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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Local industry keeps Tucson film community alive

    Tucson has a long history of film beginning with the inception of the motion picture in the 1920s. Its proximity to the industry in Los Angeles and varying looks made for an ideal setting for filmmakers.

    The city’s popularity spiked after 1939, when a sprawling set for the movie “Arizona” was built in Tucson. Old Tucson Studios began as a replica of 1860s Tucson, and additional sets were built to accommodate more filming ventures, gaining attention in the ’50s with increase in popularity of the Western film. It remains a tourist attraction and filming location to this day.

    “It became the place to go if you were filming a Clint Eastwood Western or a John Wayne Western, Paul Newman, even up until the last couple decades when ‘Tombstone’ was filmed here,” said Tucson Film Office director Shelli Hall.

    Hall works with the Tucson Film Office to attract filmmakers to Tucson, which she explained has become more difficult over the past five years after the 2010 expiration of Arizona’s Motion Picture Production Tax Incentive Program.

    Incentive programs are a draw for large movie productions that now choose to film in states like New Mexico for the tax breaks, Hall explained.

    “An incentive program is an investment by the state,” she said. “You have to invest in the program, and that’s what New Mexico has been doing, and Louisiana and several other states in the country.”

    Despite financial straits, the Tucson community has continued to embrace and foster a local industry for film through festivals, independent theatres and stores, and offerings through the UA School of Theatre, Film and Television.

    For the first time, eight local and well-loved film festivals will be curating their favorite works into one large festival this year. The inaugural Tucson Festival of Films will take place Oct. 8-10 at the Temple of Music and Art and will feature one to two films from each festival.

    “It’s an opportunity for audience members to come to one venue and have a taste of all these film festivals over the course of one extended weekend,” said Kerryn Negus, co-producer of the Tucson Festival of Films.

    Negus said she thinks students will especially enjoy a horror-comedy film that will be screened in conjunction with the Tucson Terrorfest called “I Survived a Zombie Holocaust.” The movie’s screening will take place Saturday, Oct. 10, on the same night as the annual Zombie Walk downtown. The festival’s full lineup of films will be released in August.

    One featured festival, the Tucson Film and Music Festival, began in 2005 with a screening of the film “High and Dry,” a documentary about the Tucson music scene by Michael Toubassi. From there, the Tucson Film and Music Festival grew to include films from many different categories and musical acts.

    According to Toubassi, the festival’s director, the festival is returning to its roots this year by once again focusing on music-related documentaries. He added that it is a great opportunity to see and interact with other film lovers and professionals while viewing brand-new cinema.

    “We have amazing programming,” Toubassi said. “You get to see independent cinema before it’s online … and see it on the big screen.”

    The festival takes place at different local screening locations including Cinema La Placita, the Loft Cinema, The Tucson J, The Screening Room and The Rialto Theatre.

    Among the various independent film venues in Tucson is Casa Video, an independent movie-rental store that opened in the ’80s with the big video boom. The store offers over 60,000 titles according to Gala Schwab. She co-owns the video rental store with her brother, Ray Mellenberndt.

    “You can get a lot of stuff off the internet—a lot of stuff off Netflix and Hulu and all of that—but there are a lot of major titles that they don’t have, ” Schwab said.

    Casa Video also offers free popcorn to customers and local draught, canned and bottled beer. The store also has plans to open a 1000-sqaure-foot bar in the fall.

    Students looking to get their movie fix without leaving campus can take advantage of blockbuster movies screened in the Gallagher Theater in the Student Union Memorial Center. Screenings take place Thursdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Check out the posters outside Gallagher Theater or visit its website to see which movies are playing.

    Interested in learning more about Tucson’s history with film? The School of Theatre, Film and Television offers free viewings of movies filmed in Tucson during this year’s Widescreen Wednesdays. Viewings will begin October 7 at 7 p.m.with “Winchester ’73” in the Center for Creative Photography. A UA professor will introduce each film, and a student from the bachelor of fine arts program will present one of their films after the main feature.

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