Other Local Filmmakers Worth Watching 

Mr. Independent Film: James Parrish

James Parrish is independent film in Richmond. With Michael Jones, he runs the annual James River Film Festival and the bimonthly 8mm event Flicker, where Megan Holley got her start. "He's currently my hero," Holley says. "He's instrumental in where I am now."

As well as encouraging aspiring filmmakers, Parrish is working on his own long-cherished project. "Benson Sings" is a documentary about an annual gospel-singing competition in his hometown of Benson, N.C. Parrish has been working on this for seven years.

"The competition began in 1921," says Parrish. "All the founders are now deceased, and the second generation are in their seventies and eighties." Parrish's motivation is not commercial but "to capture it before it's gone."

Parrish also has big plans for the Richmond filmmaking community. "It's not as tight as I'd like to think it could be," he says. "My dream is to establish a media arts center, a hub of learning and resources, and a place where filmmakers could meet."

Action Man: Justin Dray and Yellowhouse Productions

In 2003 Justin Dray directed "Hitiro the Peasant," a wonderfully ambitious action movie set in a feudal Japanese society, all for under $30,000. Dray says this remarkable feat "was made possible by the 125 people who worked for nothing and the feeling of family and ensemble at Yellowhouse Productions." Yellowhouse also runs Project Resolution, an event where filmmakers can bring along and screen their work, then receive opinions from the audience.

There are plans to show a trailer for "Hitiro the Peasant" at Firehouse Theatre Dec. 4, which should generate some publicity for the film. Dray hopes the massive task of editing will be finished sometime in 2005. After he completes it, he plans to have a premiere somewhere in Richmond and then look for a distribution deal, although, according to Dray, they're keeping calm and "not putting the cart before the horse."

Mixing Fact and Fiction: David Williams

David Williams works in the genre of docudrama, a unique form of narrative that starts with reality but improvises into fiction. His 1993 docudrama, "Lillian," won a Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival, while his 1997 work, "Thirteen," was seen by Roger Ebert at the Virginia Film Festival and given a glowing review in Ebert's influential Chicago-Sun Times column. Despite this critical approval, distribution has been hard to come by for these hard-to-categorize films. In Williams' own words, potential distributors are "not sure what to do with them."

Undeterred, Williams is working on a third docudrama. "The Last Home Movie" is a personal film starring the director's parents. Last month, Williams screened it as a work-in-progress at the Virginia Film Festival, where he got feedback from the audience that has led him to make a few adjustments. Working by himself on something so personal made it easy for him to lose perspective, he says. "Some things were unclear that I thought were clear, probably because I know these people so well." — Daryl Grove


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