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Cinema With Substance

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One might say Jana Segal has a vision to help change the landscape of Hollywood. Segal, a local filmmaker and award-winning screenwriter, got tired of seeing the studios produce gore, violence and sex. Armed with a passion to promote films of substance, she founded Reel Inspiration in 2003, a grassroots organization whose mission is to support filmmakers who create films that are meaningful.

While the definition of meaningful films will differ for each moviegoer, Segal believes "they have something to say about the world we live in and about our relationships. They are films that inspire us."

Reel Inspiration seeks to spread the word about these meaty films, with a Web community of 60 members who promote the movies through e-mail. At reelinspiration.org, moviegoers can find reviews of films that are inspiring and thought-provoking.

The grassroots organization also provides professional training and resources for filmmakers and screenwriters. In September 2004, the Reel Inspiring contest was open to independent filmmakers whose films were five minutes or shorter. Film professionals judged the films, with winners receiving a directing workshop and script consultation.

This year, Reel Inspiration is sponsoring a Filmmakers' Conference, held Friday, Oct. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 23 at Hotel Arizona, 181 W. Broadway Blvd. The conference includes screenwriting, marketing, distribution and filmmaking workshops and a luncheon with keynote speaker Dennis E. Leoni--writer and producer of Showtime's Resurrection Blvd. The conference costs $100, $65 for students. Call 325-9175 to register, or pay at the door with cash or Visa. Visit reelinspiration.org for more information.

The conference also includes three off-site events that may be attended separately: On Friday, Oct. 21 at Old Tucson Studios, 201 S. Kinney Road, a location tour begins at 2:30 p.m., followed by a 3:30 p.m. panel discussion by Arizona's up-and-coming Western filmmakers: Susan K. Brigham (Greasewood Flat), Justin Kreinbrink (The Decoy), Jon Proudstar (Dude Vision) and Dick Fisher (The Brothers McMullen). $15 general, $10 Weekly readers and students.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, Robbing Peter director Mario de la Vega and producer Patrick Roddy discuss "Making the Most of Your Low Budget" at 7 p.m at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. A screening of Robbing Peter and a question-and-answer session follow at 8:30 p.m. $10 general, $6 students and conference attendees.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, the Independent Filmmakers of Southern Arizona host a mixer at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Conference presenter Linda Seger will sign her books. Free. Visit www.aivftucson.org for information.

During the main conference, attendees will learn screenwriting techniques from Seger, consultant on more than 2,000 scripts, including 40 feature films and 35 television projects. "Linda is a world-renowned screenwriter. You can't get better screenwriting consulting than her," says Segal.

"We were excited to get Pamela Jaye Smith," continues Segal. Smith is a writer, producer and director with 25 years experience. "She will teach (filmmakers) how to incorporate the structure of myths to tell their stories."

Other speakers include Kate McCallum on "Conscious Creativity" and "Holographic Creativity," Mark Steven Bosko on "Low-Cost Indie Film Marketing and Promotion" and "Alternative Film Distribution," and Tucsonans Annina Lavee and Sam Smiley on "Film Structure" and "Story."

Keynote speaker Dennis E. Leoni, who was born in Tucson, has written and produced programming for major networks and studios, including HBO, Paramount, Disney and Columbia. According to Segal, his Showtime Series, Resurrection Blvd. , was the first drama series to be written, produced, directed and starred by Latinos.

"He continues to make TV shows about people making the world a better place," says Segal. "I'm really delighted we got him because of his vision. He's such a visionary filmmaker. He told me in an e-mail that maybe we can inspire the next generation of filmmakers (at the conference)."

Helping to inspire filmmakers is clearly on Segal's mind. She would like conference attendees to walk away with "inspiration and the tools they need to express their independent vision."

While Segal's vision includes films that are meaningful and uplifting, she welcomes all filmmakers and screenwriters to the conference, and encourages them to find their own stories to tell.

"Usually at screenwriting conferences, they teach how to pitch high-concept movies--movies you can explain in one sentence. (For this conference), Pamela Jaye Smith created a class to instruct how to tell more personal stories--those that are not summed up in one sentence."

Segal would like to see Hollywood embrace more films that tell stories. "Hollywood has abandoned adult moviegoers. It's easier to market to younger viewers. A lot of adult moviegoers have stopped going. It's expensive and they get disappointed. I'd like to see Hollywood consider the films they are not making--such as smart comedies and dramas for older viewers."

With another Reel Inspiring film contest planned in 2006 and a second filmmakers' conference in 2007, Segal intends to support the "courageous" filmmakers who choose to make movies of substance. "Films have a huge impact on our lives. At their best, films have the power to inspire, empower, uplift, challenge and create change. Filmmakers are active participants in the social forces that shape our society. It is vital to support them in their expression of emerging ideas."

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