Film plays a big role in my life. I was working in the movie industry back in the 1980s when I met my wife-to-be, swept her off her feet and proposed to her after a month of dating. It was every bit as romantic as it sounds, but, to be clear, I was working on a loading dock and she was a sales rep for Films Incorporated, a non-theatrical film distributor renting mostly 16mm films to schools, prisons and churches.
These were the days before video, and institutional display of movies was typically accompanied by the clatter and hum of a 50-pound projector that smelled like burning dust and needed attention during reel and bulb changes.
The film business has come a long way in the last two decades. A single DVD which fits in a standard mailing envelope has replaced heavy suitcase-sized boxes (I remember them well) as the way to get a movie to the masses.
The film business in New Hampshire has come a long way, too.
About the same time I was lugging film cases around in an office park in Atlanta and wooing my future bride, independent film auteur John Sayles was wrapping up shooting in the New Hampshire Lakes Region on a little movie called “Return of the Secaucus Seven.” It was an amateur film in most every way, though it had some nice moments. The story of ’60s radicals reuniting to reminisce even served as the model for that boomer milestone movie: “The Big Chill.” Sayles went on to make bigger, better movies, but perhaps more importantly, he showed the way for a generation of amateur filmmakers to aspire to serious art, and even commercial success. In some ways, N.H. is the birthplace of the independent film.
So it’s great to see that the state is so engaged with the independent film movement here in the first decade of the 21st century. Some notable movies have been produced here recently — “Live Free or Die,” “Sensation of Sight” — while others are under way — “Losing Jerry,” “Elysian Farm.” We finally have a variety of film festivals ranging from the high-toned Telluride by the Sea at the Music Hall of Portsmouth to the more plebian S.N.O.B. Film Festival in Concord (Nov. 9-11). Portsmouth’s N.H. Film Festival has been around for seven years and this year is giving a special award to a local filmmaker. Someone must have told them about my background in the film industry, because I was asked to help judge the local entries.
All five movies were dropped off at my office and I could slip them in my briefcase to take home. My wife wants to watch them with me while I do the judging.
We’ll probably get the old 16mm projector out of the attic and let it run while we screen them on the DVD player, just to put ourselves in the proper mood.
This article appears in the March 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine