Local filmmakers will shine again at the Snowtown Film Festival | arts and entertainment


WATERTOWN – The eighth annual Snowtown Film Festival opens with a preview Friday night on WPBS.

WATERTOWN – The Snowtown Film Festival, which received entries from 13 countries for this year’s event, has always given local filmmakers a place to shine – a trend that continues this year.

Many of the nearly 500 films submitted for consideration at the festival have roots in upstate New York. This is an outlet appreciated by these filmmakers. The Times spoke to a filmmaker who submitted her first film to the festival for this year’s event and another who submitted her second – returning after first submitting to the inaugural festival in 2015.

Megan D. MacDonald in 2019 founded Dawning Film Productions, a Watertown-based independent film production company that does everything from producing short and feature films, to wedding videography, commercial videos and social media.

Ms. MacDonald, a native of Richville and a graduate of the Governor’s Central School District, wrote and directed the 20-minute short “Murray Triumphs!” which was selected for the film festival. It was filmed on location in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties, such as in front of the closed Ogdensburg Movie Theater, outside the Old General Store in DeKalb Junction, and in front of the Lifesaver Monument in the Town Square. to Governor.

The synopsis of the film: “A day in the life of Arthur Murray, unlucky office manager, follows his journey from underdog to top dog…sort of.”

She wrote the screenplay for “Murray Triumphs!” for a screenwriting course at SUNY Potsdam.

After graduating from Governor Central, Ms. MacDonald moved to New York City to attend the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. She then worked in the Big Apple as an actress for a few years before attending SUNY Potsdam, where she earned a degree in acting. She then took film classes at SUNY Potsdam and worked for a time at The Arc – Jefferson-St. Lawrence, where she had tasks such as directing adults with disabilities in plays.

He then left for the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

“Glasgow University has an excellent production programme, focusing on making films on a low budget and using all possible resources, and showcasing film and media in a variety of ways,” Ms MacDonald said.

While a student in Glasgow, Ms MacDonald created the short film ‘Leaden Hearts’, which examines the power of objects on memory.

“When I got home I decided to carry on,” Ms MacDonald said of her filmmaking.

She applied for and received a grant from the Decentralization Program through the New York State Council for the Arts, along with the Governor Community Center as her sponsor.

“It was enough money to pay the cast and crew, to rent equipment, and to take care of all the little things we would need for the movie ‘Murray Triumphs! ‘” Ms. MacDonald said. “It was phenomenal, because in our area there aren’t many local filmmakers who can fund projects like this.”

Ms. MacDonald, who is employed by WWNY-TV, would like to empower local filmmakers using things as simple as networking.

“There is a very rich film community, but networking is something that needs to be strengthened a bit more,” she said. “It is therefore vital to provide funding and resources in this area. That’s one of the goals of my production company: to become a bit of a resource and a network for local low-budget filmmakers.

His company Dawning Film Productions has different elements, but it is trying to expand its film production aspect.

“We want to do that not only in the stories we tell, but we also want to make sure that the people who make these films are recognized,” Ms. MacDonald said.

She noted that she and her cinematographer, Cassandra L. Weed, are women working in a male-dominated field.

“We wanted to make sure we highlighted that and supported female directors,” Ms. MacDonald said.

His next project is called “Gently As We Go”.

“This will be part of a three-part film series,” Ms. MacDonald said.

She works with playwright Damon Falke. In 2014, at the Edwards Opera House, she performed in the play “Now at the Uncertain Hour” which he wrote. Ms MacDonald said Mr Falke listened to it a few years later when he found a recording of his production which had been produced and broadcast by North Country Public Radio. The couple then began a correspondence.

“It’s a connection I’ve had for years, and as I was looking for my next project, it was fortuitous,” Ms. MacDonald said. “As a filmmaker, it’s really important to keep those connections when they’re so rare.”

The couple are looking to film “Gently As We Go” in the Watertown area.

“Damon is hoping to meet me sometime this summer,” Ms. MacDonald said. “We will hopefully look at a few locations and move into principal photography in the fall. This is another production that I would like to keep local and that takes place in one room.

The team hopes to contact local Airbnb outlets and rental units for possible filming locations.

