• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

story by karlee collins    photography by paul nurnberg

In the years since the Beaufort International Film Festival began, Director Ron Tucker says that the attendance has grown from about 500 to over 12,000 in total attendance. As the years have gone by, a venue change had to be made in order to accommodate the “swelling” audience that had doubled and quadrupled in the first three years.  “We actually had two records for total attendance at one screening last year; we had 473 that broke the record on Thursday, and that record was broken on Saturday with 474,” Tucker shares. The continual increase in attendance comes from a diverse audience that includes not only Beaufort residents but also people that travel from many surrounding areas. Last year’s festival boasted an audience that represented thirty-seven states and five countries, and many of those will return again this year. The film festival brings people back no matter how far they travel. Mr. Tucker says, “We have a group that comes from Connecticut almost every year and a couple from Texas that comes every year.”

The film festival’s success has developed an audience that continues to return for more which has a positive impact on the community. Hotels and restaurants in the downtown area get the opportunity to host the festival’s attendees, and that is a healthy benefit to Beaufort’s economy. When the people are not occupied with enjoying the films, they are roaming the beautiful city, and Mr. Tucker says that they all “fall in love with Beaufort” especially the downtown area. The atmosphere of the community and the success of the festival have worked together to sell to the audience an event worth returning to experience again and again.  “It’s one of the things that we like,” Mr. Tucker explains, “that it has become a destination for people. It wouldn’t be Beaufort in February if it weren’t for the film festival.” The growing loyal audience would agree.

Audience Write-Ups

Jan Bruning and her husband, Ken, have been attending the Beaufort International Film Festival since its beginning. From hosting house guests to celebrating the films, they are a part of every aspect of the festival: “We are always there for the first showing of the day and do not leave until the last film is over.  We attend every party and event associated with the festival.  We have ‘film audience’ down to a science now and arrive to spend the day in our little enclave of seats,” Jan shares. They have high praise for directors, Ron and Rebecca Tucker saying, “They have turned our little festival into one that is growing amazingly fast!”

“I have seen every single film!” says Katherine Zalusky, Beaufort resident of twelve years and loyal attendee of the film festival. She would not miss being at each film every year: “My husband knows that every year for that week I have a commitment.” She loves the movies and has a list of favorites. She says, “Initially, I preferred feature films…but now I prefer and look forward to the documentaries.” For Katherine, the fantastic films are not the only reason she continues to attend. “Even though the festival has grown and continues to improve, it has not lost that feeling of intimacy,” she explains. The common ground of watching films together makes large crowds into one big family, and that is the intimacy that Katherine describes.

Arlene Hull will be attending the film festival this year for the tenth time. She heard about it through friends and has joined in on the fun since that time: “I come back every year to see the new talent and efforts of both new and experienced people in the industry.” For the Beaufort native, it is exciting to see how the festival gives exposure to her hometown. She says, “I think the impact on Beaufort is incredible, it helps to secure our place in the realms of truly being a very diversified arts community and gets us National recognition for such.” Through the festival, Arlene knows that Beaufort is being highlighted on the map, and she thanks Ron and Rebecca Tucker for it. “Every year is bigger and better,” she says, “and that is because of Ron and Rebecca and their commitment to the festival.”

In March of 2010, Lloyd and Jane Sidwell chose to make Beaufort their home. Soon afterwards they discovered the film festival through their new friends Ron and Rebecca Tucker. “The films, the excitement of the fest, the organization and attention to detail provided by Ron and Rebecca, the experience of meeting filmmakers, [and the] discussion [of] films with other filmgoers” are all reasons that they come back each year. Jane says she loves “sitting cocooned in [her] seat, in the upper reaches of the auditorium, and enjoying films for the entire day, one right after the other.” To the Sidwells, the film festival is a “world class” cultural event that is beneficial to locals and visitors alike.

Liz Entwistle first learned of the film festival through reading about it in the newspaper. She attended the first year and has been back to the festival each year. Liz says that she returns for “the comradery, the movies, the parties, and the people.” She enjoys sharing the festival with her fellow Beaufort locals and those that come from out of town. Liz says, “It exposes [Beaufort] to the world for having a real quality of life.” Her contribution to that exposure has been bringing family from New York to attend the festival; she enjoys sharing the excitement of the festival with others.

Carolyn Roos will be attending the festival from opening to closing for the fourth time this year and has been for the Saturday showing for many other years. Through the invitation of friends, Carolyn discovered a place that gives her “the opportunity to see film making at its best from newbies to remakes.” She has enjoyed getting to know the film makers and their families as well as watching Beaufort be show cased as a location for future film making. She says, “Those that come to Beaufort because of [the festival] fall in love with Beaufort and some have made it their home.”

Long-time Beaufort resident, Debbie Dawsey-Davis has attended all ten years of the film festival. She looks forward to returning to the festival, and she says, “Each year continues to be the best!” Some of her favorite parts include the question and answer sessions with those involved in making the films and the parties. She says that she and her friends “love to sit all day and become one with the festival.” The annual film festival is another reason that Debbie is proud to live in Beaufort; she is thrilled to see “so many people come together with love and passion for the arts!”

