Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Digital film festival rolls into seventh year

Jim “Grubb” Graebner has the number seven on his mind.

he digital film festival he directs and co-founded – the Duke City Shootout – is in its seventh year.

He wants seven great scripts.

“Usually it’s very, very hard to find seven great scripts,” he says. “We hope some year to get to that magic place where all seven scripts are just fantastic.”

Until May 19, the festival will accept short screenplays from around the world and seven winners will make – in just one week – movies from the screenplays. Shooting begins July 23.

Graebner says a slew of new awards will increase excitement about the festival, despite Ears XXI – a digital media studio based in Los Angeles – recently pulling its support.

This year, the author of the winning screenplay will receive $1,000 and the six runners-up will each get $500. Writers, rather than the festival, will own the movies, which will be available through Comcast’s Pay-Per-View service, Graebner said.

“It’s all directed toward finding the best short script in the world,” he said. “It gets bigger every year.”

Christopher Coppola, president of Ears XXI, said his studio pulled out of the Duke City Shootout to better focus on its statewide moviemaking efforts.

In May, the studio plans to begin shooting “Big Bad Voodoo Mama,” a movie about a voodoo priestess with a talent for wrestling.

It will be the first digital film made as part of the studio’s Project Alternative Hollywood initiative.

The project aims to make about a dozen feature-length, genre films per year with New Mexico-based production teams.

Graebner said new ways of getting and viewing movies – through cable television and the Internet, or on portable devices such as cell phones – is increasing demand for short films.

“When you get on the Internet, the kind of movies you really want to see . . . are short movies,” he said. “With all these different Web sites dedicated to short content, it will be interesting to see which ones get gobbled up into bigger conglomerates.”

He noted that New Mexico’s combination of incentives and loans from the state make it a worldwide leader in attracting film productions.

It’s “pretty amazing” compared to the film industry’s status when the Duke City Shootout first launched in 2000, he said.

“No other state in the union offers as many opportunities per capita as New Mexico,” he said. “It’s dramatically changed.”

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