The second quarter of 2021 saw more films in production in the Hudson Valley than ever before. According to the Hudson Valley Film Commission, over 15 projects are currently in production. Life & Beth, written, directed, executive produced, and starring Amy Schumer; Crumb Catcher (Chris Skotchdopole); and “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” Mindy Kaling’s HBO Max series, are some of the film industry’s recent Hudson Valley creations. The blockbuster A Quiet Place (Emily Blunt, John Krasinski) and the TV miniseries “I Know This Much Is True” (Mark Ruffalo) and “The Undoing” (Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant) were also filmed here.
This exponential growth in regional film and TV production is due to many factors—the region’s beauty and variety of locations, generous tax breaks for filming here, and the tireless efforts of Laurent Rejto, executive director of the Hudson Valley Film Commission. Add to that the Woodstock Film Festival, which has promoted the regional identity of the Hudson Valley as a film destination and a place where those who care about independent film gather each fall since 2000.
The festival’s 22nd anniversary is marked not only by a return to indoor spaces, but by special events. Tom Quinn, CEO of film production and distribution company Neon (I, Tonya and Parasite) will receive the Woodstock Film Festival’s Honorary Trailblazer Award. There will be a tribute to Leon Gast, the late film giant, Woodstock resident, and founding advisory board member of the festival. His Academy Award-winning documentary When We Were Kings, which depicts the 1974 heavyweight boxing match in Zaire (the Rumble in the Jungle) between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, will be shown. The film’s editor and producer, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, will hold a Q&A session after the screening. The feature documentary El Gran Fellove, following the Cuban scat musician Francisco Fellove, will have its East Coast premiere at the newly renovated Bearsville Theater. The director, Academy Award-nominated actor Matt Dillon (The Outsiders, There’s Something About Mary, and Drugstore Cowboy), will also be there, joining a star-studded group of festivalgoers.
Notable films to be screened include The Velvet Underground, a documentary by acclaimed director Todd Haynes (Carol and I’m Not There), which enjoyed “rave reviews and a very long, standing ovation” during its premiere at Cannes, according to Meira Blaustein, Woodstock Film Festival’s cofounder and executive and artistic director. Haynes, known for his unconventionality and exquisite portrayals of queer love, takes his first stab at a feature-length doc with The Velvet Underground. Using a split-screen for most of two hours, Haynes seems to suspend time as well as fracture it as he explores a band that didn’t just shape the culture of 1960s New York—they, perhaps, made the culture.
Porcupine, starring Jena Malone, and Foxhole, by 21-year-old filmmaker Jack Fessenden, both shot in the Hudson Valley, will be screened this September. In Porcupine, Malone plays a quirky woman who puts herself up for adoption. Fessenden (son of Larry Fessenden, film director and founder of New York-based Glass Eye Pix) was named one of “11 Filmmakers 30 or Under You Need to Know” by Indiewire in June 2017 and is no newcomer: This will be his fifth film shown at the Woodstock Film Festival. Mothering Sunday, a drama starring Academy Award-winning actors Olivia Coleman and Colin Firth, will also be screened.
But there’s a lot more than just watching movies. In addition to all the post-screening Q&As, various panels will be held at the barn at White Feather Farm. There will be conversations with actors Kelsey Grammar and Tim Blake Nelson, a climate change and environmental sustainability panel in conjunction with the film After Antarctica; a panel titled “Filmmaking Utopia: an Alternative Hollywood”; and a panel with a luncheon, “When Real Life Impacts Reel Life: Which Tail Is Wagging the Dog?” presented by the Creative Coalition. You can stream those panels live, online, if you choose to skip attending in-person. If you do physically join in on the fun, you’ll be asked to show proof of either vaccination or a negative COVID test before entering any theatre.
Blaustein says that the Woodstock Film Festival plans on doing more year-round events like master classes, workshops, and screenings. “I think that when we are comfortable—and we are inching toward it, I think, very quickly—film-going will thrive,” she maintains. “There’s still
nothing like it.”
10 Films to See at the 2021 Woodstock Film Fest
For his first documentary, Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven, I’m Not There) tackles the band that launched a thousand other bands, in all their avant-garde glory: from Warhol’s Factory to Lou Reed’s brooding genius and John Cale’s visionary musicianship.
Shot in the Hudson Valley, this offbeat tale of longing to belong stars Jena Malone (Hunger Games) who stumbles upon something called “adult adoption” and forms an unlikely bond with a misanthropic patriarch.
Unfolding over the span of 36 hours in three separate wars—the Civil War, World War I, and Iraq—21-year-old local filmmaker Jack Fessensden’s follows five American soldiers confined in a foxhole as they grapple with morality and futility of combat.
Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) is an unassuming farmer whose true identity is revealed when he’s forced to defend his home from a gang of ruthless outlaws. This Wild West confection features appearances by some of American history’s most mythic figures.
This doc tells the story of explorer Will Steger, who trekked 1,000 miles across Antarctica alone—he’s got a dog team, too. It took the 75-year-old 40 days to do it.
Hard to believe 25 years have passed since Alanis Morrisette released Jagged Little Pill. The latest doc from Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry) explores what happens when a 21-year-old becomes a worldwide phenomenon as a result of her raw emotional honesty.
Director Betsy West uses never-before-seen archival footage along with television clips and interviews to trace Julia Child's 12-year struggle to create and publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), which has sold more than 2.5 million copies to date.
Saturday, October 2, 10am, at Bearsville Theater
The Space Between
Friday, October 1, 1:15pm, at Woodstock Playhouse
Saturday, October 2, 7pm at Blueprint
When We Were Kings
Friday, October, 1, 4:45pm, at Bearsville Theater
Woodstock Film Festival returns September 29-October 3.