Gerry and Dianne Kenny call Beaufort their home and have been attending the film festival since the beginning. Gerry and Ron Tucker are friends which is how the Kennys discovered the festival. Although Gerry does not claim to be a film buff, he feels that this unique event is enjoyable for all audiences. “I enjoy the diversity, seeing different kinds of movies,” he says. “I like the offbeat movies and the documentaries.” Gerry thinks something can be found to suit anyone’s interest, and he believes that Beaufort residents should support and relish in the culture that the festival provides. He says, “It’s important to promote local events, and this one is convenient and of good value.”

story by mary ellen thompson    photography by john wollwerth

Daughters of the Dust will screen at 7:30 p.m. at BIFF on Saturday, February 19. Twenty five years ago, this film was the first feature directed by an African American woman to receive general theatrical release and writer and director, Julie Dash, will be here to receive an award at the Awards Ceremony on Sunday evening, February 20.

This film was made here in 1989 and the following members of the community who were associated with the film are very excited about the fact that it was restored and will be shown again at BIFF. They share their memories and associations with the film.

Kai-Lynne Warren: Actress

Kai Lynne portrayed the character of the Unborn Child in the film (although her voice was dubbed over).  Her grandmother, Jesse Mae Warren, was working at the Penn Center and heard about the movie, so Kai-Lynne’s mother brought her to the casting call and Kai-Lynne was chosen. When asked what she remembers about being in the film, she initially replies, “Not so much, I was only seven. I remember running and playing on the beach. I do remember that I appreciated acting after that, I had seen what it took to film a scene.” Did she pursue an acting career as a result? “No; I auditioned for Queen in Charleston but didn’t get a part and there wasn’t anything else.”

How did Kai-Lynne find out that Daughters of the Dust had been re-released? “My mother saw it on facebook!”

When questioned about the last time she saw the film, Kai-Lynne says, “It was on television some years back. I was talking to a co-worker and she was telling me that she saw a movie on television and thought a little girl in the film looked just like me. I asked her what movie it was and when she said Daughters of the Dust, I told her –  that was me!”

“Oh,” Kai-Lynne said, “there is one other thing I remember. I was constantly having to get my dress fixed. I kept getting holes and tears in it, the fabric was so thin and I was running around playing on the beach and climbing trees.”

Kai-Lynne is looking forward to attending the film at BIFF with her husband who has never seen it. “It was a wonderful film and everyone who was part of it was so nice.”

Willie Faulkner: Actor

Willie had a speaking part in 23 films that were filmed in this area, in this one he played Peazant Man #1. Of Daughters of the Dust, he recalls, “It was different than the other films I had worked on; there was more feeling. The Black culture was and still is trying to be equal, to overcome obstacles. Julie Dash was wonderful to work for. I had a speaking part as Peazant Man #1. I had to be on the set every day, and I still remember that when we were shooting out at Hunting Island, those sand gnats were trouble.”

When asked what about being part of that experience still sticks with him after 27 years, Willie explains, “All of it still sticks.  Daughters of the Dust mirrored our times then and mirrors our time now. As in the film, we were leaving the old world and coming to the new. There were many people here who left to go to New York and then wanted to come back. In the film and life, there were the old ladies, the grandmothers in the old world, who would say, ‘You go on, I’ll stay here. Or they would give their children protective things so they would be safe and remember their roots. The film points up and points out the flaws and attributes of these times, then and now.” Willie has the original script of the film.

Ervena Faulkner: Extra

“It was great fun, I was just an extra in four or five scenes but not all the scenes I was in were used in the movie. I called being on the set ‘hurry up and wait’ time. But I did get in the film in the baptismal scene where everyone was going down to the water. I know my hips and when I saw the movie I could see them! Ron Daise was also in that scene so we both got in the film.”

“We went to the screening in Atlanta. When Julie Dash’s book came out in 1992, I read it with my book club.”

Mary Mac: Hostess 

“I had The Red Piano Too Art Gallery on Saint Helena. At that time it was where MacDonald Marketplace is now and was across the street from E’s Fabric Shop, which was owned by Edith Sumpter. One day when I was in the shop I saw Vertamae Grosvenor, who I recognized from ETV and NPR, and I had read her books. So I chatted her up and found that she was shopping for fabric for the costumes for Daughters of the Dust. My husband, Tommy, had a small side business doing tailoring so I invited them to the house to meet him. He wound up making some of the costumes and repurposing an umbrella that was carried by the character, Yellow Mary, in the film. I invited the cast to dinner and they all came.”

When asked what she remembers now about that dinner, Mary replied, “I put bacon in the gumbo and they didn’t like it; most of them were vegetarians. Luckily I also had salad, rice and cornbread so that was what they ate. I remember putting a bottle of soy sauce on the table,” Mary laughs. “They were excited about the area, the history and culture. I was excited about the fact they were making a movie here.”

Why does she think the film is important? “It’s a slice of life. See if you can put yourself in that role. You don’t have to stay there, but see what it’s like.

“When the film was released, as part of the Ladies of the Lowcountry, in conjunction with the Penn Center, we held a fundraiser for Penn and the film was screened at the theater at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS). The theater was filled.”

