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Attendees, organizers applaud film forum

June 19, 2008
HEATHER SACKETT, News Staff Writer
LAKE PLACID — This year’s Lake Placid Film Forum was as much about books as it was about movies.

Three of the pre-eminent living American novelists, two of them Pulitzer Prize winners, were featured guests of the forum. William Kennedy, Richard Russo and Keene resident and Film Forum co-creator Russell Banks discussed the process of turning their novels into screenplays during a workshop Saturday afternoon.

All three writers use Upstate New York as the backdrop for their novels. Russo, who was born in Johnstown and raised in nearby Gloversville, just south of the Adirondack Park, explained that although some of his stories take place in Pennsylvania and Maine, the economically depressed mill towns he portrays could have just as easily been set in upstate New York.

“(The setting) plays an absolutely pivitol role in my fiction,” Russo said.

Artistic Director and organizer of the Lake Placid Film Forum Kathleen Carroll said structuring the event around screenwriting was part of the effort to return the forum to its original concept when it was created in 2000. Carroll gave credit for the idea to Banks, who has had two of his novels transformed into films.

A few years ago, the film forum became a film festival as more and more movies were screened in a single weekend. Now, the event has returned to its roots of screening just a few, but discussing them, and the process of screenwriting in-depth with the creators.

“We’ve had a number of novelists in the past,” she said. “We like that idea. Having two Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists, that is going back to our roots of really focusing, perhaps, more on the screenwriting process.”

Another highlight from this year’s forum was the second annual Sleepless in Lake Placid Student Filmmaking Competition. Students from five regional colleges, including SUNY Plattsburgh, had 24 hours to conceptualize, script, shoot, edit and present a film no longer than 10 minutes.

“To me, the concept of having the competition is to have the students be here and get a chance to meet people of the caliber and intelligence and just be able to talk and listen to them,” Carroll said, referring to the professional actors, producers, directors, screenwriters and other industry experts that were roaming the town last weekend.

Attendee’s responses to the forum on Friday night was positive. “I really like the selection [this year],” said Saranac Lake resident Richard Maid, who has been coming to the forum since it was founded. “It looks like a good variety. I saw ‘Before the Rains’ last night and I thought it was really excellent. It was absolutely an intimate movie.”

Producer of “Before the Rains” Paul Hardart, of New York City, said he has attended the forum for the last three years.

“I think it’s great and I think Kathleen should be really proud of what she’s created,” he said.

Carroll said she was very pleased with the way this year’s event turned out, especially the way all the weekend’s activities had a local connection. One student team based the concept of their film on the infamous and mysterious story of Lake Placid’s “Lady in the Lake.” The most-talked about film, “Frozen River,” written and directed by Courtney Hunt, takes place in nearby Massena, near the Mohawk reservation and the surrounding area of the North Country.

“This particular forum was blessed,” Carroll said. “It all fell into place. The most interesting thing was that there were so many connections to upstate New York and the areas we are familiar with. We were very connected to the Adirondacks this time.”

Jon Hochshartner

contributed to this report.



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