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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Fests spotlight northwest Ohio's young filmmakers


Jon Wagner, like any smart film student, began with an idea. His story would be serious. Two Vietnam veterans come home. They fall in love with the same woman. A fifth-year senior at Bowling Green State University, he thought it would make a nice final project before graduation.

Then problems arose.

He had a crisis of confidence. He suddenly felt as if he'd seen the movie he wanted to make - "like a hundred times before." Worse, "I just could not find any attractive women to star in it."

When Wagner's movie - all of 26 minutes - shows this weekend at the BGSU Film & Media Festival, which runs tomorrow and Sunday, please take note: One vet is now a recovering alcoholic, the other an Elvis impersonator. And the lucky woman caught in the middle of this tempest is a man (Seth Trim, a BGSU theater student) portraying a woman.

So goes film production.

Improvisation is your friend.

Or rather, improvisation is the patron saint of no-budget filmmaking - watch for him this weekend, hovering over two local film festivals: BGSU's showcase, which spotlights 14 student films and a couple of guest speakers, and the Frogtown Film Festival, which started last year at Maumee Valley Country Day School and fills an intriguing niche: It screens only movies made by Toledo-area high school students.

The Frogtown - which runs tonight and tomorrow at Maumee Valley Country Day School on South Reynolds Road - is showing about 25 films, including Crunk, a short that's certain to blow the lid off the little-understood problem of high school students who... uh... well...

Drink lots of coffee.

The filmmakers are Katherine Wade, 17, and her two friends Asha Tamirisa and Sonya Naganathan, all juniors at Maumee Valley. The idea, Wade said, sprung from a typical high schooler's night of self-loathing.

"We were at like Panera studying on a Friday night and drinking coffee and being such nerds because it was Friday night and we were studying and drinking coffee and like we thought of making a film that was a little bit of a parody of teen alcoholism.

"But it's a comedy."

What the Frogtown and BGSU festivals also share is a willingness to replicate the big-time film festival experience - albeit, in miniature. They may not get features from around the world but Frogtown received works from students in Perrysburg and Toledo public high schools. They may not have a massive party scene but Frogtown will have bands and a few singers performing throughout the festival.

BGSU, however, has stars.

Well, faces.

Speaking on Sunday is character actor Art LeFleur, whose lumpy features are instantly recognizable if you attend movies more than once a year. (He played Babe Ruth in The Sandlot, for instance.) Doing double duty is Tom Hofbauer, who is showing his Toledo-made drama, In the Company of Strangers, and speaking at both the Frogtown and BGSU fests.

Similarities end there.

Wagner is the president of BGSU's University Film Organization and wants to write and direct movies one day. Wade is treasurer of Maumee Valley's Movie Club and has no plans to continue in the movie business after she graduates high school.

Her next project?

"An Indian-American parody of Trading Spaces. The Indians take over my room and I'm playing like this total Goth girl."

The Frogtown Film Festival is tonight from 5 to 9, tomorrow from noon to 9 at Maumee Valley Country Day School, 1715 South Reynold Rd. Tickets are $6, $5 for students. Information: 381-1313, or www.mvcds.net/clubs/movieclub/filmfest/index.htm.

The Bowling Green State University Film & Media Festival runs tomorrow and Sunday. All events are free and open to the public. Screenings are in the Gish Theater tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Additional screenings and guest speaker presentations are Sunday starting at 10 a.m. For more information and a complete schedule: www.bgsu.edu/studentlife/organizations/film.

Contact Christopher Borrelli at: cborrelli@theblade.com

or 419-724-6117.

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