Diane Britton Dunham: Artist

What impressed Diane most about the film was, “The cinematography, the flowing white gowns, the scenery; the location is like a character in itself. The music was ethereal and mesmerizing; I just loved the beauty of it. When people saw the film they really began to understand the culture of the Gullah people; Julie Dash covered so many of the images like net making, basket weaving and the bottle trees. Daughters of the Dust is a cult classic.”

Diane has said that the film had an influence on her art, that many of her paintings have the spirit of the character the Unborn Child. She explains, “I can relate to her as the little girl in my self. She is mystical because she ties the story together; most of my paintings have a little girl in them, some of them are her spirit and some of them are me.”

When asked what her involvement with the making of the film was, Diane replies, “None. Except that Mary Mack wanted me to do a painting that might be used for the movie poster.” Diane did the painting and although it didn’t make it as a movie poster, it did grace the cover of the pamphlet that was used for the film screening at MCAS. She was, however, caught up in the conviviality of picture making. “I was living on Saint Helena and the cast and crew were in the center of the Frogmore Community; they stayed in the motel there and went to the shops. Mary was managing my art and it was in her gallery there so I had the opportunity to watch from the sidelines. I loved the energy of the artsy community. I always wanted to be an artist and hang out in that kind of community. I had just started exhibiting so I was new to this art world and I was shy so I just watched the goings on whenever I could.”

Jacquelyn Markham: Associate Professor

When asked how she first became aware of the film, Jackie remembers, “During the time Julie Dash was filming Daughters of the Dust, she was living in Atlanta and I was teaching Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia. In a course on women’s contributions to culture, we studied some film directors working at the time and I believe Julie Dash’s name surfaced. Shortly after, I viewed the film.”

Jackie recounts her initial impression of the film, “I fell in love with it! When I was in graduate school, I majored in literature and poetry, but I took every film course I could and even considered a minor in film.  Also, I have a great love of visual art.  To me, Daughters of the Dust is like an impressionist painting coming to life with the mystery of poetry.”

As a teacher, what made Jackie want to incorporate the film into her teaching, and how has she done so? “I came to the film from so many angles: literary, artistic, cultural, and this film has the potential to open so many dialogues and explorations. I think that is why it has been my favorite film for 25 years and why I wanted to incorporate it into my teaching.  I like to use film in my literature courses in general because so many students relate to the visual and there are always parallel points in film and literature that students can discuss and write about.  In Daughters of the Dust, we could talk about the nonlinear narrative, symbolism, the mystery or poetic sense of the film as well as the social, historical, and cultural implications.”

The film has stayed with Jackie, and she describes that for us. “This film has made a lasting impression on me in ways I would never have imagined when I was first introduced to it. I had no idea at that time that I would even leave Athens, Georgia or that one day, my interest in culture would entice me to know more about the Gullah culture and an eventual move to the Beaufort area. I first visited St. Helena and Penn Center in 2002 and Daughters of the Dust came alive again. I can’t tell you how many people I have told about this amazing film.  Now that it has been restored and is getting the recognition it deserves, I feel privileged to again see it on the big screen at BIFF and hopefully see and hear Julie Dash tell us more about her vision and current projects.”

Epilogue from the original script: “Just as streams coalesce into rivers, and rivers coalesce into oceans, these black freedpeople entered the larger body of the black experience – remembering, recollecting, and recalling the daughters of the dust.”

What is the point of a movie trailer, you may have wondered. A trailer is the introduction to a film, the: “Hello – do I want to meet/know/watch you? Get to know you better? Be involved with your story?” The trailer acts as the lure, the catch, the release. But once you’ve seen the film, you may not see the relevance between the two. Enticing the potential audience isn’t always the primary objective of an Indie filmmaker. What he may be looking for is funding to get his film produced long before he worries about the audience’s reaction. The trailer is also his way of getting a clip of his film out there for investors.

Our resident experts, VW Scheich and Uyen Le, clear up some of the confusion. “Trailers are their own beasts. Not many indie filmmakers have experience with marketing; show business is just that – show + business and there isn’t normally anything in film school that teaches you about the marketing and business side of making films.”

Let’s look at a little history. The first trailer was shown in the United States in 1913 when a short  film was produced for the Marcus Lowe theaters, to promote the musical, The Pleasure Seekers. Originally trailers were shown after, hence “trailing”, the feature film to promote coming attractions. However the audiences often left immediately after the feature and the practice changed to showing them before the film. Another way to grab a potential audience’s attention is the movie poster. Tom Jung, a famous Hollywood poster artist, designed the poster for VW and Uyen’s short film Wallenda in 2012, and probably about 200 others, including Star Wars, The Man With the Golden Gun (007), and La Strada.  Jung started in the business in the 1950’s and ever since then his job has been to sell a movie to an audience with one image. Think about that for a minute – the importance an image can convey. Neither trailer nor poster is likely to be fully representative of an entire film.

Interestingly enough, there are trailers designated for different audiences, such as red band trailers and green band trailers for the same film.  For instance there may be an “R” rated movie that has a green band trailer that can be shown to every audience even though it is for an “R” rated movie, meaning that the trailer, not the film, is approved for every audience. That same “R”  rated film will also have a red band trailer that may feature sex, violence and profanity; same movie, two different trailers. So the audience needs to pay attention to the differentiation.

