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Live Local, Live Small: The Cucalorus edition

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The intersection of film and business has been a center piece of community conversation of late. Unfortunately, in the wake of last week’s election, most of the conversation has shifted to grief counseling.  Hopefully, as with many things in life, time will be the great healer, and our beloved film industry will rise from the ashes.

Just when we need a shot in the arm, Cucalorus rolls around again to remind us what independent film can do for this area. While all the offerings at Cucalorus are interesting, there are a couple that have caught my eye as particularly Live Local-esque.

The first is an experience titled “10×10,” wherein 10 filmmakers will be paired up with 10 entrepreneurs from Tuesday through Saturday during the festival to produce short films about the entrepreneurial experience. When all’s said and done, they will be screened during the festival at 4:30 p.m. on its final day on Sunday at TheatreNOW.

Does it sound familiar? Maybe slightly SXSW-ish? Yes, it does. Executive director of Cucalorus, Dan Brawley, notes how this project appeared in the festival before with 10 bands and 10 filmmakers—each paired to create a music video. But, after an interesting meeting with the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Brawley began ruminating on the necessary relationship between film and business. He enlisted the help of filmmaker Norwood Cheek, who will interview local leaders from the business community to create a mini-doc about the tech scene in Wilmington.

Really, film is entrepreneurship in a crucible. Though many artists would argue against it, the fact is, in order to make a living as an artist, one must develop an entrepreneurial mind set. It’s a catch-22: Be an artist or a business person? Can a person be both? Maybe they could coexist and help each other, because in our media-soaked culture, there is a desperation for video image and sound content to build a brand and message. And this is not necessarily a language that entrepreneurs are fluent in but that which filmmakers eat and breathe.

“I’d like people in the business community to become aware of Cucalorus as a place to meet creative people to work for them,” Brawley points out. The filmmakers and entrepreneurs are still being finalized for the 10×10 program and won’t be matched up until Tuesday, November 11, but as of press time, the prospective list of filmmakers included: Ally Gold, Jordan Ray Allen, Khang Mai, John Palmer, Cameron Smith, Rocco Taldin, Jon Landau, and Kat Hazelton. Prospective entrepreneurs consist of: TekMountain, EasyVote, Pawn-O-Gram, Indigru Technologies, Elsewhere, WaterPlay USA, and UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Honestly, no serious discussion of film and business can happen here without paying homage to the man who created it all: Dino De Laurentiis.  For those who came in late, De Laurentiis built the studio on 23rd Street 30 years ago to make movies, beginning in 1984 with “Firestarter.” To be blunt: We would not have the film infrastructure and industry that we have here today had it not been for De Laurentiis. Nor would we have the crews.

De Laurentiis brought talent from all over the world to our coastal  abode, from Italy, to England to Canada. He created a legacy of training crews in an old-studio-style system.  Nini Rogan, a script supervisor, points to the now hundreds of professionals in our area, and thousands across the state, highlighting all the specialists who came here with De Laurentiis to train people for high-paying jobs.

It only makes sense for Cucalorus to honor De Laurentiis throughout the 20th anniversary of the festival, by screening several films from different eras of his professional life. On Saturday, Martha De Laurentiis (nee Schumacher), De Laurentiis’ wife and co-producer, will be in town for a panel discussion of her late husband’s work and legacy. 

Filmmaker Beth Crookham notes that Martha will be joined onstage following the screening of “Crimes of the Heart” at Thalian Hall by Chunky Huse, key grip and one of the crew members De Laurentiis brought to Wilmington from overseas. Also joining will be Mark Fincannon, casting director and a North Carolinian who was at De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG) from the beginning and learned the filmmaking craft during De Laurentiis’ time in North Carolina.

“While ‘Crimes of the Heart’ was shot at DEG, it also used locations around the area,” Crookham says, “and shows that filmmaking doesn’t happen only in Wilmington.”

Choosing a film from his time spent in Wilmington meant also representing so many people who still live here after getting their start here. Though they considered the obvious Stephen King projects, ‘Cat’s Eye’ (1985) and ‘Maximum Overdrive’ (1986), their talks with Martha De Laurentiis led them to “Crimes of the Heart” (1986).

A quick glance at the IMDB page for the film yields names of crew that are still working in town: Joe D’Alessandro, Tim Pope, Jeffrey Schlatter, and the Fincannons to name a few. As well, the location manager on it was our own film commissioner, Johnny Griffin. 

The De Laurentiis Retrospective also will include: “War & Peace” (1956), “Flash Gordon,” (1980), “King Kong” (1976), and “Hannibal” (2001). His eight-decade career proved overwhelming to narrow down to only five flicks. “We knew we wanted to show a cross section of his career with at least one piece from his time in Wilmington,” Crookham continues. “‘Flash Gordon’ (1980) was always on the list, as it is so iconic in the film world of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, a time when space exploration and clashes with other worlds were commonly being depicted . . . As we looked into his earlier career it came down to his Academy Award-winning ‘La Strada’ (1954) or the amazingly grand ‘War and Peace’ (1956). There was something so enticing about offering people the opportunity to see a work like ‘War and Peace’ in a theatre like Thalian Hall.”

Crookham points out that though Dino left Wilmington, he didn’t leave film. In fact, it stands as a testament to his lifelong dedication by seeing “Hannibal” (2001). “This film was made when Mr. De Laurentiis was 82 years old,” Crookham says, “and still actively bringing together top-tier talent to produce great cinema. It represents the Hannibal Lector series Mr. De Laurentiis brought to the silver screen with the film ‘Manhunter’(1986), which was also on the short list of films for this retrospective.”

Rogan notes, “We need it now to honor him and to remind people how unusual Wilmington is and has been for this industry.”

Amen. May we continue to build upon that legacy for many more years to come in the unique and beautiful way that we have for the last 30.



Sun., Nov. 16, 4:30 p.m.

TheatreNOW • Tickets: $10

De Laurentiis Retrospective. feat.: War and Peace, Nov. 13, 9 a.m.

Thalian Hall • Tickets: $10
Flash Gordon, Nov. 14, 6 p.m.
Riverfront Park
Tickets: Free to public; family-friendly costume contest with prizes.
Crimes of the Heart, Nov. 15, 4 p.m.
Thalian Hall Mainstage • Tickets: $15
King Kong, Nov. 15, 6 p.m.
Riverfront Park
Tickets: Free to public; family-friendly banana-eating contest with prizes.
Hannibal, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.
Thalian Hall Black Box • Tickets: $10

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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