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Schmoozing the Cruz

Could I get your card? Cinemar and the Digital Media Factory hook up for the hook-ups.

By Peter Koht

At the beginning of 2002, most people interested in motion picture production on the Central Coast were stranded, unable to make contact with the people that could help their visions attain reality.

Bruce Burns remembers those times less than fondly. "Directors were saying to me, 'I can't find any actors. I have to go to San Jose or to agencies.' That was crazy, there are so many talented actors who live in this town. We just needed a way to draw them out."

After attending a few meetings of the Santa Cruz Film Coalition, an organization founded by Jeff Wagner, Burns took the reins and began the transition from informal coffeehouse conversation group to actual arts organization. Changing the SCFC's name to Cinemar, Burns and his posse set up a database of skilled people to make it easy for people to find each other via a website.

In September 2003, Cinemar began hosting a party the third Friday of each month. Local members of the film community now had a venue where they could talk about artistic visions--and the personnel problems that kept these dreams from being realized. In short, it was a Schmoozfest.

Initially hosted at the Running Dog downtown, the party soon got too big for the tiny studio. That's when Digital Media Factory founder Marty Collins stepped in. As he recalls, "They were going through some growing pains so we decided to make this space available."

If there's one thing that the Digital Media Factory has, it's square footage. Located in the old Wrigley's Plant on the West Side, the former factory is now filled with green screens, Macintoshes and mixing boards, and is quickly becoming the epicenter of the local film community.

This coming Friday Cinemar hosts another Schmoozfest networking orgy, featuring screenings of independent projects and a guest speaker. Peter Cor will talk about his work as a film composer and share tips for filmmakers on how to deal with this irascible breed of artiste.

Chad Davies, who now co-produces the Schmooze with Zeb Esselstyn, believes this momentous change "is all part of a natural evolutionary process." New Cinemar director James Duisenberg concurs. He's also making sure Burns' work continues in his absence. While the core intention of the organization remains the same, some minor changes are in the works for the May Schmoozfest.

"One of the things we've discussed is changing the format of Schmoozfest to better facilitate networking." Duisenberg relates, "It's hard to go around a room and make yourself available. Meeting the right people is even harder.... So we are going to allow around five or six people to get up onstage to make a five-minute pitch for the project that they are trying to make happen."

More collaboration with the Digital Media Factory is also in the works. In keeping with Cinemar's educational goal of providing access and education to its members, the group is attempting to facilitate workshops at the former warehouse to introduce filmmakers to the emerging tools that make the moviemaking process easier, and hopefully, cheaper.

Though there remains a long way to go to make Santa Cruz a "Hollywood in the Redwoods," Burns is happy about the work that Cinemar has accomplished.

"There is a much higher rate of film production now and Schmoozfest helped to make that happen. We have an honest to God film community now."


The next Schmoozfest happens on Friday, April 15, 7:30pm, Digital Media Factory, 2809 Mission St., Santa Cruz; www.cinemarfilm.org.

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From the April 13-20, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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