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The 2009 B-Movie Celebration

-Nic Brown-

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, THE HORROR OF DRACULA, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD… just some of the films that had a chance to revisit the big screen at the 2009 B-Movie Celebration. Fans of the often misunderstood genre of B-Movies gather at this event not just to watch classic films, but to, as the name implies, celebrate them. What is the difference? Perhaps it is joy of seeing the films on the big screen of a cinema, or perhaps it is the camaraderie of viewing them with other fans. It may also be the rebellious feel of enjoying films that usually come from outside the mainstream Hollywood system. Whatever it is, it is real and the fans who journey through the cornfields of central Indiana to attend the celebration know it.

 

This year’s celebration was different from previous years. Although Franklin’s Artcraft Theatre still played host to many films, many of the celebration’s features were run in the neighboring town of Shelbyville. The Studio 10 Cinema, a Shelbyville multiplex equipped with the latest in digital projection equipment in addition to its standard 35mm capabilities, showed most of the event’s films on four of its ten screens. Also new to the event was Shelbyville’s Strand Theatre, like Franklin’s Artcraft a restored cinema from the golden age of film. The Strand became the home of one of the B-Movie Celebration’s special features: the Summer Tromadance Film Festival. Tromadance, started by Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Studios, allows independent filmmakers the chance to show their work. Traditionally held opposite Sundance in Colorado, the event became part of the B-Movie Celebration in 2008. Tromadance’s mission of promoting independent film fits in perfectly with the B-Movie Celebration’s love of movies made outside of the traditional Hollywood studio system.

Perhaps the highlight of this year’s Celebration though was the event’s final location: the Shelbyville Drive-In. Many fans of “B” cinema consider the drive-in to be the best place to view such films. The Shelbyville Drive-in was recently purchased and is undergoing renovations that include updating the sound system and adding the enhanced digital projection technology used at Studio 10. In fact, unbeknownst to most of the patrons of the drive-in, many of the features shown on the huge outdoor screen were being projected not on 35mm film, but on digital standard and Blue-Ray DVDs. This was no small feat since the technology to project a cinema size and quality image off of standard DVD media, especially in the ambient light conditions found in a drive-in theater, is a relatively recent development. Event organizer Bill Dever smiles at this. “We’ve pioneered this system and installed it here and at Studio 10.” He proudly showed off the technology hidden inside the projection booth to some of the Celebration’s guests.

Filmmaker Mark Poole was especially pleased by the drive-in’s inclusion in the event. His film DEAD MOON RISING was the featured movie on Saturday night, starting up a triple bill that included the classic NIGHT OF THE COMET and grindhouse favorite ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS. “I’ve never seen DMR on a screen this big… and it looks great!” Poole exclaimed as he took some photos of the film’s opening credits rolling across the giant, outdoor screen. Poole was so happy that he ignored the light rain that began to fall during the film so he could stand outside with fellow filmmaker Kelley Baker and enjoy the show “under the stars”… even if the stars were hidden by clouds.

 

As in years past, there was more to the B-Movie Celebration than just watching films. The second annual Golden Cob Awards, to honor excellence in B-Movies, were presented at a reception on Friday evening. Winners of Golden Cobs included Filmmaker Lola Wallace (Best Rising Filmmaker - THE TREK), Mark Poole (Best Screenplay - DEAD MOON RISING), Tucky Williams (Best Actress) and Jim O’Rear (Best Actor). Wallace, who flew in from California to accept the award, noted that all of the nominees for Best Rising Filmmaker were women, something you don’t usually see in the filmmaker category of most awards.

Filmmakers Jim O'Rear and Lola Wallace (left and center) and

B-Movie Man Nic Brown show off their Golden Cobs!

The B-Movie Celebration also hosted a filmmaker’s forum. The nearly two hour long event covered many of the challenges that filmmakers face when they work on independent movies. Among the speakers were Kelley “The Angry Filmmaker” Baker, Jim O’Rear, Mark Poole, and Travis Irvine. They discussed everything from the trials and tribulations of film distribution to why sound is so important in film. The audience, many of whom aspire to make their own films, had an almost endless supply of questions and the discussion that followed was both entertaining and informative for everyone in attendance.

When asked what it is about the genre that makes it so special, event organizer Bill Dever is quick to respond. “B-Movies are usually made outside of the Hollywood system and that allows them freedom to experiment and take chances that the big studios can’t or won’t. They can experiment and bring true innovation to the screen.” The deluge or remakes and sequels turned out by the traditional studio system over the past few years only serves to emphasize Dever’s point.

Filmmakers Ervin Ross and Travis Irvine talked about their horror comedy:

COONS:Night of the Bandits of the Night and their new documentary AMERICAN MAYOR

after accepting Golden Cobs for a few winners who couldn't make it to the awards.

Unfortunately, despite the addition of the drive-in and the other new venues, the 2009 Celebration was not as large an event as it had been in the years before. The recent downturn in the economy took its toll and sponsorships that had been promised never materialized. Attendance, although good, was not as high as in previous years. Dever was pragmatic about the problems that faced 2009’s Celebration. “We’ve learned some lessons about who we can depend on and who we can’t.” The lack of sponsors was especially unfortunate because it meant that many of the event’s regular guests - horror hosts Mr. Lobo and The Queen of Trash, screen writer Ron Aberdeen, and others - were not able to come out.

Like any good showman, Dever knows that the show must go on and so despite the setbacks, it did. “It’s about people coming together and enjoying the films.” That is what is at the heart of an event like the annual B-Movie Celebration. It’s about the movies and people who love them. With that in mind, Bill Dever tells fans not to worry. Already planning next year’s event, he reveals his intention to expand the show. “We’re looking at having two Celebrations next year; one in Pittsburg in the spring and the one in Franklin in the fall.” That kind of planning shows Bill Dever’s love of the art and why, despite the setbacks, the Celebration is an event that is here to stay!



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