Call it citizen cinema.
The fledgling Film Academy of Telluride is the brainchild of local filmmakers Ernest Eich and James Kleinert. The two created the nonprofit school after noticing that although Telluride has a strong film culture and a number of accomplished filmmakers, there is little opportunity for those interested in making their own films to learn how – a situation that leaves some too daunted to try.
“Film doesn’t have to be done at the highest levels of Hollywood to be good, anybody can make a movie,” said Eich, adding that digital technology has revolutionized filmmaking by dramatically reducing its cost.
“[Digital technology] makes it accessible to people for the first time.”
True to the grassroots nature of their project, Eich and Kleinert have converted the sizeable living room of an apartment above main street into a production studio and screening room. The space is made complete by a donated high definition projection system, the odd smattering of upholstered furniture and a number of folding metal chairs. As the school gets up and running they plan to hold classes there and to regularly conduct screenings of community film.
The two had very different paths into filmmaking. Eich’s interest began as a teenager in North Carolina where his Boy Scout troop counted filming horror movie take-offs among their merit activities.
An Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Kleinert’s route began when the World Cup freestyle skier had two complete joint replacements. Although they sidelined his career, they afforded him the opportunity to film and produce a work about the lives of World Cup and Olympic freestyle skiers called Living It. The film won him Best New Filmmaker of the Year at the 1994 International Ski Film Festival.
Seeking to provide exposure for local and independent filmmakers, and to inspire others with how much can be achieved on a small scale, Eich and Kleinert have founded the Second Stage Film Festival, which will be held twice a year at the same time as MountainFilm and the Telluride Film Festival.
The inaugural festival will run from May 21 - 26 and will showcase a variety of films by Eich, Kleinert and other filmmakers. Themes will range from capturing the unique mountain culture of Telluride and celebrating its homegrown adventurers, to others that tell poignant, sometimes inspirational and sometimes heart wrenching, stories that confront difficult social and political issues.
Kleinert’s Carve documents historic ski mountaineering descents of the West Face of Little Wasatch Peak accomplished during Telluride’s record-breaking 2008 season. Shot in high definition, the film features top, local mountaineers, extreme skiers and snowboarders, and focuses on the heart and soul of ski mountaineering.
Local actor/writer Tom Shane’s short film Unplugged offers a humorous, if slightly cynical commentary on life in the modern age.
Community theater is reborn in the film presentation of Celebritology! and long-haired locals lose their ponytails to benefit a wig-making program for children with medically-related hair loss in Lots of Locks.
An environmental program begins with Eich’s This is NOT a Guinness World Record, which chronicles a record-setting hydrogen-fueled drive to Imogene Pass that is not recognized by the Guinness organization.
Beaver Bond by Michael Saftler with Martin Thomas takes us along on a bonding journey with the residents of the Beaver Pond.
Kleinert, who is of Seneca American Indian descent, rediscovered his heritage while recovering from a major injury he sustained in 1996 while working as a Screen Actors Guild actor and stuntman. He began attending traditional American Indian ceremonies and experienced healing and spiritual insight there. As a result he began documenting contemporary American Indian life as demonstrated in his body of work about the people and their reverence for the horse.
Spirit Riders is an award-winning documentary about the birth and subsequent growth of an American Indian peace movement begun by the Lakota Nation in 1990. It leads the audience on a profound journey inside a culture and a movement offering ancient traditional visions of peace to a troubled modern world.
Filmed in San Miguel County, Saving The American Wild Horse is a poignant documentary that examines the politics behind the Bureau of Land Management's controversial policies regarding wild horses on public lands and questions the fate of America's wild horses and burros.
A seven-minute trailer to a feature film being shot in 2009, Flying Horse is the story of Shane Smith, a young Lakota Man and world-class snowboarder. It uses big mountain snowboarding to tell the story of an American Indian youth caught between traditional life and tribal politics and the pop culture of professional snowboarding.
“Horse Medicine shares stories from people whose lives have been transformed by their mysterious and profound relationships with horses. Shot in high definition on Wilson Mesa and in the Four Corners region, it features local horsemen including Melissa Margetts, David Glynn and Robyn Willis and other Telluride locals.
The Second Stage Film Festival takes place May 21 - 26 at the Film Academy of Telluride located at 131 West Colorado Avenue. Ticket prices and approximate show times are: $5 for 12:30, 3 and 5 p.m. screenings and $10 for 7:45 and 9:30 p.m. screenings. Passes for three early and one late screening are $20 and a special screening of Celebritology! will run on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. Final schedule is pending and will be posted at the Film Academy.