City optimistic on film festival

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 1999

&uot;If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.&uot;

That message from film producers gives a group of Natchez officials hope that the city will be able to establish a Southern film festival, most likely married to the current Natchez Literary Celebration, held each June.

While plans are still preliminary — the literary celebration steering committee would have to give its approval — &uot;there is great potential, great enthusiasm,&uot; said Carolyn Vance Smith, one of the founders of the literary celebration.

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Smith, along with Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown, Visitors Services Coordinator Connie Taunton and Convention and Visitors Bureau Public Relations Director Laura Godfrey, met with a group of about 40 film producers, talent agents and directors last week at a Los Angeles reception hosted by the Mississippi Film Commission. They also met separately with Disney Studios executives and actor Gerald McRaney.

Brown said the response to the idea of a film and literary festival was positive.

&uot;The first thing Gerald McRaney said is that we don’t want to take something that had a very good purpose and turn it into a media festival,&uot; he said.

What would set Natchez’s festival apart from &uot;about 700 other film festivals,&uot; Smith said, is the educational angle.

Natchez’s festival would continue the literary celebration’s tradition of holding seminars and workshops that allow writers to discuss their craft, she said.

The film festival would also draw on what the literary celebration draws on – the state’s long history of talented writers.

&uot;If you don’t have a good writer, you don’t have a good film,&uot; Smith said.

Brown said the media executives’ support puts a solid reputation behind the idea of the literary and film festival.

&uot;I think if you have the support of these media executives it sends a message to the industry and the Screen Writers Guild,&uot; he said.

Although city officials haven’t yet asked for it, that support could also turn into dollars behind the film festival.

And the celebration would draw more tourists, Brown said, especially those focused on filmmaking and writing.

Smith plans to meet with the literary celebration steering committee this week to present plans for the addition of the film aspect.

If the committee approves the idea, the film and writers celebration would still be a year and a half to two and a half years away, she said.