“Trailers are really, really hard to make and an unappreciated art, and sometimes they can be misleading. It’s very common that trailers don’t match the movies, for instance I think Hercules had a compelling trailer but the domestic box office numbers for the film didn’t reflect that,” according to VW. Uyen’s analogy is, “A good trailer is like a kiss on a first date, full of promise, but a bad trailer can mislead you.”

The Movie Picture Association of America allows a maximum time for a trailer of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Often a filmmaker will take his favorite highlights and moments and put them together for the trailer without regard to marketing, or presenting a synopsis of the film.  For films that are produced on a large budget, advertising/marketing agencies are often hired and they employ “trailer houses,” which are businesses who get an early cut of the movie and make the trailer for the movie studio. Indie filmmakers usually can’t afford the trailer houses due to their lean budgets.

VW explains, “I was in a marketing meeting for a Disney feature and we were talking about trailers. The subject of showing too much and giving away the movie in the trailer came up.  I am sure you have seen trailers and then thought, didn’t I just see the whole movie? Well as it turns out marketing research shows that an audience member is more likely to come to a movie when they already know what is going to happen (if the bad guys gets it) than if they were left with a cliff hanger.” His final comment is that, trailers aside, “Indie filmmakers give everything they have to their indie film from the conception, to writing the screenplay, then shooting the movie and finally the edit. Each part of the process is equally important and difficult. People from all over the world who have put their heart and soul into their film, which is like their baby, are thrilled to be invited to festivals like The Beaufort International Film Festival.”

Watch the trailers, but don’t be convinced whether or not to see the movies based on the them alone. Each and every one of us has a “baby” of some sort and we all want them to be handled with tenderness and respect; go see the films and support those people who have worked so hard to present them here to you.

story by mary ellen thomspon

photography by susan deloach

What happens behind the scenes at the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF)? Ron and Rebecca Tucker, President and Vice-President respectively of the Beaufort Film Society which produces BIFF, are the driving force behind this festival and give us a glimpse of how it works.

Let’s start with how the films get into the festival. The filmmakers choose the festivals which they want to enter; BIFF puts a call out for entries for the next year right after each festival ends in February. There are four deadlines: early bird, regular, late and extended; with each deadline the entry fee increases.

There are two ways that filmmakers know to submit films and one is word of mouth, the other is “FilmFreeway.” FilmFreeway is a company that advertises festivals, almost 5,000 this year, and the filmmakers can submit to those festivals right on the website. Ron explains, “It’s sort of like an on-line dating site for festivals and filmmakers. We’re pitching our festival so it has to look like fun and at the same time, have a high level of respect. There are festivals that show one to two hundred films in different venues and at the same times. This year we will be showing forty films and ours are all at University of South Carolina Center for the Arts (USCB) so there are no time conflicts.”

The next step is selection. Ron says, “We’re picky, more so than even Sundance; we’re truly Indie.” With 300 entries this year, Ron and Rebecca were busy watching films and getting them narrowed down to the forty finalists (not including the Indie Grants films that run Saturday afternoon).They have a panel of eleven judges who help with the selection process, but Ron and Rebecca are the only ones who watch all the film submissions. The categories are: Student, Short, Animation, Documentary, Feature and Screenplay.

The judges have access to the films based on what they are judging – the technical, content, impact and festival fit.  There is diversity among the judges; Ron and Rebecca want people who are in the business and from all over, so one lives in Italy, two in Los Angeles, one a Disney producer, some are past time winners, two are actresses. They are given films based on their specialties. For instance a digital animation instructor is a judge in the Animation category only, a past winner for a Documentary is a juror in that category, same with a juror for Shorts, two only judge Screenplays. Ron explains that “The remaining jurors are ‘at large’ and judge all categories. With the exception of Animation and Screenplays, the scores from all the judges are used in the final scoring.” When the films are accepted, the filmmaker receives notification from FilmFreeway but also a personal call from Ron. “We want them to feel special so we thank them for submitting, and for trusting us with their work.”

Part of the process is considering time; this year they have concentrated on shorter films. There will be six features and five documentaries among the forty films. In scheduling, everything is considered – the time of day the film is playing, if the filmmaker is coming to the festival, the question and answer events, time to go to the rest room, time to get a bite to eat, and time to see some daylight. The festival kicks off on Wednesday evening with the Opening Ceremony. On Thursday, there are twelve films and the Screenwriters Reception and Workshop in the evening. On Friday, there are sixteen films starting at 9 a.m. and running until 11 p.m. And, on Saturday there are twelve films ending in the evening with Daughters of the Dust and a panel discussion afterwards. The Awards Ceremony is Sunday evening. Including the Screenwriters Reception and Workshop, that’s thirty nine hours of films in three days. And it’s amazing that there are so many people who stay for many, if not all, of those thirty nine hours.

Last year, attendees came from thirty-seven states and four countries, including seventy filmmakers from around the world.

