Named in the top 25 “coolest fests” by Moviemaker Magazine in 2009, the Lake Placid Film Forum is snuggled into the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate, New York. Every June since the year 2000 (save one skipped-over year in 2005), a group of award-winning filmmakers, actors, and special guests settle in for three to four days of creative discussion, devoid the politicking and paparazzi of more commercial fests. Says Courtney Hunt, writer-director of the Oscar-winning Frozen River, “The LPFF truly delivers what every filmmaker really wants: A packed house, a nice party, and the chance to meet other artists.”
In 2007, the Film Forum introduced a 24-hr filmmaking competition, known as “Sleepless in Lake Placid,” where students from regional film schools labor to create a ten minute film that wins over jury of industry professionals and entertains an enthusiastic audience. “Crazy, fun, and exciting,” said one student, from Syracuse University. “What a great opportunity.”
Over the years, the essence of the Film Forum has been its intimacy. The bucolic venues, like a lodge by the lake, combined with both historic and state-of-the-art theaters, create the think-tank atmosphere and foster the casual, yet unforgettable moments that are the Forum’s signature. In one recent year, a news publication noted, director Jonathan Demme “stood outside the theater for 45 minutes to talk to aspiring documentarians and fans.”
This mom-n-pop approach hasn’t stopped the big hitters from finding their way into the mountains; if anything, it’s encouraged them. Starting things off in 2000, the guest of honor was none other than Milos Foreman. Norman Jewison, John Sayles, and Martin Scorsese have all been honorees. Films like Whale Rider and Bushido have played to packed houses while submitted indies such as After the Apocalypse and Jailbait riveted audiences with new directions in filmmaking. Campbell Scott, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Matthew Modine and their ilk have participated in public forums and philosophical panel discussions, while master classes and workshops have dealt with the practicalities of making movies.
After scaling back some to the original vision of a more cozy, accessible festival (thusly called a “forum”), the Lake Placid Film Forum continues to subtly dazzle with the kinds of films, and the kinds of guests and discussions, which focus on the craft, the anecdotes, and the celebration of what J. Hoberman called, “the first postmodern art form.”
This year, as part of the tenth anniversary celebration of the Film Forum, the annual event will be held from June 10 – 13 in Lake Placid. Among the special guests are Parker Posey (visiting for the first time) and Courtney Hunt (who showed her film Frozen River in 2008). After Kathryn Bigelow took the coveted Best Director award at this year’s Oscars, this Film Forum will focus on women in the industry. Debra Granik’s film “Winter’s Bone,” another award-winner (Grand Jury Prize at Sundance) will show on Saturday afternoon. The Film Forum is showing Aaron Woolf’s environment-minded films King Corn and Big River, a screening sponsored by the Adirondack Green Circle, followed by a conversation with Woolf. Authors Jay Parini and William Kennedy will also “converse” and offer a book signing, thanks to the Bookstore Plus. Other sponsors this year include local supporters The UPS Store and Hurley Brothers. Housing and venue support comes from the Whiteface Lodge, the Mirror Lake Inn, and the Pines. Moviemaker Magazine is the official sponsor of the 24-hour film competition. For more information about the 2010 Film Forum, and a listing of films and guests for 2010, visit lake placid film forum dot com.