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Lake Placid Film Forum moves to the fall

February 23, 2018
By NAJ WIKOFF - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Film Forum is moving from mid-June to late October, Adirondack Film Society officials announced Tuesday, Feb. 20 at the Palace Theatre.

With a new date, a new festival director and a more focused program, the board of the Film Society seeks to reinvigorate the Film Forum.

The Lake Placid Film Forum was founded 18 years ago by film critic Kathleen Carroll, author Russell Banks, theater owner Nelson Page, accountant John Huttlinger and this writer for the Lake Placid News. The goal was to create an intimate setting where filmmakers, film students and film lovers could come together to learn from each other and share their passion for film with a focus on good story.

Article Photos

From left are Adirondack Film Society Operations Manager Fred Balzac, Film Society President John Huttlinger, Palace Theatre manager Heath Clark and Gary Smith, Film Society board member and newly appointed Lake Placid Film Forum director.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

The idea was to create an environment where the barricades that separate members of the film industry from the general public were removed, and for many years it worked attracting leading directors, screenwriters, and actors.

Since that time, the number of film festivals in the United States more than doubled, and watching films on-line through venues like Netflix took off. Meanwhile, finding sponsors and audiences became more difficult as readers, advertisers and the number of traditional media outlets shrunk. From the start, the timing of the Lake Placid Film Forum, held in mid-June, was always a problem as the days were longer and people in the region wanted to spend time outside following a long winter and before the summer tourism rush arrived.

The board therefore decided to shift the date of the Film Forum to Oct. 26-28 this year, slotting it to come after the Toronto and New York film festivals, a date that would expand their access to recently released films as most are premiered in Toronto.

Next, board member and treasurer Gary Smith agreed to take on the role of festival director and a Film Society/Film Forum Advisory board will be established to help recruit films and filmmakers and open doors to the industry and media.

The updates to the Film Forum do not end there. The Film Society will strengthen its role as the Adirondack Film Commission through launching a resource guide to local/regional businesses and services for filmmakers, videographers and media production companies interested in filming in Essex County and neighboring areas.

"Our October dates this year will be within two months of such top events as the Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival, all of which take place in, or at least run into, the first part of September," said Gary Smith. "We'll be positioned to have a better shot at acquiring some of the best films whose release is timed to coincide with these and other leading fall film festivals-and to bring along, as guest presenters, some of the filmmakers who created these works."

No less important is the Film Forum's renewed focus on well-crafted films with a strong story line that celebrates diversity.

"This year's Film Forum will center on economic, cultural, ethnic, gender and geographic diversity, said Smith. "We will address diversity in all its dimensions with artists, actors, producers, director and writers, with drama, humor, comedy, human interest and horror.

"We will be reflecting through the lens of independent filmmakers the latest in techniques and messaging and celebrating what this great industry is about and what it stands for. A celebration of diversity through independent film, independently together."

The Film Forum's lead screening venues will remain the same, the historic Palace Theatre and the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. High Peaks Resort will become the 2018 Film Forum Headquarters where seminars, workshops and panel discussions as well as any additional screenings plus a filmmakers' lounge will be held.

"I got my film education on the job," said Kathleen Carroll. "Being able to sit down and watch Alfred Hitchcock direct a scene was wonderful. All he used as his main tool was his gold stop watch to make sure the actors got through the scene in exactly the time he wanted. Experiences like that were fascinating and helped me understand the business of filmmaking.

"The other is seeing a film that really works. The wonderful thing about a great film is that it just takes you out of yourself. Emotionally, you feel that you are a part of the film, and it just takes you on this journey. Thus, my passion has been being able to introduce people to actors, directors, and screenwriters and show films that are really special in Lake Placid."

That passion has resulted in the Film Forum bringing to Lake Placid such talent as directors as Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, John Sayles, and Courtney Hunt, whose film "Frozen River" was shot in nearby Clinton County. Plus, there have been novelists such as William Kennedy, Jay Parini, and Richard Russo, as well as Russell Banks; and such actors as Hal Holbrook, Steve Buscemi, James Tolkan, Kyra Sedgwick, Tony Shalhoub, Matthew Modine, Campbell Scott, Parker Posey and Cliff Robertson.

"I think moving the Lake Placid Film Forum to the fall is a good idea," said Banks. "The Film Forum's primary base comes from Burlington to Albany, and that's not a summer audience necessarily. It's more of a year-round audience. Thus, I think they'll draw better in the fall as it takes them out of competition with all the various events that are increasingly taking place in June not to mention that when it's a warm and sunny day everyone wants to be outside. I also think that narrowing their focus is also a good idea, and they're doing that in a very good way."

Key to this change has been the strong financial support as such major agencies as Cloudsplitter Foundation, Essex County, the New York State Council for the Arts, Stewart's Shops and the Uihlein Foundation, and partnerships with the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, the Palace Theatre, High Peaks Resort, Hotel North Woods, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, North Country Public Radio and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News.

For more information on the Lake Placid Film Forum, and the ongoing screenings of the Adirondack Film Society, check out their website at: or contact Fred Balzac, AFS operations manager at (518) 523-3456.



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