Among the audience are many of the participants in the films – the filmmakers, directors, producers, actors and actresses. Everything that can be done to make the filmmakers and cast and crew comfortable is taken into consideration. One of the things that makes BIFF so successful is that many of the alumni come back over and over again – if not with another film they’ve made, then as actors (Kathryn Grant produced a movie one year, acted in one another year and will attend this year, just because; Gary Weeks, actor, writer and director, who for a change doesn’t have a film in this festival, will be here as a presenter; VW Scheich and Uyen Le have submitted two films and a screenplay; Margaret Ford Rogers has attended with her screenplays for eight of the eleven years, including this year; and these are only a few of the participants who just can’t stay away), or simply for the fun of it. Other perks are that alumni never pay an entry fee for the festival again and this year a VIP lounge will be set up in the lobby at USCB where certain level sponsors, and filmmakers, can kick back and relax, socialize and schmooze.

There is no festival if there is not an audience. We’ve covered timing and the fact that no matter how few, or many, films you watch, a level of physical comfort is necessary. Those comforts are pretty basic – the seats are comfortable, rest rooms are close by, food is provided by the concession stand and box lunches can be ordered for delivery daily. But the excitement is what the buzz is all about – not only the films themselves, and let’s face it – rarely are all forty films going to appeal to every single person. You really don’t know what is coming, the trailer and the synopsis are teasers, and you can be surprised by the film itself in any direction. What makes this festival feel like family is the interaction with the filmmakers, cast and crew, that attend and participate in the questions and answers sessions after the presentation of the film. They are available in the lobby or at the social events, and want to talk to you about their films, get your impressions, your feedback, and share their vision with you. It’s sort of like a collective hug.

And just as there is no festival without an audience, there is no festival without all the volunteers who make it run like a Swiss watch. It takes about 100 volunteers over the course of the festival who check people in, bartend at the parties, usher, meet and greet, sell tickets are backstage hands, and help Debbi Covington with the aspects of catering the super- delicious food at the closing reception. All volunteers are greatly appreciated for whatever time they give.

Choosing the awards and their winners is another facet of what goes on behind the scenes.  Awards are presented in the following categories: Animation, Documentary, Feature, Student Films, Shorts, Screenplay, Best Comedy and Audience Choice. There are awards for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director. Ron explains how the award selection works. “The Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Director are nominated by the first tier jurors during the initial screenings. The top scores from each nominated person are calculated. All ‘Best’ nominations have to come from the Finalist Selections. Those nominated for ‘Best’ categories are scored again by the finalists jurors. The winners are determined by the combined scores from all of the jurors. The Best Comedy and Audience Choice are voted on by the audience. On the first day of the screenings, each audience member is given a ballot. On the front, every film is listed and on the back are those that are designated ‘comedy.’ All votes are turned in after the last screening on Saturday. Votes are counted and then revealed on Awards Night.”

This year there will be two additional awards. They are the Robert Smalls Merit and Achievement Award, named for Beaufort’s own Robert Smalls who was a Civil War Hero and United States Congressman, which will be presented to Julie Dash for her extensive groundbreaking work, to include the film Daughters of the Dust. The other is the Behind the Scenes Award which will be presented to filmmaker Brad Jayne. You may visit:  www.beaufortfilmfestival.coml.com and click on the “Official Selections 2017” tab to view the nominees for the awards categories as well as see the film synopses and trailers.

With all the moving parts assembled and ready to go from behind the scenes, The Beaufort International Film Festival at USCB Center for the Arts is the place to be February 15 – 19. Get your tickets now, join us for the Opening Ceremony and prepare to enjoy the ride right up through the final moments of the Awards Ceremony!

story by carol lauvray    photography by susan deloach

Ron and Rebecca Tucker, founders of the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF), rely on volunteers to make the Film Festival a success. “Volunteers have played an integral part from the beginning—all 11 years,” says Rebecca. The Beaufort Film Society is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, so the organization does not have the luxury of a paid staff. “As Ron and I have discovered, two people cannot pull off the Film Festival. It takes a village—in this case, the Beaufort community!”

Rebecca says that originally she was the main coordinator of the Film Festival’s volunteer workforce but it became too much for one person about six years ago, so they put out a call for help. She says they started with one volunteer to help coordinate, but for this year’s Film Festival, about a dozen Key Volunteer Coordinators will help manage the growing number of volunteers required for the Festival. “We are fortunate to have many repeat volunteers who have stepped into the position of Key Volunteer Coordinator and who assist in recruiting and training newbies for the Festival,” she added.

According to Rebecca, in 2014 the Festival needed about 60 volunteers, in 2015 approximately 75 volunteers and last year the Festival required 100 volunteers. But in 2017, about 150 volunteers will be needed, she says. “We decided to double the number of ushers this year, because they will have additional duties during the screenings of the films,” Rebecca stated. “Besides assisting patrons to their seats, they will ensure that the restrooms are orderly and the theater is neat, and count the number who attend each screening.”

Most of the volunteer opportunities are three-hour shifts. Volunteers help at the Opening Ceremony for 500 at Tabby Place by collecting tickets, bartending and bussing tables. Film screenings are held at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort Center for the Arts, where volunteers serve as greeters/Zip Code collectors, ticket sellers, ushers and Green Room attendants. At the Awards Ceremony, volunteers collect tickets, bartend, bus tables and pass hors d’oeuvres. To volunteer for the Film Festival, contact Michele Barker at decalverhall@yahoo.com.

