Orpheum unreels first film festival
Joe Case and Kim Steffen post in front of the Orpheum Theatre with some of the submissions for the first-ever Siouxland Film Festival. A variety of the movies will be screened on Saturday at the Orpheum. (Staff photo by Tim Hynds)

Does the next Martin Scorsese live in Siouxland?

You'll have the chance to find that out as the Sioux City Film Institute presents its first-ever Siouxland Film Festival at 7 p.m., Saturday at the Orpheum Theatre.

The event showcases independent work from the Siouxland area in conjunction with graduate student work from across the country.

Sioux City native Joe Case -- fledgling writer, director and producer of films -- had returned home from studies at Columbia University in New York and attended an Orpheum event.

"I was literally blown away by the facilities," he admitted. "I talked to Margot Chesbro (SiouxLandmark board member) about the idea of using the Orpheum to show short films and she encouraged me that anytime I'd like to show something, I should."

From there, Case thought, "Why not show a lot of local stuff?" and began putting the film festival together with help from Chesbro, Gary Lipshutz, Kim Steffen, Orpheum development director and attorney Tim Bottaro. From March of last year through the summer, Case worked on presentation, format and particulars of the festival.

A Web site was designed with information, http://www.siouxlandfilmfestival.com, so people all over the country could take part, Case explained. Individuals could submit their short movies on any subject matter (documentary, short fiction, animation, experimental). The movie could be no longer than 15 minutes and made within the last five years for the general public and last two years for graduate students. Submissions started coming in during the summer months until the Dec. 9 deadline.

In all, 70 movies were submitted, about half from the general public and about half from graduate students. From those submissions, five graduate works and 10 others will be screened at the Orpheum on Saturday. The five graduate works are from UCLA, Columbia University in Chicago, Columbia University in New York and Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa.

Sometime during the evening, Case's own screenplay, "Ornaments" will be presented. He created the 12-minute movie as part of his graduate work and spent four days in mid-August in Sioux City filming the screenplay.

"Ornaments" follows the epiphany of Adam (Greg Gregerson), a well-known sportscaster who stops for gas in his hometown of Sioux City after a 15-year absence. Tim (Paul Guggenheimer), the station attendant, recognizes his long-lost friend and the pair reconnect with another friend, Ryan (John Beumler). The reunion is rocky at first, but a reconciliation is reached at the end. The title refers to their youthful prank of stealing lawn ornaments.

Growing up in Sioux City, Case, 25, was never far from the theater. His dad is a professor of theater at the University of South Dakota. Family members came off the bench, including Case's grandmother Gertrude Weiner, sisters Katherine and Emily, cousin Mark Stolen, and classmates from Columbia, to put the production together and keep expenses at a minimum.

"Growing up, theater and movies and videos were just always there for us," Case said. "It was part of our lives. It occurred to me that doing something with film could be a career option."

A panel of judges, Alyssa Feiges, George Lindblade, Larry Wentz and Russ Wooley, will decide on the winner of the festival. That individual will receive a monetary stipend and the honor of being the first winner of the first-ever Sioux City Film Festival.

"But the idea isn't winning," said Case, a 1998 East High School graduate. "The point is to inspire filmmakers to continue their work and encourage them to keep making movies."

For more information on the film festival, call Steffen at (712) 258-9164.


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