va.  

Tickets cost $8 for screenings I and II; $20 for screening III.

 Sunday, July 14

 Rewind Sunday, Screening I, noon

 Screening II, 3 p.m.

 Both screenings are at Shepherdstown Opera House 

 People’s Choice Award to be announced. 

Tickets are $8.

To learn more about Cut To The Chase Film Festival and to purchase tickets, go to
www.c2cfilmfestival.com

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