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MovieMaker: Memphis one of top 10 ‘movie cities’ for sixth time

Applause once more for Memphis, as the city joins other hot movie cities such as Albuquerque, Austin, Los Angeles and New York City on MovieMaker Magazine’s annual list of  “Top 10 Big Cities for Filmmakers to Live and Work.”

In an interview with John Beifuss in today’s The Commercial Appeal, MovieMaker Magazine deputy editor Kelly Leow said Memphis won the No. 7 spot, citing “Memphis’ tight-knit film community” and “… a Film Commission that supports every project that comes through, no matter how small.”

Linn Sitler, the world's longest-serving film commissioner and Memphis & Shelby County's own film commissioner says: “How great to have this recognition as the No. 7 Movie City in the U.S., as our commission celebrates our 30th anniversary this year! Memphis is definitely film friendly and always has been, starting in the late 1980s when we hosted our first feature client, Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Mystery Train.’ Greatly adding to Memphis’ reputation as a ‘Top Movie City’ is Malco Theatres’ historic generosity in offering screenings of local films, local film premieres and even local and regional ‘runs’ of films by Memphis and Mid-South filmmakers! Our independent film community has grown into such a talented, supportive, and positive force. Each of our film festivals is unique — MovieMaker has even recognized Indie Memphis as one of the world’s coolest film festivals. Deputy Film Commissioner Sharon Fox O'Guin is definitely ‘hands-on’ with every project large or small. Our government leaders continue to support us through good times and bad. Our film commission and our filmmaking community definitely deserve the applause."

The Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission reported to MovieMaker Magazine as part of the magazine’s qualifying process a total of 299 filming days in Commission-assisted projects for Fiscal Year 2013-2014. Clients ranged from larger projects such as the HBO/Cinemax production “Quarry” and the independent feature “Free in Deed” to the short film by Memphis filmmaker Melissa Anderson Sweazy: “The Department of Signs and Magical Intervention.” Also shooting were multiple locally produced music videos featuring Memphis musician Amy LaVere. International episodic television segments, reality TV shows, commercials and corporate videos also counted toward the 299 shooting days.

For the full story on why MovieMaker Magazine loves Memphis, go to moviemaker.com at noon CST today.

Memphis was first selected as a “Top Ten Movie City” in 2006. The city made the list again in 2007, 2008, and 2009 and returned again in 2014 in the No. 9 position.

For more information, contact Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner Linn Sitler at 901.527.8300 extension 3.

Find MovieMaker Magazine here.

John Beifuss' article is here

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OL:M Presents: The 2015 Oscar Shorts

On Location: Memphis again presents this year’s Oscar Nominated Shorts in the categories of Animation and Live Action. All the nominees for both catergories will be screened at Studio on the Square. Each year the Academy Awards honor a short film in the categories of Animation, Live Action and Documentary. Prior to the Oscar's Telecast, the Academy allows moviegoers from across the country the special opportunity to see their Oscar Nominated Shorts. As a part of OL:M’s Sweet 15 Year of Giving it is encouraging Oscar shorts viewers to also support the Ronald McDonald House Charities Memphis.  There is a donation button on the purchase page.

Screenings are at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 and Feb. 4. Get tickets here.

On Feb. 22, OL:M has an Oscar Night Watch Party at Strano! Sicilian Kitchen & Bar at 948 South Cooper. The party is to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities Memphis. Come see if you chose the Oscar Winner which will qualify you for a chance to be an Oscar Night winner.  This event is free to the public, just bring a donation. 
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Local indie hit 'Fresh Skweezed' now online

“Fresh Skweezed,” an independent short film by Memphians G.B. Shannon and Ryan Parker, is now available online.

The 22-minute project, which was assisted by the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission, was praised by film critics and audiences at festivals across the country when it premiered in 2011.

The script for “Fresh Skweezed” — a story about a young girl and her neighborhood lemonade stand — was written specifically for its young star, Haley Parker (no relation to Ryan Parker), after Shannon saw her in Clay Jeter's 2010 short film, “Five Dollars.” He was taken with her talent, and the narrative is matched at every step by Haley’s beyond-her-years acting chops.

Memphis-based Music+Arts Studio has released “Fresh Skweezed” through major digital retailers. It’s available at Vimeo on Demand here: vimeo.com/ondemand/freshskweezed.

