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NEPA Film Festival to showcase local, international talent

Julie Sidoni (left) conducting Q & A with filmmaker Josh Fox at the 2023 Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival.
Julie Sidoni (left) conducting Q & A with filmmaker Josh Fox at the 2023 Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival.

The inspiration will be flowing this weekend as creators and connoisseurs of the film industry fill the Waverly Community House for the 8th annual Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival.

The three-day event will screen 47 independent films, including shorts, documentaries and feature-length productions.

Kathy Wright is the program and events coordinator.

“It’s a platform for these filmmakers,” she said. “And for the public to see them, these are not films that are going to be seen in any other theater or on TV, so this is a unique opportunity for local audiences to see emerging filmmakers.”

“We are taking pretty much the whole community house over,” Executive Director Michelle Hamilton said. “We’ll have main features in our auditorium, and we’ll have shorts and documentaries in the scout room.”

More than just movie screenings, it’s also an opportunity to network with filmmakers and learn from them. WVIA is a partner of the event and will host workshops throughout the weekend.

WVIA Filmmaker Alexander Monelli will teach a workshop titled “Create Films, Not Content.”

“It’s really about making your work stand out in this kind of oversaturated world of content we live in now,” he said. “Cultivating your style, creating lasting impactful images, making your film stand out, distributing your film.”

Monelli’s workshop is Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. WVIA’s Tim Novotney will teach “Storytelling Unleashed: Creating Films with the Camera in Your Pocket” at 4 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, WVIA will present “How much ‘Bio’ goes into a Biopic? / Licensing, Releases & Fair Use” at 1 p.m. and “Promotional Best Practices: How to Show Them What You Got” at 5 p.m.

The screenings are divided into blocks, and tickets are $10 each. Day passes are available for $20. Tickets for the Friday night filmmaker reception cost $65, and a festival passport for all weekend is $90.

More on the films

Doug Claybourne will kick off the festival with the screening of his latest work, “The Rainbow Prince.”

The short film is a live action fairy tale - it’s a story that celebrates diversity, based on a book written by his wife, Laura Napier, and his daughter, Marea.

“Marea asked the question, ‘where are all the princesses that look like me?’” Claybourne explained. “The whole idea is to get kids to talk about their differences and similarities.”

Claybourne worked on several feature films including “The Fast and the Furious,” “Mighty Ducks 2,” and “The Mask of Zorro,” and has been to film festivals all over the world.

“They’re great moments to be with people who are doing what you’re doing, you can share experiences and share contacts,” he said. “It moves you to the next level.”

Claybourne also teaches a film class at Temple University, and says he enjoys serving as a mentor to young people in the industry.

Friday night’s program will begin at 7 p.m. following a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. WVIA’s Julie Sidoni will moderate a Q&A with Claybourne after the screening. The short will also be screening on Saturday at 10:45 a.m. and Claybourne will be around to answer questions.

Christina Suraci from Dalton is looking forward to seeing her film on a big screen in her hometown film festival.

“It’s a dream come true,” she said.

Her documentary, “The Rhythm of Ryan,” combines her love for music, LGBTQ+ activism, and video editing. The subject, Ryan Cassata, is a transgender singer, songwriter, and activist based in Los Angeles.

“Ryan’s music meant a lot to me when I was a kid as a young queer person,” she said. “He made a name for himself in the LGBT community and in the trans[gender] community.”

Suraci’s 15-minute documentary will screen on Sunday at 11 a.m. in the shorts theater and at 7 p.m. in the feature theater.

“The Voices Project: Immigration” is another locally-made documentary that will be celebrated this weekend.

Dr. Alicia Nordstrom is a psychology professor at Misericordia University and researches stigma and discrimination. “The Voices Project” is a series of projects Nordstrom created to focus on topics like mental health, religion, social class, and disability.

“The purpose of all of these projects is education and building understanding and compassion to really cut through the stereotypes and prejudice that people have towards stigmatized groups without really understanding what the experiences of these individuals are,” she said. “As a researcher, I actually have evidence that shows that listening to these real-life stories does shift people’s attitudes.”

Students interviewed immigrants and produced a storytelling show, “The Voices Project: Immigration,” and asked Timothy McDermott to film it.

“We decided to make it more of a full documentary than a performance," he said. "So we sat down with each one of the speakers, interviewed them, talked to them a little about their stories, and got a little bit deeper.”

McDermott, a filmmaker and graphic designer based in Philadelphia, co-directed the film with Nordstrom.

Nordstrom warns that traumatic themes are involved, but the film has changed people’s perspectives.

“That validation of hearing your own story being shared and showcased has been very powerful, but the other purpose is to educate people who don’t know anything about that particular group," she said.

“I think everybody can learn from it,” McDermott said. “And the whole project is rooted in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org
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