“Our volunteers keep everything running smoothly at the Beaufort International Film Festival, year after year. The overall positive energy our volunteers bring to the event ensures that we have a memorable Film Festival for Beaufort,” Rebecca emphasizes. “Our volunteers are simply the best!”

What Key BIFF Volunteers Say About the Film Festival…

Michele Barker: BIFF Volunteer since 2012; from Charleston, SC and has lived in Beaufort since 2003.

“Until last year I did various jobs—greeting and zip code collection, ticket sales and ushering. Last year I became a Volunteer Coordinator to help fill the various volunteer slots and supervise the volunteers on site.”

“I’ve met some celebrities and filmmakers and seen some amazing films, but I’ve also gotten to know some very wonderful people here in Beaufort by working with them during the Festival. Rebecca and Ron are so encouraging and supportive and they listen to our ideas. It really is a team effort. Volunteering at BIFF is an opportunity to be a bit of an ambassador for Beaufort, to interact with people from all over the place, and to have a ton of fun. I like to think of it as my annual escape to “Hollywood” on a smaller scale!”

Rich Frerking: BIFF Volunteer for 5 years; from New York City and Long Island, NY and has lived in Beaufort since 2009.

“I’ve been involved in some fundraising, ushering and zip code collection for the Film Festival. I’ve enjoyed watching movies since I was about six years old and paid a quarter on Saturdays to watch a double feature. At home I have a pretty nice setup with a 120-inch screen and a collection of DVDs that is nearing 2,000 movies. So after I moved here and found there was a local film society, I sought them out and asked if I could be of some help and have tried to be useful ever since. As a result of volunteering, I’ve made some very good friends and have seen quite a few great films.”

Bunky Hanks: BIFF Volunteer for 7 years; from Hampton, SC and has lived in Beaufort for 24 years.

“I am responsible for getting the volunteers for bartending and serving. I’m not sure how many years I’ve been doing this, but it’s at least seven years and it’s something I’ve eagerly anticipated each year. Where else could I serve champagne to Vanna White or talk with Powers Boothe and his wife for 10 – 15 minutes? Working with the volunteers and Ron and Rebecca is one of the most rewarding and satisfying things I do.”

Bonnie Krstolic: BIFF Volunteer since 2009; moved to Beaufort from Cincinnati, OH in 1997.

“I’ve done a variety of jobs for the Film Festival—ticket sales, ushering, stuffing and delivering gift bags to filmmakers, serving appetizers, soliciting items for fundraising events, and distributing posters and BIFF information. This year I’m responsible, with another person, for recruiting 18 volunteers for the ‘Green Room,’ a space where the filmmakers and sponsors can relax and have refreshments.”

“The Film Festival has given me the opportunity to see how many hands are needed to make an event successful and the chance to give back to the town of Beaufort. It’s rewarding and exciting to see how much the Festival has grown since its inception and how hard Ron and Rebecca work to make it better every year. We also are blessed with wonderful sponsors who are significant to our success.”

Gwen Sager: BIFF Volunteer for 8 years; moved to Beaufort from New Jersey 10 years ago.

“I began to volunteer for the Film Festival as a fill-in wherever they needed me at the old movie theater on Lady’s Island—ticket sales, selling merchandise, usher. Now my husband Stan and I set up for the Opening Night and Awards Night festivities, and we still jump in where needed.”

“I enjoy the Film Festival immensely. I’ve made great friends (Ron and Rebecca, among others), seen some awesome films, met some wonderful and talented filmmakers, and increased my understanding and appreciation of filmmaking. I encourage everyone to come out to experience this incredible Festival. Once you ‘get a taste,’ you’ll be hooked—whether just enjoying the films or wanting to get more involved in behind-the-scenes activities. It brings the community together and showcases Beaufort hospitality and love of our town!”

Jenny Steadham: BIFF Volunteer since 2010; moved to Beaufort 10 years ago from Greenville, SC.

“I have been volunteering for the Film Festival for 8 years and currently work as one of the Volunteer Coordinators, which involves contacting, scheduling, and assisting volunteers during the Festival. It is gratifying to know that in some small way I have contributed to the cultural and economic growth of my community. Volunteering has also given me the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people. I am constantly amazed at the many talented people in the film industry, as well as those in our small town. By volunteering for the Film Festival, you can hopefully get the same feeling of community service, learn more about the film industry and Beaufort’s role in it, and have lots of fun doing it.”

Lorrie Stroud: BIFF Volunteer since 2010; moved to Beaufort in 2009 from Richmond, VA.

“I started as a volunteer for the Film Festival selling tickets to screenings and T-shirts. The last two years, I’ve been coordinating volunteers for the registration/check-in tables at the Opening Night Party and the Awards Ceremony. Volunteering for BIFF is a pleasure. It’s well planned down to the last detail. As a volunteer, you have everything you need to do a good job and contribute to a successful Film Festival. Ron and Rebecca do an outstanding job of making the volunteers feel appreciated and valued. I think that’s why the same volunteers come back year after year. It’s an honor and a joy to be a part of the Film Festival.”

For the very first time, the Beaufort Memorial Foundation is also offering a special party the night before the Valentine Ball.

