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How to Break into Film in Farmington Valley Like Simsbury's Jacob Bittens

Avon filmmaker Brian Spectre and Canton's Evan Camporeale locals talk about the upcoming Farmington Valley Film Commission Film Fete & Mixer and their films made right here.

Hearing about Avon actor in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises was pretty cool, right?

How many times do you go to a movie and think, "I wish I could do that"?

It turns out that you can and you don't have to look further than the Farmington Valley. In fact, you can watch some locally produced short films, trailers and music videos — no more than 15 minutes in length — at the Farmington Valley Film Commission 3rd Annual Film Fete & Mixer on Friday. The films featured were all shot in Avon, Burlington, Canton, East Granby, Farmington, Granby, New Hartford, and/or Simsbury.

The venue is just minutes away from the Avon town line at Collinsville's on 41 Bridge St. — a platinum sponsor for the event, along with , of Simsbury, and , of Avon.

The event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. with the musical entertainment of singer-songwriter Cassandra Kubinski, who also plays keyboard. There will be a cash bar.

Film screenings begin at 8 p.m., emceed by Chion Wolf, a WNPR radio personality on The Colin McEnroe Show and Farmington native.

The commission, a nonprofit that "facilitates the production of film, television, commercials and advertising" in the region, according to its website, is largely to thank for a push to draw filmmakers to the region. In addition to fostering a local creative network, it provides information for filmmakers on its website like film permit costs and local resources from actors and filmmakers to businesses.

"We want to bring people into the Farmington Valley to film and show them we have talented people here," said Avon resident Nancy Anstey, who co-founded the commission with Elizabeth Banco, of Simsbury, about three-and-a-half years ago.

Filmmakers from the Valley and as far as California have contacted the commission about their projects, Anstey said. 

Brian Spectre, Doug Tubach, Steve Emirzian and Rob Hyner judged the submissions for the film festival and decided which ones to accept, Anstey said. The amount of film submissions have grown since receiving nine the first year.

Avon resident Sean Stall, of Avon-based post-production studio Ironik Design & Post, Inc., put the film submissions onto a final DVD for the screening, Anstey said. 

The event costs $20 for adults and $15 for students. Tickets can be purchased online at www.41bridgestreet.com or via phone. 860-676-8878.

Avon Patch talked to some of the local filmmakers about their films, why the Farmington Valley is ideal for filmmaking and the advice they have about breaking into the industry.

AVON

Brian Spectre

Take Avon's Brian Smith, known as Brian Spectre in the film world, for instance. When you can't go all the way to Hollywood to get your start, why not bring Hollywood to Avon and the Valley? Spectre, who owns Avon-based Atlantian Films, is working on a science fiction feature film called that will meld some Hollywood camerawork and acting with local film talent.

An article from a local publication about a trailer for the original independent version of the film shown at last year's Farmington Valley film fete caught the eye of an employee at Enfield-based Worldwide Asset Group, now a financier for the project. The film will be likely be reshot in Avon, the Farmington Valley, Connecticut and elsewhere.

This year, Spectre's low-budget extended trailer for Vigilante, Inc., a television series concept he's working on, is on the film fete program. Spectre acts alongside Steve Emirzian, of Canton, Craig and Kerry Murphy, of West Hartford, Christina Dufour, of Plainville, and Laurie, Austin and Brooke Ferguson, of New Hartford, in the five-minute trailer. 

He said that they are shopping it to cable television networks.

In Vigilante, Inc., three former special-ops marines discharged from service grow restless as civilians, sick of drug lords, terrorists and other criminals getting away with evil. Much like Batman and other comic hero lore but without the superhero powers, they team up to battle criminals when law enforcement and the justice system can't, Spectre said. He described it as a "rated R A-Team kind of thing."

When a journalist is taken hostage overseas and the United States won't negotiate with her terrorist captors, a billionaire hires the team and equips them with the technology needed to rescue her and take out the bad guys, according to Spectre.

Spectre, who watches a lot of broadcast news when he's not working, said that he grew sickened with the bad things people get away with. He cited the outcome of the Casey Anthony trial as an example.

"Half of the injustice is how the justice system isn't just all the time," he said.

Collinsville's Tubach, who freelances at San Francisco-based Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and most recently did visual effects work on The Avengers, filmed part of the Vigilante, Inc. trailer and is involved in the visual effects for Mindscapes.

Atlantian Films also filmed local artist Bill Benson performing Rodeo Cowboy on Sam Collins Day last year and helped him produce a countrymusic video that will screened at the film fete.

Why film in the Farmington Valley?

