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‘Angel’ Emerges From Film Festival

May 7, 2008
By Tony Rutherford
Having run four studios, sold TV episodes, TV movies and been the author of a best-seller, an endorsement from Hollywood’s pitchman does not come without credence.

“I was very impressed. I go to a number of these film festivals and these were among the finest I’ve seen,” guest artist Ken Rotcop said. Known as Hollywood’s pitchman, Rotcop preceded the Appalachian Film Festival awards ceremony with anecdotes related to his writing career, including a listening lesson imparted from a nervous Australian talk show host.

Rotcop was hired to form questions for an afternoon talk show hosted by Brian Adams. Adams was so nervous in front of the camera he could only look at the scripted questions. On the first day, Debbie Reynolds appeared with a blood soaked dress. She told about the dress; he stuck to a script about her previous movies.

Going forward, producers stuck Rotcop underneath Adams’ desk so he would write questions for the host based on what the interviewees told.

Earlier, at a workshop on selling material to Hollywood, Rotcop emphasized the importance of a good script, networking and luck. For the winning festival’s winning feature, director Will Benson called Lynda Carter “Tattered Angel’s Wonder Woman.”

Filmed in and around Cincinnati, Ohio, the community of Newport, Ky., assisted the filmmakers by providing free business incubator space for the drama about missing and exploited children.

Originally done in a workshop with Brooke Shields, Duffy Hudson, the screenwriter and one of the leads, received a ‘yes’ from Lynda (“Wonder Woman”) Carter to play the mother. Carter struck with them and participated in several fundraisers over the two years it took to raise money for the production. “She legitimized us,” Benson said.

The idea came from Hudson’s “reoccurring dream about a missing girl in the desert,” explained Benson. While the impeccable reputation of Ms. Carter opened doors for the filmmakers, the sacrifice of Kim Christen (credited as associate producer) touched everyone. Christen, who had no experience, asked to work on the film. The filmmakers told her, “we have an extra desk in the office, if you show up every day you can work [for no pay].”

After a few weeks Hudson and Benson learned that the young woman had been working less hours at her waitress job to work on the film. To make up the difference to pay the rent, Christen sold her blood plasma. The partners scrapped together $100 a week to pay her.

“We’re giving our blood. She’s giving her blood. She’s as much a part of this as we are,” Benson said.

And, Lynda Carter told them she would not cash her check. “You need the money more than I do,” Benson paraphrased.

Calling Carter a “positive role model,” he agreed she represents the antithesis of the Hollywood bad girls embodied by, for example, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Benson explained that Carter’s role of TV’s “Wonder Woman” came at a time when girls and women had few, if any, screen heroines. “You had ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and they were a little cool and a little ditzy, but they were not strong and commanding. Wonder Woman was synonymous with Lynda Carter, who has been very much about empowerment. She [left] an incredible, indelible mark on society. I’ve never met anyone who had a negative thing to say about Carter,” Benson said.

Stephanie Cornett, an associate of Benson, said, “I saw Wonder Woman as my heroine. She was a strong feminist icon for me. For girls it is so important to see a woman in control of her own fate and proactive. My daughters did not see ‘Wonder Woman,’ but they watched ‘Xena, the Warrior Princess.’”

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Contact Tony at trutherford@graffitiwv.com

Fact Box

The remaining 2008 Appalachian Film
Festival Winners were:

Micro Film, “Simulacra,” Tatchapon Lertwirojkul (New York, N.Y.)

Young Filmmaker, “Anthropophobia,” Zachery Groff (Mclean, Va.)

Short, “Joe Mover,” Gabe Fazio & Lev Gorn (Sunnyside, N.Y.)

Screenplay, First Place, “Juniper Bass,” by C.B. Wilson, (Ruther Glen, Va.); Second Place: “11:11,” by Meg Lansaw, (Wilmington, NC)

Documentary, First Place, “Change Comes Knocking — The Story of the North Carolina Fund,” Rebecca Cerese (Durham, N.C.); Second Place, “Mountain Top Removal,” Michael O’Connell, Pittsboro, N.C.

 
 

 

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