Hollywood Comes to the Mountain
by Amie Rodgers
On October 11 – 14, the red carpet will be rolled out at Village 8 Theater in Pinetop for the White Mountains’ inaugural film festival: Show Low Film Festival. Now you might be scratching your head as to why the Show Low Film Fest is being held in Pinetop, but as it turns out, there is a White Mountain Film Festival held every year in New Hampshire so the domain name and other such things were unavailable. This mystery and others were solved when I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Martina Webster of Darmar Production who along with fellow producers Stephany Borders and Dalea Faulkner, local theater owner Teddy Croney, Doc Skinner, Jesse Valencia and an all star cast of local talent is bringing a real Hollywood experience to our hometown.
As producer, director and owner of Show Low Film Festival Martina has had many years of experience in event planning as well as festival operations. She co-produced the 2015 and 2016 Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema in Southern California and and she co-produced the music video for the feature film title song The Wind of Heaven sung by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues along with Trinity Houston & David Minasian, and is one of the producers of the feature The Wind of Heaven. She is currently the producer on the film Turnover (www.turnovermovie.com) featuring Down Syndrome and Deaf actors.
“I got into the film industry when I had a dance studio in California. Some of the children wanted to be in the movies. There was a lot of misinformation out there and people ripping folks off with $1,000 portfolios for children whose look is going to change tomorrow. I have also staged a lot of beauty pageants. I worked for Miss California and in television,” notes Martina, “When we decided to move in search of a little bit quieter life (or so I thought), we really fell in love with this area. Once I got to know some people here, I was approached to put on a film festival. I was a little apprehensive at first, but decided it was a good idea because it would help bring film makers up here, which would boost the economy. They have to eat, they have to sleep, etc. It is gorgeous here and a perfect backdrop for westerns and period pieces. You couldn’t ask for a bigger area that is relatively unknown. So many people think Arizona is just a hot desert with maybe the exception of Flagstaff.”
As a new concept to our area, I asked Martina what we could expect at a film festival. “A film festival is a venue that offers Indie film makers a platform to show their films. Eventually, as the event grows, it could become a platform from which they can also sell their films to distribution companies like Netflix or Amazon. It is a bit ambitious to think we will have them all the first year, but that is the goal,” smiles Martina, “What is really fantastic is the partnership we have with Teddy from White Mountain Theaters. She has always been very supportive of independent film makers. Having your film shown on the big screen is something that most film festivals can’t offer to all the films. So, this is really an incredible opportunity.”
A virtual Disneyland for film buffs, this event will feature more than 50 films and ample opportunities to meet the directors and actors. “Being the first time, I didn’t think we would get as many entries as we did. To entice a film maker to come to Show Low to show their film at their own expense (flight, lodging, food, etc), I thought it would be more of a challenge. So, I was quite impressed when we were able to accept more than 50 films. We have approximately 8 films that we are screening that are projects that I selected from friends in the industry so they are not competing, just being screened,” says Martina, “Anyone with a film festival pass can come and watch the films being screened Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The films range from shorts to to full features. The films are not rated so it is going to be a
slightly different experience for people. I am sure there are going to be movies that not everyone likes, but they can always get up and check out what is playing across the hall. We are also going to try to play trailers throughout so people can have more of an idea of what they are seeing. The content ranges across a wide variety of current topics like Alzheimer’s to spousal abuse or suicide or bullying… you name it, it’s there.”
In addition to enjoying the movies themselves, this is the ultimate opportunity to get ‘behind the scenes’ just short of joining a production crew. “The great thing about a film festival is that you might see a film and be able to meet the director or actors and next year, the film might make it big and you can say you knew them when. Every session has Q and A time. You can meet them in the hallways, have pictures taken with them and get autographs. Whatever people think Hollywood is at a film festival, it all comes true in a way,” smiles
Martina, “We will have a number of very influential people and the possibility of a number of actors coming. It is hard to name names with actors because you can never be sure. If they get a job the week before, they have to go where the money is. So, they will be announced online as they get here. We are thrilled to have Honorary Chairs like Director of the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media Matthew Earl Jones coming as well as the distinct possibility of Prince Mario Max, German Royal and Hollywood Who’s Who. His appearance means worldwide press for our area.”
Martina may be a veteran of the movie industry, but as a fairly new White Mountain resident, she has been impressed by the level of local support. “We have enjoyed some really great support from the community. We have a number of restaurants and hotels that are offering a discount with a film festival pass and we are listing them on our website. We are offering affordable ad space in our program, which is a high quality collector’s item if you have it signed by the directors and actors. We will be handing out 100 swag bags and it is a great opportunity for local artists and establishments to get their name out to people. There is no charge to be included, but we are only accepting higher end giveaways and coupons. We don’t want to weigh down the bags with 50 promotional pens,” says Martina with a chuckle, “We also really appreciate in-kind donations like meals and appetizers for the judges and VIPs. Whatever I can do to barter, trade, promote each other and make it easier for everyone, I am thrilled to do it.”
For more information about passes (locals get a special discounted rate), bios, trailers and schedule, please visit www.showlowfilmfestival.com. For up to the minute updates, check out Showlowfilmfestival on Facebook. To become a sponsor, please call Martina at (951) 249-5963.