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February 18, 2010

See Rutland Get Destroyed

Timechasers Sundance, Shmundance. This coming weekend, Rutland's Paramount Theatre offers a film festival where you won't have to dodge paparazzi or pretend to care about the bittersweet coming-of-age films of earnest young indie directors.

Instead, you can watch RutVegas bite it, just like real Vegas did in 2012. But repeatedly. In a flood. In an avalanche. In a massive landslide. In "freak killer lightning." In "unrelenting killer hail."

The first ever Edgewood Studios Film Festival brings 10 flicks from Rutland mini-mogul David Giancola's production company to the Paramount's new 29x23-foot screen. All were shot in Rutland and environs. They feature local talent both in front of and behind the camera, as well as some big names: Stacy Keach, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sean Astin, Bruce Campbell (of Evil Dead fame), Jesse Eisenberg (of Adventureland and Zombieland), Anna Nicole Smith.

Giancola got lots of national press when his cult film Illegal Aliens turned out to be Smith's last role. But his 1994 flick Time Chasers, which he made for $150K "before I was of drinking age" (as he puts it), has a claim to fame as well. In 1997, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" did one of its parodic running commentaries on the flick, which features local actor/director George Woodard as a sinister CEO.

The destruction runs from Friday, February 19, to Sunday, February 21. Giancola — a Rutland native whose parents were involved in restoring the Paramount — has donated use of the films, so your $5 per movie or $20 for a full pass benefits the theater. Full schedule is here.

Most of the flicks were made between 1999 and 2006, and several aired first on the small screen. Most are devoted to natural disasters, as their titles may indicate (Killer Flood: The Day the Dam Broke, Lightning: Fire from the Sky, Trapped: Buried Alive, Frozen Impact: Nature's Fury Unleashed, Landslide). But Edgewood has also dabbled in the ever-popular zombie genre (Zombie Town, not to be confused with last year's Zombieland). Radical Jack is a vigilante movie (with Miley's dad doing the damage), and Icebreaker is a thriller about terrorists on the ski slopes.

Not included in the fest is last year's Moonlight and Mistletoe, a high-rated holiday Hallmark movie that seems to mark a shift to a less catastrophic, more heart-warming mode for Edgewood. Giancola tells me a screening of it at the Paramount earlier this year earned $6000 for the theater, which has been showing classic movies in addition to programming live acts.

Giancola is very vocal about the state's need to support local film production. Vermont is one of just a few states with no tax credits for filmmakers, despite an effort to sell legislators on the idea last year. (Giancola says he showed up for the hearing in a Santa suit to make the point that even "one piece of wardrobe in this movie" — Mistletoe, that is — brought work to local craftspeople.) Now the Vermont Film Commission finds itself on the chopping block.

Those made-for-TV disaster movies require lots of computer-generated special effects — like a flood rushing down Main Street in Rutland. They're made here, too: Giancola says the 472 effects shots required by Illegal Aliens were created by local filmmakers Nate Beaman and Justin Bunnell, along with a 3D artist who's since moved out of state.

Giancola says that if he has to, he'll move his productions 15 minutes by car to New York — "a state that'll give me 30 cents back for each dollar." But he'd like to stay in Rutland. "It's a large enough city that I can get a lot of different looks here," he says, "and everyone in Rutland gets it. If I walk up to an alderman and say, 'Hey, I'd like to drive a minivan up Main Street about 70 miles per hour on Sunday morning [for the aforementioned flood scene],' not only did they give me approval, but they thanked me."

The economic benefits of hosting film production aside, seeing your town get destroyed on screen is, after all, sort of an honor.

One of the best MST3K's ever

Good! That MST3K episode is currently at the top of my Netflix queue. I miss the show.

I interned for Dave a couple of years ago, and he loaned me a copy of Zombie Town before its official release--so lemme just say that, even for a small production, and even though Mr. Giancola didn't write or direct, the film definitely has a solid grip on the horror/comedy genre and was made at least four years before Zombieland made any ruckus. Plus, it's pretty funny.

These movies keep the heart of independent cinema pumping, even if the "indie" Hollywood scene continues to rip-off their ideas.

I haven't seen Zombie Town yet, but I feel obligated to point out that the zombie genre is an old, old one with its indie origins in the Pittsburgh scene (George Romero, still churning out zombie movies). Zombieland was basically just Hollywood's way of acknowledging that zombies are now in the mainstream.

Undead Molly is the real expert here. But my personal favorite is Shaun of the Dead.

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