Celebrities and filmmakers walking the red carpet surrounded by flashing cameras; awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor and Actress being presented to elated winners in a packed theater; gala parties with crowds mingling and enjoying scrumptious
food and champagne—is this Hollywood or Cannes? Guess again—this is Beaufort!
Between Charleston and Savannah along South Carolina’s coast, the small town of Beaufort may seem like an unlikely venue for an international film festival, but Beaufort is fertile ground for cinema and the arts. Forrest Gump, The Big Chill, The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, and Forces of Nature are just a few of the many major motion pictures filmed in and around Beaufort in recent years. Since 2007, the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF), the brainchild and passion of founders Ron and Rebecca Tucker, has recognized aspiring filmmakers in all categories of cinematography.
This year, the 9th annual BIFF will be held February 11 – 15 at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort (USCB) Center for the Arts. Considered one of the fastest growing film festivals in the southeast, it was named one of the Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World in 2013 by MovieMaker Magazine. The 2015 festival will showcase 32 independent films and seven screenplays chosen from a field of international entries—coming from places as far-flung as Rome, London, Toronto, Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and as nearby as Savannah, Columbia, Greenville, Charleston and St. Helena Island.
Among this year’s selections are some films that will be South Carolina premiers. “We’ve had a film premier and win here, then go on to screen at the Cannes Film Festival!” exclaims Ron. The 32 films to be screened at this year’s festival represent diverse storylines; here’s just a sampling:
• The Lengths, a feature film — “… It’s a love triangle turned emotional horror story.”
• Cotton Road, a documentary — “… Cotton Road follows the commodity of cotton from South Carolina farms to Chinese factories, to illuminate the work and processes in a global supply chain.”
• In an Ideal World, a documentary — “Follow three men over seven years inside a California prison as they struggle to survive and change, themselves as well as their brutal environment…”
• Grounded, an animation — “The story of a baby elephant who wants to jump like the other animals—the only problem is elephants are the only mammals who cannot (jump).”
Visit the Beaufort International Film Festival website (www.beaufortfilmfestival.com) to view the 2015 film screening schedule, read synopses of the films, and watch trailers for many of this year’s selections.
An opening-night reception at the Old Bay Marketplace Rooftop on Wednesday, February 11 will welcome filmmakers who attend the 2015 festival. The event will be a great opportunity for festivalgoers to meet the featured filmmakers and to socialize, amidst the backdrop of a garden party in the Old South, complete with hanging moss, benches and rockers.
On Thursday, February 12, a wine and cheese reception will be held at 7 p.m. at the USCB Center for the Arts before a Screenwriters Workshop and Table Read begins at 7:30 p.m. Those who attend will hear local actors read selected passages from several screenplays featured at the film festival.
On Saturday, February 14, the final evening of the festival, a star-studded cocktail hour at the USCB Center for the Arts will precede the much anticipated awards ceremony. Guests will enjoy champagne and delicious food by local chef Debbi Covington, while mingling with filmmakers, celebrities, and stars including Andie MacDowell and Pat Conroy. If history repeats itself, you may even see Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler at the soiree!
This year, award categories include Features, Documentaries, Short Films, Student Films, Screenplays, Animation, and Audience Choice. And for the first time, an award will be presented for Best Comedy. “Seven comedies will be screened at this year’s festival and everyone—including Rebecca and I—will be waiting to learn which film wins the award. That’s because the Best Comedy will be determined by the votes of audience members who attend the comedy screenings,” says Ron. At the awards ceremony, winners also will be named for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director, and two special awards will be presented—the Spirit & Pride of South Carolina and Behind the Scenes awards.
Spirit & Pride of South Carolina Award
“We are thrilled and honored to announce that movie and television star, model and native South Carolinian Andie MacDowell will be the first recipient of the newly established Spirit & Pride of South Carolina Award at the 9th annual Beaufort International Film Festival,” beams Ron. Ms. MacDowell, originally from Gaffney, S.C., will receive the award from internationally recognized best-selling author and Beaufort resident Pat Conroy. This new award recognizes a person who is native to, or who is a current resident of South Carolina and whose career achievements in the industries of film, television or music reflect positively on themselves and the state of South Carolina. Among Ms. MacDowell’s film credits are: Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Short Cuts, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Ground Hog Day.
Behind the Scenes Award
This year’s Behind the Scenes Award in Location Management will be presented to Steve Rhea, a native of Charleston, S.C. who earned a B.A. in History and a Master of Media Arts degree from the University of South Carolina. His career as a location professional spans four decades and includes more than two-dozen feature films and television movies, along with hundreds of national and international commercials and photo shoots. “Steve Rhea is best known as a feature location scout and manager whose artistic vision and intimate knowledge of the historic locales of Charleston have earned him international accolades. His lasting legacy, though, could well be his contributions to establishing a dynamic film industry in South Carolina and helping to make the state a film production center with an international reputation for excellence. He’s worked to achieve this by drawing attention to South Carolina’s talented crew base and emerging vendors, while actively recruiting and producing commercials, music videos, documentaries and catalogs,” says Ron.
A Winning Formula
The success of BIFF is not due to glitz and glamor. Ron attributes the popularity and growth of the festival to its reputation among the filmmaking community and fans.
“Filmmakers and movie fans tell us they really like the format of our festival because all of the films are screened under one roof at the USCB Center for the Arts—not at several venues like many other festivals,” Ron says. “That gives filmmakers and audiences the opportunity to see every film being presented at the festival—there’s no conflict among the various screenings. Being in one place also allows filmmakers to network with each other
and audiences, and to see their competitors’ films.”
“Our film festival offers other advantages that the filmmakers and audiences appreciate. For instance, we begin screenings of films exactly when the printed schedule says they will begin and after each screening, the filmmaker is allotted 15 minutes to interact with the audience during a question and answer session,” explains Ron.
While the number of films submitted for consideration each year has remained fairly constant at between 130 and 200, Ron says due to the growing popularity of the festival, the quality of films submitted has continually gotten higher. At the Beaufort International Film Festival, you’ll experience a diverse array of well made, thought provoking, and entertaining films and you’ll meet some filmmakers that you might not have heard about yet—but you will be hearing about them in the years to come!
2015 Beaufort International Film Festival Schedule of Events
• Wednesday, February 11: Filmmakers Opening Night Reception, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Old Bay Marketplace Rooftop.
• Thursday, February 12: Film screenings take place between 9 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., when the last film will begin. Wine and Cheese Reception at the USCB Center for the Arts at 7 p.m., followed by a Screenwriters Workshop and Table Read at 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, February 13: Film screenings begin at 9 a.m., with the final film starting at 9 p.m.
• Saturday, February 14: Film screenings begin at 9 a.m., with the final film starting at 2:10 p.m. Awards Ceremony Cocktail Hour at 7 p.m. at USCB Center for the Arts (Champagne included; catered by Debbi Covington). Awards Presentation at 8 p.m. Film Festival Tickets and Beaufort Film Society Membership
You have several choices to purchase your 2015 film festival tickets (all event passes, day passes, and single film tickets, as well as special event tickets):
• Online at the BIFF website (www.beaufortfilmfestival.com)
• At Beaufort Film Society’s office located at 308 Charles St., Beaufort, S.C.,
• At the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, 713 Craven St., Beaufort, S.C.
• At the door
Joining the Beaufort Film Society (www.beaufortfilmsociety.org) has several benefits—you’ll be supporting the Beaufort International Film Festival, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; you’ll receive discounts on your film festival tickets; and you’ll enjoy discounted ticket prices to movies at the Plaza Stadium Theater in Beaufort.
Story by CAROL LAUVRAY