Last May, Music+Arts Studio remastered and released “Cigarette Girl,” a feature-length film by Memphis director Mike McCarthy that was also assisted by the Film Commission. Go here to see availability on DVD and online.

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'Nashville' stars Memphis tonight

The ABC Network series “Nashville” puts Memphis at the center in tonight’s winter finale episode.

Viewers will see the Memphis skyline, Beale Street scenes and The Peabody ducks.

The Memphis-centric storyline will feature principal characters Deacon Claybourne, played by Charles Esten, and Scarlett O’Connor, played by Clare Bowen.  The episode was directed by Academy Award-winning screenwriter (for "Thelma and Louise") and “Nashville” creator and executive producer Callie Khouri.

The episode airs Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 9 p.m. on Local Memphis (Channel 24).

The Memphis and Shelby County Film and Television Commission partnered with production staff to coordinate on-ground logistics and provide liaison services between the entertainment industry, private business and local government for production needs.

“‘Nashville’ coming to Memphis was a win-win situation for everyone,” said Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner Linn Sitler.  “We enjoyed hosting the show, and hopefully we can host ‘Nashville’ again in the future.”

Also involved are the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission.

“Film and television production in Memphis means talent and tourism for West Tennessee,” said Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, sponsor of 2012 changes in the film fund incentive that created an additional $2 million in recurring annual funding. “Nashville — the series and the city — knows the value of this venue, and we welcome the opportunity.”

“I will look for any excuse to get myself to Memphis and this was a perfect opportunity,” Khouri said.  “We had a fantastic time and are looking forward to showing our ‘Nashville’ fans what a wonderful treasure of a city Memphis is, too.”

Among the more than 50 international markets where “Nashville” is aired include the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Australia, Russia, Mexico, Scandinavia, Canada, Latin America, Israel and numerous markets throughout Asia.  On average Nashville draws 7.7 million viewers each week. This season, the series ranks among ABC’s top five biggest gainers in TV, DVR and On Demand playback.

“The TV series ‘Nashville’ filming in our City is another great opportunity to have our unique musical history and assets showcased on an international level,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said.  “Having the finale include scenes from our city, sounds of the music made famous in our city, and part of the plot featuring Memphis should attract new viewers and help set the series up for another successful season. Nashville’s success impacts Memphis and vice versa. We’re happy to host them.”

"We're excited our area will be featured in this popular TV series.  It will remind viewers of the many international musical attractions unique to the Memphis and Shelby County area," Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. said.

“I have always known what a wonderful place Memphis is to live and work,” said writer/director (“Hustle & Flow,” “Blake Snake Moan”) and TFEMC Commission Member Craig Brewer. “I am pleased my community will be showcased on an international stage. With ‘Nashville’ airing in more than 50 countries around the world, this will help viewers better understand why Memphis is so special with all the history and tradition that are rooted here.”

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Robert Gordon, Kentucker Audley, Nick Case headed to Sundance

Memphians will have representation at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival next month.

In a story in The Commercial Appeal by John Beifuss, it’s reported that Memphis filmmaker and author Robert Gordon co-directed and co-produced the documentary “Best of Enemies” that will screen at Sundance. The film, part of the U.S. Documentary Competition, is about the 1968 television debates between conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. and liberal Gore Vidal.

Gordon is author of “It Came from Memphis,” “Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters” and “Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion” published this year.

“Best of Enemies” was co-directed and co-produced by Morgan Neville, Gordon’s filmmaking partner. Neville, of Los Angeles, made “20 Feet from Stardom,” a film about music-industry backup singers that premiered at Sundance and won this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Gordon and Neville previously collaborated the documentary “Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story,” done six years before the book.

Memphis author and publisher Tom Graves, who is consulting producer on “Best of Enemies,” programmed some of the debate tapes at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in 2009. This became the genesis of the documentary.

Kentucker Audley, a Memphis filmmaker and actor who now lives in Brooklyn, stars in the Sundance-bound film “Christmas, Again,” written and directed by Charles Poekel. The film will screen in the festival’s “Next” slot for “next wave” American cinema.

Nick Case of Memphis, founder of local production company Paper Moon Films, will also have a film in the “Next” category with “Take Me to the River” by writer-director Matt Sobel. (This is unrelated to the Memphis music documentary of the same name).

Sundance will be Jan. 22-Feb. 1 in Park City, Utah.

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