Seven might just be Brian Peacher's lucky number. The seventh annual Charleston International Film Festival, founded by Peacher and his wife, Summer, promises a more ambitious lineup than ever before with more than 70 features, documentaries and shorts screening April 9-13 at the Sottile Theatre and Charleston Music Hall.
If you go
WHAT: The Charleston International Film Festival will feature more than 70 films divided into blocks of shorts and features, as well as free filmmaking workshops, parties and an awards gala.
WHEN: April 9-13
WHERE: Sottile Theatre, 44 George St.; Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St.
COST: $25 opening reception, $10 per film block, $99 awards gala
MORE INFO: 817-1617 or www.charlestoniff.com
About 80 filmmakers are expected to attend the festival from as far away as New Zealand and Kenya, and the films to be shown were culled from more than 500 submissions.
This year also marks the first time the festival will screen a major studio movie. "Draft Day," from director Ivan Reitman ("Ghostbusters") and starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, will have its South Carolina premiere in a special red carpet event on the festival's opening night.
In the film, Costner plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns who tries to end a losing streak in the high-stakes world of the NFL draft. "Draft Day" will open nationwide April 11, two days after its Charleston debut.
"Charleston is a big college football town and I felt like it'd be a good fit for opening night," said Peacher. "It's a big deal for us to get this film."
The high profile opening is all part of Peacher's mission to draw talent and films to his hometown, expanding the festival each year.
"My focus is on bringing people into Charleston rather than promoting local films, although we do that as well," he said.
Indeed, Peacher also works with the S.C. Film Commission to help foster local film development.
Last year's winners of the film commission's Indie Grants program, which offers up to $15,000 to South Carolina filmmakers working on projects throughout the state, along with finalists in the S.C. Young Filmmakers Project, will screen their films during the festival.
CIFF also introduced this year a program designed to inspire the next generation of Lowcountry filmmakers, sponsoring a series of screenwriting workshops at three local high schools as part of the new Script to Screen initiative.
Students at Goose Creek, Wando and Academic Magnet high schools developed short original screenplays with the help of film industry experts and competed for the chance to have their work produced by professional filmmakers and screened at the festival.
This year's winning screenplay, "Turpentine Nails" by Goose Creek senior Megan Montgomery, tells the story of an aspiring actress and her artist roommate who deal with an unplanned pregnancy.
"I'm excited and nervous at the same time," said Montgomery, who had never written a screenplay before her Script to Screen project, of anticipating seeing her work on screen. "It hasn't really hit me yet."
Montgomery attributes much of her success in the contest to her teacher's inspiration and help. "I've gotten to meet a lot of people and it has opened a lot of doors," she said. "I like film now more than before."
The contest may also have influenced the senior's post-graduation plans. While Montgomery isn't sure if she'd like to pursue filmmaking professionally, she feels confident in her strengths as a storyteller. "Whatever I do, I want to write," she said.
Unlike Montgomery, producer Warren Ostergard is a CIFF veteran whose films have won awards in four of the festival's previous years. The Johns Island resident is currently touting "The Sublime and the Beautiful," written and directed by Blake Robbins, who also stars.
After premiering at the Slamdance Film Festival, which runs alongside Sundance each year in Park City, Utah, Ostergard is excited to bring the movie to Charleston audiences.
"This film deals with personal tragedy, so I think a lot of people can relate to it," he said. "People who see it react."
The story follows a husband and wife who lose their three children in an accident as they struggle to come to terms with feelings of grief and guilt. Robbins was inspired to make the film as a way of coping with the trauma of witnessing the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 from the streets of New York City, according to Ostergard.
The festival also will feature free workshops on movie editing and animation, along with a discussion on casting presented by Emmy-award winning Laray Mayfield, whose credits include "House of Cards" and "The Social Network."
Wrapping things up, an awards gala will be held April 13 at Memminger Auditorium, with awards in each film category in addition to a $1,000 cash prize for best picture.
Producer Gale Anne Hurd, who wrote the screenplay for "The Terminator" and produced such sci-fi classics as "Aliens," "The Abyss" and "The Walking Dead," will be on hand at the gala to receive the first annual Achievement in American Film Award. CIFF organizers chose Hurd for "her very successful career on some amazing blockbuster films."
Although the festival is sandwiched between such prominent local events as the BB&T Charleston Food + Wine Festival, Charleston Fashion Week and Spoleto, Peacher feels confident that the CIFF won't be lost in the fray.
"There's no local festival as comprehensive in terms of film," he said, suggesting that the festival offers a unique viewing experience for local movie fans. "There's no magic wand we can wave. All we can do is hope that people see the value and fun in this kind of experience."