The 2015 Tryon International Film Festival begins tonight

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Tryon International Film Festival opens tonight, after months of planning, scheduling and promotion. Festival organizers Beau Menetre, Kirk Gollwitzer and Lavin Cuddihee stand in front of the film festival’s banner at Tryon Fine Arts Center, one of the venues for this weekend’s film fest. The full story starts below, and continues inside with information on the judges, the award ceremony, the films and more. (Photo submitted by Kirk Gollwitzer)

The Tryon International Film Festival opens tonight, after months of planning, scheduling and promotion. Festival organizers Beau Menetre, Kirk Gollwitzer and Lavin Cuddihee stand in front of the film festival’s banner at Tryon Fine Arts Center, one of the venues for this weekend’s film fest. The full story starts below, and continues inside with information on the judges, the award ceremony, the films and more. (Photo submitted by Kirk Gollwitzer)

After countless meetings with venue management, community organizations, filmmakers, media and volunteers, the first-ever Tryon International Film Festival (TRIFF) will land in the center of Tryon on Oct. 9 and 10. Filmmakers from all over the world will be focusing on the tiny town of Tryon for a weekend of competition, celebration and fun.  Local hotels are reaching capacity, most especially the Melrose Inn, which will be accommodating a large number of filmmakers, cast and crew.

At the center of the excitement is the Tryon Fine Arts Center (TFAC), which has been and will continue to be the primary ticketing and registration destination. One-day, two-day and Gala Event tickets will be on sale during each day of the event. All entry requires a festival lanyard which can be returned and recycled for next year.

More than 40 films have been programmed for screening at three separate venues including The Tryon Theatre, The Depot Room and TFAC. Beer, wine and snacks will be available at the theatre and TFAC, along with world famous BBQ from Harry Denton, who will be stationed at the Depot for both days.

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Industry breakout sessions and workshops are scheduled at the Upstairs Artspace and TFAC featuring in-depth conversations about the many aspects of the film industry. Among the sessions scheduled are:  Cinematography, Women Filmmakers, Screen Writing, Talent & Acting, Documentary Filmmaking, Production, and behind the scenes discussions about feature films.

Both evenings of the festival will culminate for two major events scheduled at TFAC.  Friday night’s Red-Carpet Gala featuring “Harry & Snowman” will include music and guest speaker, Karen Offield, the film’s executive producer. The gala has limited seating and requires a special ticket. Saturday night’s special Award Ceremony will be open to all festivalgoers who purchased a ticket for either day; however seating will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

One of the leading differentiators between TRIFF and other film festivals, other than the unique setting of Tryon, will be the judging which is usually a mystery.  Prior to the awards ceremony the judges will be assembled on stage for an open forum at TFAC to discuss the process they follow when selecting a winner. Additionally, the audience has the opportunity to cast a vote on their favorite films further making the awards ceremony an exciting event.

Custom made trophies by Ashlee Menetre and Grace Lertora (Tryon Painters & Sculptors) will be presented to all category winners.  But, no matter who takes home an award everyone wins in the long run. Having a film selected for screening at TRIFF-2015 is a major accomplishment for any filmmaker and one that will be bragged upon for years to come. The Polk County Film Festival thanks the town of Tryon, along with the neighboring communities, for their support with the inaugural film festival, marking this one as a success and the first of many to come.


Meet the judges:

Nikki Braendlin’s debut film, “As High as the Sky,” was released by Cinema Libre Studio in spring 2014 following an award-winning festival run. The feature-length dramedy, shot with an all-female cast and key crew, centers around Margaret, a woman with OCD who is forced to confront the root of it when her estranged sister and niece show up on her doorstep.

Before working in film Nikki produced and directed theater in Los Angeles. She co-founded and served as president of Hear Me Roar Productions, an all-women’s theater company that produced benefits for women’s and children’s charities. Through HMR and her work as a counselor, she also ran writing and acting workshops for at-risk teenage girls and produced shows of their original works. Nikki is an executive member of Women in Film, a member of Film Independent, Film Fatales and the Alliance of Women Directors. She also serves as a mentor for the Young Storytellers Foundation.

Chris White has produced three feature films in recent years: the showbiz comedy “Cinema Purgatorio” (2014, co-writer, director, actor), broken-family drama “Get Better” (2012, co-writer, co-director, actor) and the spare and touching taken in (2011, writer, director). In addition, he has produced three award-winning short films: “Fully Detached” (2013), “Dobra Ojca” (2012), and “Good Life” (2010). Between collaborations with his producing partner and wife Emily, Chris co-produces, writes, and directs for the wildly popular web series Star Trek continues and speaks/teaches about cinema storytelling.

Chris believes in creative entrepreneurship, handmade films for friends, and artistic ambition without cynicism. Chris has presented to groups large and small, educational and corporate, all over the United States. His presentations are well organized, easy to understand and apply, and above all, fun.

Kevin L. Powers is the program director for the GCI Film Festival (Duluth, Ga.). For the last three years his responsibilities for the GCI Film Festival have been to organize submissions, meet with filmmakers, program scheduling, and organize panels and workshops, among many other duties.  He has worked with four other film festivals in the past but this is the first one in which he is credited with co-creator.

Powers has been working in the independent film industry for more than 15 years.  He has written and produced and/or directed numerous shorts and features for Southlan-Films, Blank Stage Productions, Infectious Films Entertainment, PDG Entertainment, Chitwood Studios and Broken Lighthouse Pictures, to name a few.  For these same companies he has also been employed as cinematographer, production manager, assistant director and still photographer, among other jobs. Some of his more recent films include producing the short films “Restricted Diet” and “Atheist’s Dinner Party” and writing and directing “The Morning After” (with Infectious Films Entertainment).  He is currently producing several other shorts and in pre-production on his next feature film.

Scarlette Bennett Tapp graduated from USC Upstate with a BA in political science and has a diverse career history that includes working at DreamWorks SKG and Universal Television in Los Angeles, as well as in public relations at CNN in Atlanta. Tapp is currently a PR/marketing consultant with That’s It Marketing based in South Carolina.

Tapp serves on the board of directors for Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry, a local nonprofit that provides food and financial assistance to those in crisis. Additionally, she helped develop PCFI’s Next Generation Filmmakers Project, a pilot program designed to mentor young filmmakers. Tapp, who lives with her family in Landrum, S.C., is pursuing her writing career.

Frank M. Calo is an independent producer and director whose film “The Believer,” starring Ryan Gosling and Billy Zane, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Festival.  That film won all the festivals that year including The Berlin Film Festival.  It was shown nationwide and had a great box office run.

His film, “Here & There” with Cyndi Lauper and David Thornton, has won the Best NY Narrative in world competition 2009 at Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Film Festival in NYC and had its official New York premier played to wide audiences domestically and overseas.

Calo has worked with Robert De Niro (“Godsend”) Demi Moore, Mike Myers, Shelly Winters, Marlon Brando and many more.  His film “The Cookout” with Queen Latifah also had a great box office run distributed by Lions Gate Films.

Calo is currently working on two featured films entitled “Johnny Postal” and “Eyes of the Kings” along with a TV pilot entitled “ESQ” starring Dayton Callie from Sons of Anarchy. He was one of the few and only directors who studied privately under Mr. Elia Kazan.



About Kirk Gollwitzer

Kirk Gollwitzer is a freelance writer frequently writing articles for Google News Service, and other media organizations. After a successful career in software development, Kirk found his true passion telling a story through writing, photography and video. He is constantly projecting people, products and ideas into the national media. Kirk has a passion for music and major interest in people. He is also writing a novel which will be adapted to a screenplay.

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