Start a career

In 2015, during the first Snowtown Film Festival, Carthage native Clay J. Dumaw had his film “Hold ‘Em”, shot in Watertown and Carthage, accepted for the festival. The film features a World Series of Poker-meets-“Hunger Games” storyline. Previously, he also wrote and directed the horror film “Get Out Alive”, also shot locally.

“Hold ‘Em” ended up opening doors for Mr. Dumaw.

“After I did ‘Hold ‘Em,’ there was a company in Colorado Springs that saw the movie trailers and offered me a job,” Dumaw said in a phone interview from the city. .

He worked at production company Windstar Studios Inc. for about six years, he said, doing everything from television show productions to branded advertisements for automakers.

“It was good,” Mr. Dumaw said. “It was actually kind of like film school. I was able to relearn everything about storytelling. They had a sound stage and all these fancy cameras and equipment. They let me have access to all of that during my free time.

Mr. Dumaw now works for AdPro 360 in Colorado Springs, but while at Windstar he was given free use of his studio, which has a green screen, allowing producers to drop background footage behind players. He took advantage of the studio to make the western “Jack Wyatt and the Gun From Hell”. In addition to directing the film, Mr. Dumaw also edited, created visual effects and did the sound design.

“This is my first feature in a while,” Mr. Dumaw said. “I practically took a break from filmmaking for a while. I was relearning some editing and directing and cinematography. I got out here and realized there was so much I didn’t know and it was, ‘I have to wait before I jump into something.’

But in the back of his head, there was a western with a fantasy element that he wanted to do. He wanted it to feature a “MacGuffin”: an object, event, or character that serves to set up and keep the plot moving.

“I thought, ‘How can I incur something like that in a Western?’ said Mr. Dumaw. “The gun is basically a bit like a western version of the ring from ‘Lord of the Rings’.”

When he wrote his screenplay, the plan was to shoot on location. A few spots have been explored.

“I don’t think they realized we were a low budget movie and they wanted to charge us an obscene amount of money,” Mr Dumaw said.

He then realized that he had free access to a green screen and a sound stage.

“I thought, ‘It’s going to take a little longer, but why not do it like this?’ And we did it,” Mr. Dumaw said.

Synopsis for “Jack Wyatt and the Gun From Hell” (1:26): “After saving a mysterious wanderer from certain death, a gold miner named Jack Wyatt is given a cursed gun to power indescribable. Little does he know that a gang of outlaws, led by the evil Thane Maddox, is looking for the notorious Gun from Hell.

The film features actors from the Watertown area.

“I came to them,” Mr Dumaw said. “There was a green screen at Steve Weed Studios. I flew in and brought my camera and rented their green screen. We had already shot the (other) characters in Colorado Springs. We were able to evoke these scenes and position all our actors.

All of the technology Mr. Dumaw is now involved with seems like a world of his own when he studied visual communications at the Charles H. Bohlen Technical Center in 2007, the year the iPhone 1 was released. was crazy – like ‘Star Trek’ stuff,” Mr Dumaw said.

He also remembers his class getting their first hard drive with 1 terabyte of memory, which some cell phones now have.

“Everyone looked at this thing like it was falling from space,” Mr. Dumaw said.

Mr. Dumaw’s next film is in pre-production.

“It will be sci-fi, heavily inspired by ‘The Twilight Zone,’ in the sense that it will be very stripped down, character driven, with very few special effects.”

Plans call for it to be shot this summer in the Colorado Springs area.

“It won’t be a green screen or anything,” Dumaw said. “We’re going to shoot on sets.”

– – –

At 6 p.m. Saturday, Mr. Dumaw and select cast members will participate in a live Q&A as part of the Snowtown Film Festival Virtual Subscription.

“My brother, who’s in the movie, is going to be there and I’m going to try to get a few more cast members,” Dumaw said.

Festival officials are working to line up other Q&A panels/sessions. From Wednesday, the program:

7:30 p.m. Saturday: Conversation with representatives of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the Lake Ontario Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and the Thunder Bay International Film Festival hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary of Thunder Bay.

7 p.m. Sunday, February 20: Conversation with Joe Blank, director, “Roman Candle”.

8 p.m. Sunday, February 20: Conversation with Dan Fowlks, director, “Shred of Decency”.

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