Richard and Joyce Gray will serve as the Honorary Chairs for this premiere “Cocktail Affair,” delighted at the thought of the community coming together two nights in a row for such a meaningful cause.

“Both night’s events are going to be just beautiful,” promises Joyce.

Richard grew up in Beaufort and Joyce moved here after college to teach. All four of the Gray’s children and six of their grandchildren were born at Beaufort Memorial, so they appreciate how special it is to have a not-for-profit hospital serving the community.

“We are truly fortunate to have such a great hospital and staff,” says Richard.  “I sometimes think people don’t realize just how much can be done right here, close to family and close to home.  Our hospital also provides an incredible amount of charitable care for those who have nowhere else to turn, and everything they do helps to ensure the health of our entire community.”

Richard and Joyce have been an integral part of the hospital’s support network.  They were instrumental in helping to get the first Valentine Ball going 28 years ago and have since hosted many pre-Ball dinner parties in support of the Foundation.

“We’ve always enjoyed the Ball and this year we’re especially excited about the new event the night before,” said Joyce. “We hope that everyone will come out for a wonderful time and really make a weekend of it!”

This February, there are going to be some exciting new changes to the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Valentine Ball. Not only is there a brand-new venue at Tabby Place, in the heart of downtown, but for the very first time, the Foundation is also offering a special cocktail party the night before.

Attendees at the new Friday night “Cocktail Affair” will be able to get a first look at the always fabulous decorations and auction items while enjoying an open bar, plus a bourbon sampling and wine tasting, as well as elaborate hors d’oeuvres and live jazz from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

The 2017 co-hosts of the Ball – Chris and Amy Geier, along with Dr. Andrea Hucks and Dr. Dan Ripley – all have a long history of supporting the event and the Foundation. They’re especially delighted to announce that all of the weekend’s proceeds will benefit cancer services at Beaufort Memorial.

Now in its 28th year, the Foundation’s signature event has raised a total of nearly $4.4 million for the hospital, and this year’s contribution will continue the phenomenal level of philanthropic support that has underwritten half of Keyserling Cancer Center’s capital and equipment.

“We are a community-based hospital, and I don’t know if people really understand how rare or special that is these days,” says Andrea. “The fact that our hospital can deliver excellent medical care in this environment is amazing and ties directly into community support for the Foundation. It really does come down to neighbors taking care of neighbors.”

Guests who purchase tickets to the Valentine Ball before the January 12 RSVP deadline will also be invited to attend one of the privately-hosted dinner parties just before the Ball.

“The dinner parties are such a wonderful feature of the Ball,” says Amy. “They’re a great way to make new friends and see some really beautiful houses and venues, and the food is always fabulous.”

Andrea couldn’t agree more, as she and Dan have had the most wonderful fun hosting dinner parties for over 10 years now.

“It’s so special to open our home to people who are supporting the hospital, and it’s a really great way to meet new people” she said. “Dan is a tremendous cook and we spend a year planning the menu and wine list around a theme so that it’s different every time. We couldn’t enjoy it more!”

After dinner, guests will head to Tabby Place to dance the night away at the Valentine Ball, enjoying tiers of extravagant desserts and a fabulous silent auction, which will include mobile bidding for the first time ever.

“The new venue will set just the right tone for the pure grandeur of the Ball, but with a decidedly Lowcountry feel,” Andrea says. “It’s a wonderful time to come together as a community and have a fun night out.”

Tickets to the Valentine Ball and private dinner parties start at $150 per person and include several levels of sponsorships. Tickets to the Cocktail Affair the night before start at $75 per person with a discount for those wishing to “make a weekend of it” by attending both events. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit valentineball.org or call the Foundation at (843) 522-5774.

story by mary ellen thompson     photography by john wollwerth

No matter how old you are, what is Christmas without Santa Claus? Those who believe in him all have memories – of making your wish list, writing him letters, sitting on his lap, having your photo taken, leaving milk and cookies out, for him.

Jack Gannon has been Beaufort’s very own Santa Claus for nearly a quarter of a century. With his ebullient personality, and true love of the character, Jack donned his costume, gathered his elves and Mrs. Claus, and embodied one of the most iconic people who never actually lived.

Jack regales us with his story, “It all began in the most undramatic of ways, I answered an ad in the paper. Main Street Beaufort was looking for a new Santa Claus. It was 1993 and I was working at the Beaufort Gazette and thought a little extra money for Christmas would come in handy. So I turned in the application and a few months later they notified me that I had the job. I was Santa for Night on the Town, the Christmas Tree Lighting, the Christmas Parade, and on the other weekends I walked around town and talked to people. I had been in theater so it was easy to become a character. I became St. Nick, because the story of Santa Claus is derived from the Christian bishop Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children and sailors, who helped those in need and became legendary for his gift giving.”

After that first Christmas season was over, Jack returned his costume to Main Street Beaufort. The following fall, the director called and again asked Jack to be Santa. “1994 had a pivotal moment for me. I was walking down Bay Street in my costume when an elderly lady approached me and asked my name. It was the first time someone had asked me the name of the person under the suit and I wanted to stay in character, so I said ‘Nick’. She told me that her husband had just died and now she didn’t know what to do for Christmas. I told her to contact her children and tell them how she felt, that everything would work out. It was the first time an adult had approached me as Santa. The next year she found me on Bay Street and told me that as a result of my advice her children had all gotten together with her; she thanked me. That was when I realized that there’s more to being Santa than talking to children about what they want for Christmas.”

