The Twin Rivers Media Festival is Not Your Typical Film Festival

The Twin Rivers Media Festival is the first weekend in May every year in Asheville, NC. All proceeds from the festival, after promotional and other expenses, go back to the film makers and media artists. Next year is Twin Rivers Media Festival’s 15th season.

The festivals judges begin selecting films in March and April and continue right through the festival’s official dates, during the first weekend in May, where the finalists are screened in two hour intervals throughout the weekend. The independent media festival typically draws around 150 viewers at each screening or so, for a total of over a thousand or so visitors overall. “The Twin Rivers audience really appreciates the media arts, and this festival gives them a chance to see stuff that might not otherwise be available. We get entries from all across Europe and Asia, as well as all over the Americas, and it’s some of the best in the world,” says Carlos Steward, the festivals founder and driving force.

With 400-500 entries coming in from some of the best independent media artists working all over the world, Twin Rivers focuses on substance instead of glitz, and strives to be more eclectic than the typical film festival. In addition to featuring some of the best independent documentaries, short drama and feature films being made anywhere in the world today, The Twin Rivers Media Festival also offers categories for artists working in CD multimedia, audio media, commercials, internet media and websites. There are even special categories such as “Made on a Mac,” or for projects that deal with outdoor, conservation or environmental themes.

Over the years, Twin Rivers and its predecessors have become extremely popular with independent artists on the West Coast and in film schools. A majority of the US entries come from California, followed by film schools such as NYU and Florida State, then the Southwest. Accomplished professional artists will often be invited to talk about their work and teach workshops. Among students and local budding artists, education is a major draw to the festival. Film makers and other media artist can network, talk about projects and exchange ideas in a supportive setting.

Stewards love of the media arts goes far beyond just film, and he wanted to make his festival more inclusive and open to any media arts. “These art forms are so similar and inter-related,” observes Steward, ” I wanted to do more for independent artists creating amazing work in media besides film.” In the early 80’s, Stewards vision was realized, and a media festival in upstate New York was born. Since then, he has been involved in festivals in states across the country, and most recently has settled in Asheville, North Carolina, where the Twin Rivers Media Arts Festival continues to grow and expand. “Asheville has an amazing community who are very supportive of independent media,” says Steward, “It allows great exposure for artists from the U.S. and other parts of the world.”

As a film student at Florida State University and a documentary film maker in Mexico and Central and South America, Steward learned first hand how difficult it is to get independent film to audiences. “Underground media festivals are a great way to get things shown that normally would not be seen by a very wide audience. That’s where the idea for creating my own film festival began, and this current incarnation here in Asheville is the best so far. “

Asheville offers other advantages, in that although the festival celebrates art from all around the globe, the entire event is organized and produced with local talent. Film judges belong to and are credentialed by MAP (the Media Arts Project) of Western North Carolina. Judges for audio and screen writing come from various professional studios in and around Asheville. Steward believes Asheville to be the perfect community to produce a grassroots media arts festival. “I have been all over the world, and Asheville has one of the most amazing pools of local talent I have ever seen,” notes Steward. He tries to involve as many local artists as possible to ensure that the festival has a true community feel and has many art forms represented.

With 102 World Premiers and 8 North American premiers, the Twin Rivers Media Festival provides some of the best independent screenings to be found anywhere. Jamie Hester, a fan of the festival and regular at The Courtyard Gallery’s Friday night “World Cinema” series commented on some of his favorite entries from last year: “I really enjoyed ‘Fix’ by Tao Ruspoli, and ‘Karearea’ by Sandy Crichton was amazing.” Jarrett Leone, a Twin Rivers volunteer noted, “I liked ‘Camp Woz,’ by Jarrad Kritzstein, and not just because of the name. I also really loved ‘Ancestor Eyes’ by Kalani Queypo, the Native American film maker from California.”

The Twin Rivers Media Festival is not your typical film festival. This amazing showcase of some of the brightest international media artists manages to deliver world class talent without being the least bit pretentious. No Hollywood starlets walking down red carpets into fancy screening venues here. At The Courtyard Gallery, home of The Twin Rivers Media Festival, you are more likely to find yourself in a cozy chair or couch surrounded by one of the most diverse collections of work by local and international visual artists, or sit out in the courtyard itself and enjoy the secluded outdoor screening area.

There are a multitude of reasons artists choose to enter Twin Rivers. Many are interested in the highly popular film categories such as feature film, documentary or short drama. This gives competitive film makers a chance to see how their project stacks up against 100-200 entries from some of the worlds best. Other categories are less competitive than other festivals, and draws entrants who may feel they have a better chance to garner rewards for their work. The top placing winners receive a unique hand-made trophy or plaque made by Mexican artist Cynlos.

Although Twin Rivers is a Labor of Love, and consumes most of Steward’s time from March to early May, he believes it’s well worth it. “Getting a really outstanding entry from an unknown film maker just blows everyone away. This year, one of these was ‘Rabia’ a student film by Muhammad Ali Hasan, about a young Islamic women that straps explosives around her waist and then shows her previous life in flashbacks. It is an amazing little film. Film makers and media artists need audiences to appreciate the enormous work that goes into their projects. Some of these projects are labors of love that can take a decade to make. Being able to bring these products to an appreciative audience is really a wonderful thing to see.”

