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4:03 AM Thu, Nov. 22nd

Three-day film festival debuts Friday

Movie gluttons will have much to whet their appetites when the Prescott Film Festival launches its first-ever three-day fest Aug. 6, 7 and 8.

A host of filmmakers will be in town, along with actors and crews, for the event's parties, free workshops and, best of all, screenings that will include comedies, dramas, thrillers, documentaries, romances and more, said Helen Stephenson, executive director of the Prescott Film Festival.

"Some of these films will take you on a ride, and you won't know what was really going on until the last shot," she said. "Some will whisk you away to foreign countries, and some will let you look at the past."

In all, Stephenson said, the festival's bill of fare includes 19 short films and 20 feature films, with 23 filmmakers, both local and out of state, five actors and crews among the special guests on hand to greet audiences.

The festival begins at 9 a.m. Friday at the Elks Opera House and continues with showings at the opera house, Yavapai College Performance Hall or Prescott Mile High Middle School's Hendrix Auditorium. The fest culminates Sunday afternoon with jury and audience choice awards for the winning productions.

One local filmmaker, Ken Gregg, who will be on hand for the screening of his short, "Resuscitate," embodies the archetype of the independent filmmaker. The 10-year resident of Prescott works at AZTV and learned filmmaking "mostly through the school of hard knocks and online film school," he said.

"I did not have a clue what I wanted to do with my life until 1999, while living in a 1972 VW bus at a commune carport in Venice Beach, California. That's when the idea of filmmaking inspired me."

For his drama, Gregg chose a cast, who worked for free, that included co-workers and local historian and thespian Parker Anderson, and the film's major location was True Value on Miller Valley Road. He kept his budget under $10,000 and completed shooting the movie about a young woman who uses wit and humor to talk an unemployed father out of killing himself in five days' time.

"The way everyone worked together on this project was completely magical - an experience I will always remember," Gregg said.

"Resuscitate" will be a part of "An Evening with Native American Films" Friday night at the Yavapai College Performance Hall.

The three festival venues brim with shorts and features, such as the opening film, "Expecting Mary," a family comedy written and directed by Dan Gordon, who is the founder of the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking, a part of Yavapai College in Sedona. The story is about a pregnant young woman who runs away from her life looking for a new family. The cast includes Elliott Gould, Cloris Leachman, Gene Simmons and many more familiar faces.

Among the many intriguing titles are the documentary "She Wore Silver Wings," which relates the experiences of an Army WASP, and "Gandhi at Bat," a narrative comedy about Mahatma Gandhi traveling to New York and going to bat for the New York Yankees.

Another film with a local tie, "Blood into Wine," will screen Friday night and is a "hilarious documentary" about the vineyard in Jerome started by rock star Maynard James Keenan and Prescott College graduate Eric Glomski.

"The Red Machine," the opening night film, is a narrative caper/adventure story. Feature film "KREWS" is a hard-hitting narrative that carries an anti-drug message.

Two free workshops will take place Friday at the Prescott Residence Inn by Marriott. The first, "Producing for Guerrilla Filmmakers and Beyond," is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and the second, "Acting in Films ... More than Just 'Action!'" will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Call 458-7209 for a reservation.

The Prescott Film Festival's website, www.prescottfilmfestival.com, has information about ticket prices, a synopsis of each film, trailers for most films and ratings that indicate "family-friendly" or whether films are suited for older audiences.