Also in 1994, Jack had an experience that led him to expand Santa’s coterie with his first elf. Walking down Bay Street, he leaned over to talk to children when two teenage boys ran past him and pulled his beard (which was attached around his head by an elastic band) down off his face. The children were shocked to see that Santa wasn’t really Santa. After that, Jack thought Santa needed a body guard so he added an elf whose job it was to keep an eye out for Santa and make sure all the children were seen because with the costume, the hat, hair and beard, it was sometimes difficult for Santa to see in all directions. The original beard was attached to the moustache, so you couldn’t see his mouth move when he laughed or talked. In the years to come, Jack acquired several Santa outfits and began glueing the beard and moustache directly to his face.

Jack reminisces, “I remember the first year, we were having the photos with Santa taken in Fordham’s Market. A couple in their early nineties walked in to get their photo taken. She was a southern belle, charming and gracious and beautifully dressed; he looked like an old grouch. He picked up a Rudolph doll from the set, sat down beside me and, with a straight face, said to the photographer, ‘Tell me when I’m happy.’ They were there because they wanted their grandchildren to know that they still believed in Santa Claus.”

Jack’s purview expanded when he was asked to be Santa on Fripp Island; he added another elf, got married in 1996 and then had a Mrs. in the Claus family. He found that worked well on many levels, one of which was that some of his young visitors preferred having their photo taken with an elf or Mrs. Claus. Jack officially retired as Santa at the end of the 2015 season but will be Santa one more time, signing his book’s cover as “Santa” at Frampton Plantation in Yemassee on December 10 from 10 – 2 for Toys for Tots. “I was a physically active Santa, I would get on the floor with kids and pets for photos but after twenty three years I found I could no longer meet the physical demands I had set for myself.”

“The main job of Santa is to always maintain the reality of the illusion. I always had a good time, no matter what. I did whatever it took to get that photo, even with the children who screamed and carried on; one year there was a photo in the newspaper of a little boy standing next in line with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face, the caption read ‘No, no, no, to ho, ho, ho!’ There were children in the military who would ask me to let their mommies or daddies come home safely, or to fly over them in foreign countries to make sure they were safe, instead of wanting a present for themselves.”

Perhaps the most poignant Santa memory that Jack holds is the time his father got to see him be Santa. When Jack graduated from Winthrop University in 1983, his mother had recently had a stroke, so Jack came home to Beaufort to help his dad take care of her. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have been here to be Santa. Dad spent all his time at home with her, so after she passed on he was able to come to town and get his first, and only, photo taken with Santa.

“Santa is here to remind us what Christmas is all about. I always say ‘Merry Christmas’ not ‘happy holidays’; you just can’t take the Christ out of Christmas. When people tell me they celebrate and open their gifts on Christmas Eve, I tell them to save one gift to open Christmas day because we all get one perfect gift on Christmas day.”

Jack tells a charming story about how he met, and subsequently proposed to, Mrs. Claus, aka Mendy. They were both auditioning for roles in “M*A*S*H” at Beaufort Little Theater and met on stage in their respective roles, he as Trapper John and she as Nurse Bridget. One day when Mendy was coming home from teaching fifth grade, she sat with her mother and grandmother on the porch when they noticed a blue light flashing on a Sheriff’s deputy car accompanying Jack’s car down the street. Jack’s car had affixed to it a banner that read, “Mendy, will you marry me?” He smiles at the memory and explains, “I had told her that when I proposed I would not say a word. She couldn’t figure out how that was going to happen.”

To ease the transition away from being Santa, Jack wrote “I Walked in Santa’s Boots” which was released this November. A compilation in scrapbook format with lots of photos and letters to Santa and other fun bits of memorabilia; Jack says it is his thank you to the community. He describes it as “a historical autobiography of a fictional character by a real person.”

But this isn’t the first book Jack has authored. As a matter of fact, he and his writing partner, Cyndi Williams Barnier, have co-authored several books, with a few more to be released soon. When Jack and Cyndi were best friends at Beaufort High, they thought they would write the next great American novel together after they graduated from college. Their plans got twisted by fate and they lost track of each other for thirty-two years until they found each other on Facebook. They got together for dinner with their respective spouses, found they were each retired, and finally started writing together. The same characters they had envisioned back in high school came to life. “Murder in Two’s and Three’s” debuted in 2011 and is the first of the action, adventure, murder and suspense “Task Force Series” novels.  “Dawn of the Living Ghost,” the first of “The InSpectre Series” which are stories of fantasy, paranormal and supernatural, was published in 2015.

“Cyndi and I weren’t meant to write after high school, it wasn’t our time yet even though we were often just a few feet apart. It took thirty-two years for us to come back together as writers. Was that coincidence, providence, destiny? Yes. And the timing coincided just as our other careers ended.” “Walking in Santa’s Boots” is their eighth collaboration to date.