Film festival, lectureship audience doubles

Argen Duncan

The fourth annual High Plains Film Festival, held in conjunction with the Jack Williamson Lectureship, had twice the turnout of last year, an organizer said.

This was the first year the two events operated together.

“I think it was great to have a theme, and we were able to build an audience from the lectureship audience,” said film festival organizer Laurel Petty.

The festival at Eastern New Mexico University included a public scriptwriting workshop Friday, screenings of the winners of the “Universe in 1/10 of an Hour” film contest Saturday afternoon and the “Experiments in Cinema” presentation by Bryan Konefsky, director of an Albuquerque film festival with the same name, Saturday night.

Jack Williamson’s agent, Eleanor Wood of New York, came to Portales for the lectureship and attended the film screening. She said she enjoyed the six-minute films and thought the students showed a lot of ingenuity with little money and time.

“They came with some interesting and ingenious productions,” Eleanor Wood said.

Her brother, Jim Wood of Manitou Springs, Colo., said he hoped the lectureship and film festival continued to cooperate because it was nice to have the festival follow the lectureship.

For the film contest, all five winners were produced by ENMU students and shot in Portales. Petty, an assistant professor of digital cinema arts, said she hoped the audience garnered a sense of community from them.

“I like people to recognize the locations in the film and see the students’ creative ideas come to fruition within Portales, which would not be considered a film-making Mecca,” she said. “But obviously it can be, and I like people to see that.”

The ties with the lectureship strengthen the sense of community because science fiction writer Jack Williamson is a local legend that extends beyond Portales, Petty continued.

ENMU junior Frank James, who played the lead role in “Beautiful Mourning,” said the film was his first and he had to learn on the fly.

“It was a great experience I can use to take into any other experience I get involved with,” the digital cinema arts major said.

“Beautiful Mourning” co-director and co-writer Tim Case said the cast and crew pulled the film together.

“It was a fun experience. It was very disorganized,” he said, adding he learned how and how not to use technology.

Petty and Digital Cinema Arts Department Director Neil Rutland judged the “Universe in 1/10 of an Hour” entries and said they were pleased with ENMU students’ work. They received six entries, one from Albuquerque, and screened the five that met the criteria.

The students involved with winning films had a private clinic with special guests Michael Cassutt and Melinda Snodgrass, who work in science fiction television.