"I just think there's a vast amount of terrain to use," Spectre said, such as "great foliage," mountainous areas" and "beautiful lakes and rivers."

There are also creative ways to make use of what's in the region. For instance, he used Dunning Sand & Gravel in Farmington as the setting for desert scenes in Vigilante, Inc.

And when you need a scene in the city, Spectre said Connecticut has a wealth of cities that aren't as "crazy" as New York City. Film permits are also cheaper and Connecticut gives 30 percent tax breaks to filmmakers.

"The Valley is a really great place to film in general because you’re right in the middle of everything without having to go too far," he said.

How Spectre got into Film

As it so happens, music is what got Spectre into film. Spectre, a former studio drummer, worked as a sound engineer on everything from music productions to cat food commercials. Surrounded by filmmakers, he grew interested in all the elements of telling a story, from sound to image. He did mostly music videos in the beginning and later moved onto documentaries and now feature films. He has been making films, long and short, for at least 20 years.

Spectre's advice for breaking into film

  • "The first thing I would say is have fun," he said, adding that if it's about the money, "don't do it."
  • Instead of going to an expensive film school, go to a bookstore and buy a book about filmmaking, Spectre said. That will teach you the basics you need to get started. He recommends $30 Film School  by Michael W. Dean and Make Your Own Hollywood Movie by Ed Gaskell. There are also online courses you can take.
  • Start learning on low-budget equipment.

CANTON

Evan Camporeale

Canton's Evan Camporeale, a rising college sophomore who just transferred to the University of Rhode Island, produced a time lapse video short called that will open the film fete. It is set in the Farmington Valley to the music of The Cinematic Orchestra. A preview of the film is posted on the film fete event page on the commission's website.

"Since the only requirements were to shoot partially in the Farmington Valley, I figured why not try and put the valley itself on display for people to see how beautiful of a place it really is," Camporeale wrote in an email to Avon Patch. "I fell in love with some time lapses that I had seen online of places such as Yosemite, Moab, and Patagonia, and always wanted to do my own, and this gave me a perfect opportunity."

You'll recognize images of Avon Old Farms, the old Collinsville axe factory, Simsbury Commons and the largest Connecticut tree in Simsbury.

His film school short, Why Me? – about a girl who comes to grip with herself after struggling through problems that many face and finds the strength within – will be screened at the film fete Friday, as well as a music video he produced called, Cinematropolis.

He previously submitted the music video to a Blue Scholars short film contest that sought filmmakers to develop videos incorporating their album, Cinematropolis. Drawing from the themes of the title song, he and his friends made a street mural of the album cover and shot the music video outside of Downright Music in Collinsville.

Why film in the Farmington Valley?

Camporeale said the Valley has a robust arts scene, describing it as diverse and full of stories. Through a network of local talent, Camporeale said he's learned a lot and enjoys working with "creative and open minds."

How Camporeale got into film

Camporeale's passion for photography transitioned into a knack for moving pictures. He said he was exposed to cameras and editing at a young age and he loves film because he can control what the audience sees. Some of his work will soon be featured in "clips" at New York City's Times Square.

Camporeale's advice for breaking into film:

  • "My advice for people trying to get into film, is to just film anything and everything," Camporeale said. I used to get laughed at for shooting footage of certain things, and heck I'll be the first to admit it can look quite stupid sometimes, but now after seeing some of my work when people see me filming something that most people normally wouldn't they'll come up to me and ask me what my next project is or how to shoot something themselves and it's the coolest respect that I couldn't be more appreciative of."
  • "Capturing a scene for what it is and not trying to make too much of it is also something I learned along the way, taking in as many perspectives as possible," he said. "Open mindedness is key. Filmmakers aren't just visual creators, but we are storytellers first and foremost. 

Film Fete Program:

Evan Camporeale's The Valley will open the festival.

  • Bill Benson, produced by Atlantian Films: Rodeo Cowboy (music video)
  • Alex Hyner: The Pitch
  • Brian Spectre and Atlantian Films: Vigilante, Inc. (extended trailer)
  • John Galvin: Priced to Sell (extended trailer)
  • Evan Camporeale: Why Me? (short film)
  • Alex Fuller: Brian Spectre: Then & Now (short doc)
  • Jacob Bittens: A Little Dream (short film)
  • Neal Thomasson: music video
  • Jeff Schlicter: Bach & Forth (short film)
  • Jay Jurgen: Overdue (short film)
  • Evan Camporeale: Cinematropolis (music video)
  • Alex Sauerbrunn: Somnium (short film)
  • Katrin Dauria: After (short film)
  • Sherril Jones: Safe Haven (short doc)
  • Richard Pelzar: RC Murals (time-lapse short)

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