Keep it rolling: Nevada City Film Festival turns 10 | TheUnion.com

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Keep it rolling: Nevada City Film Festival turns 10

In the spring of 2001, shortly after I’d bought our local art-house cinema, the Magic Theatre in Nevada City, I was still scheming about ways to make best use of it, open to suggestions about fun, creative things that could be done.

Jason Graham was working behind the counter and up in the booth part-time. One afternoon, he mentioned something about a short film he’d recently completed, a smart, absurd little sci-fi comedy he called “Mike vs. the Machine.”

We talked about his idea of screening it at the Magic.

Graham knew several other local artists, mostly friends, who all had a film or two lying around in their closets that they’d be willing to put in front of an audience. Why not show all of these films together?

Within a day or so, we hatched a plan to devote an upcoming weekend to presenting this hodgepodge of homemade masterworks, and thus was born the Nevada City Film Festival, a quick blast of cinematic wonderment organized mainly by Graham, with help from Magic Theatre manager Carrie Hawthorn, artist

Erik Fogelberg and a handful of other friends.  

Over the next four years, the Nevada City Film Festival blew up into a local sensation, with wild, intense and often hilarious programs that offered an exciting outlet for a lot of youthful creativity that had been bubbling under the surface in that pre-YouTube era.

Local audiences loved it, and lines would snake around the block down Argall Way as ticket holders waited to crowd into the 64-seat Magic Theatre.

Since then, as anyone attending this year’s festival will soon experience, our little weekend’s fun has snowballed into something way beyond our imaginings.

The NCFF is a truly international festival now, and we’ll again be screening dozens of brilliant, hand-picked shorts and features made by gifted filmmakers from all around the world to 2,000 or more attendees in much larger venues in downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley.

We’ll simultaneously present comedy shows, panel discussions and have a blast over a four-day weekend.

On Sunday, Aug. 22, things will close with a bang (and with some nostalgia).

• At 4 p.m., we offer our usual Best of the Fest program, a carefully selected series of some of the most creative and fun-to-watch films of 2010, culled from the entire weekend. If there was a great film that you somehow missed on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, or if you just want to see just how powerful and entertaining the short film format can be, this is your ticket.

• At 6 p.m. is the Audience Awards; this year’s winner will take home $500.

• At 7:30 p.m., we’re going to do a little time travel back to the early days of the NCFF with a special program of some of the best-loved, smartest, funniest and downright most experimental films that ever graced our screen during those early, formative years.

Reflect on the early musings of Jason Graham and NCFF Program Director David Nicholson, gasp at shocking seminal works like Adam Klein’s “Jobby the Awesome Surfer” and Erik Fogelberg’s “Psycho.” Feel a tear of pride well up watching Corey Creasey’s gorgeous video for Joanna Newsom’s “Sprout & Bean.”

This being our 10th annual festival, we think this will be a fitting way to close out this year’s festivities and a great way to honor our do-it-yourself roots.

If you want to see how to start an international film festival, show up on Sunday night, sit back, and let the memories roll by.

Jeffrey Clark is the owner of the Magic Theatre and executive director of the Magic Lantern Corp., the nonprofit that oversees the Nevada City Film Festival.