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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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On Location: Memphis Shorts Festival taking submissions

Submissions are being accepted for the On Location: MEMPHIS Shorts Festival. The new event will be at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street each Tuesday night in July 2015. Three categories – Live Action Shorts, Animated Shorts and Documentary Shorts – will be spotlighted throughout the month, with one genre being screened each week.

The audience will complete review forms to select a favorite. Awards night will be the last Tuesday in July. The winner of each genre gets a spot in the 16th Annual On Location: MEMPHIS International Film & Music Fest in September.

Films can now be submitted through FilmFreeway here.  A submissions link can also be found on the On Location website under the “OL:M Shorts Festival” heading.

Early Bird Deadline is Jan. 31, 2015, regular deadline Mar. 31, late deadline Apr. 1.

Filmmakers will be notified by April 30, 2015. Films do not have to be a world premiere, but should not have a distribution deal in place. On Location: Memphis has added a distribution division and will be reviewing submitted projects for various distribution opportunities. All submitted projects must be 30 minutes or less.


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A look at “Free in Deed” with producer Mike Ryan

Producer Mike S. Ryan will shows scenes from the Memphis-made film “Free in Deed” and outline the path ahead at a presentation Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Circuit Playhouse as part of the Indie Memphis Film Festival.

The independent film, now in post-production, stars British actor David Harewood (“Homeland”) and Los Angeles-based Edwina Findley (“The Wire,” “Treme”), with the rest of the cast and much of the crew from Memphis. The film is a client project of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission.

Director/writer Jake Mahaffy has been working for years to bring the project to life. It was originally going to be shot in Detroit, but Ryan convinced Mahaffy to shoot in Memphis. Other producers are Michael Bowes and Brent Stiefel. Memphian Ryan Watt is associate producer.

Most of the jobs in the film’s production went to local people. There were about 20 in the crew, including Morgan Jon Fox, Gloria Belz, Nicki Newburger and Sarah Fleming. Among the 51 locals with speaking roles are RaJay Chandler, Preston Shannon, Libra Mitchell, Helen Bowman, Candace Clough McGowen, Jan Falk, Alex Coker, Geoff Falk, Porsha Ferguson and Jon W. Sparks.

Ryan’s presentation is part of the festival’s INDIETALKS, sponsored by the Hohenberg Foundation. Free admission after Priority Pass, Festival Pass and Standby Card holders have been seated.

For more information: http://sched.co/1yP7

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