New Documentary Film Is an Oscar Hopeful

Due for release in eighteen months the film is called Olympia, after her grandmother. Samar says, “I titled the film after my grandmother because she was one of the women that left Lebanon during WW1. The Ottoman Empire at that time gave permission for the women and children to leave, but needed the men to stay behind to fight the war and work in the mountains of Turkey.” The one and a half hour documentary is about the early Lebanese immigration to the United States, during 1850-1914, and the women who became the heroes of this effort. It will be a mixture of true life stories and a drama filled documentary. Samar says this film has always been her passion to make and she hopes the film will change her life and influence the Lebanese community. She says, “this film will take eighteen months to film as it’s a very rich documentary and there is a lot of information to cover.”

Samar has been a United Nations news correspondent for the past 5 years and covers the issues discussed in meetings at the Security Council, especially regarding the crisis in the Middle East. Samar plans for her new documentary to be shown to Lebanese students as an educational tool and to the wider Lebanese community throughout the world. She plans on leaving journalism one day to become a screen writer on movies. She feels movies and documentaries are more of a mirror on the people and she gets frustrated with the politics at the United Nations sometimes. She would rather tell the truth to her audience and feels America is a great place to make a movie, in which she can reveal the trials, tribulations and accomplishments of her community and people.

Samar travels to Lebanon twice a year and feels so blessed to have such a warm family there. She feels passionately about her country and says they give her energy and the love of life and laughter she has always enjoyed. She wants to give back by sharing this documentary, which primarily outlines the life of her grandparent’s family, but says they are an example of what so many other families experienced during the same period. The documentary is a personal account but also a historical reference of what was going on in Lebanon at the time. Samar says, “my grandmother came to the United States and never again had a chance to return to Lebanon for a visit, and I feel that is a tragedy. The immigration rules were tightened so only half the family was allowed entry, therefore cousins and relatives were separated by the Ocean. Her two children became doctors in Texas so contributed greatly to the community and got to live the American dream.” Filming will take place in Lebanon and the East Coast of the United States, as most of the Lebanese community that immigrated here settled in this region of the country.

Samar will be directing some of the scenes herself as she has extensive TV experience, but is also working with another two directors in Lebanon and New York. Filming has already begun on scenes about a peddler woman and depicting the arrival of Lebanese people at Ellis Island. One of the first recorded arrivals there being Tanios Bachaalani, a Lebanese Christian from the Mount of Lebanon. Samar says special music is being written especially for the film and will feature the Nay and Bouzouki, as these were the only two instruments used at that time. She is also being very hands on in the research she is conducting for this project, consulting with professors and experts on the subject at the History Faculty of the Lebanese University in Beirut. As well as this she is working with professors from North Carolina and two Research Centers that specialize in the early immigration to the United States of the Lebanese community. For the past four months she has been reading a thesis and multiple books on the subject as she wants it to be as historically accurate as possible. She also regularly visits the New York Public Library to check the old Syrian newspapers published in the US during that time period, and feels she has gathered a wealth of information so far.

Samar’s enthusiasm and dedication for this project ensures its success and she can’t wait to share it with the Lebanese community and the world at large. If you wish to learn more about this project or feel you have information to contribute, please contact the writer for Samar’s direct contact information.

Flexible Alternatives For Film Schools

Louisville and its surrounding areas are rich in programs and opportunities when it comes to the movie business – so it pays to scout for Louisville film schools there. There are local universities that have communication classes that are broadcast-oriented and there are those that actually specialize in the arena of moviemaking. For example, a bachelor’s degree in Communication is offered by the University of Louisville – and there is emphasis on media internship. You can also take your master’s degree there – such a degree focuses on public relations and mass media.

The University of Louisville is not alone in their communication programs, either. Firstly, there’s Spalding University and its Master of Science in Business Communication – a degree that merges the technical facets of communication with business training. Bellarmine University provides a more well-rounded training, with studies of media and society, public speaking as well as communications theories. Webster University offers flexible classes that meet one day in a week or on weekdays to fit around busy schedules, and takes pride in master’s degrees for media communications, with specialties in management, public relations, as well as advertising.

If you are interested in following a more technical route and prefer classes in videography, sound engineering, other similar jobs in film, then you must probably pursue a technical degree instead. Louisville has loads to offer too. Career programs in graphic design, web development and other relevant skills are provided by Sullivan College of Technology and Design. Then there is a non-profit organization that swore to help promote film arts, the Louisville Film Arts Institute.

The primary drawback of following the schooling option is that it can be limiting in the kind of classes you can take, and many might not deal specifically with the skills you want to learn to penetrate particular areas of the movie business. It’s a great thing that you’re not left without an alternative – you can tap schools that provide private internship with actual industry professionals. There are small and big enterprises that provide this type of training. This is where the Film Connection is most useful. The Film Connection has practical internship programs that put students under the tutelage of real industry experts, in local areas such as the amazing Louisville.

One of the benefits offered by the mentorship programs at the Film Connection is the flexibility in schedule. You’ll also benefit from the experience of someone who works in the movie industry right now and understands many aspects of the job that classes alone cannot teach. And because the entertainment business is a very competitive field, it pays to have extra knowledge. Go online to know more about Louisville film schools.