Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Britta Erickson

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Photo credit: James Dimagiba
Britta Erickson is all smiles at a Starz Denver Film Festival red carpet event.
#43: Britta Erickson

Britta Erickson, a Denver native who's the director of the Starz Denver Film Festival, not only builds the fest from the ground up behind the scenes but also serves as its public face. Popular Denver Film Society side projects such as Film on the Rocks and the Stanley Film Festival also bloom under her watch; in her spare time -- if you can believe she has any -- she's also a film producer who often works with local talent like documentarian Daniel Junge. That's a lot for one woman to carry on her shoulders every year, but Erickson does it with charm and business aplomb, and clearly loves every minute of her work. Learn more via her 100 Colorado Creatives questionnaire, which follows.

See also: Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Darrin Alfred

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Kelly Sears Uses Found Footage to Capture Current Crises: See Them Tonight

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Kelly Sears, Voice on the Line
Kelly Sears will be showing a program of short films at First Person Cinema.
Scouring flea markets, thrift stores and film archives, filmmaker Kelly Sears rescues bits and pieces of forgotten movies and reanimates old footage to explore new ideas. But unlike many found-footage filmmakers whose works are an exercise in nostalgia, Sears reinvents histories to reflect on the current crises facing our society. For example, in her film Voice on the Line, she imagines a secret government program that persuaded '50s era telephone operators to keep callers on the line, slowly getting them to reveal their dirtiest secrets. The film uses this story to reflect on surveillance culture and social media exhibitionism.

Whether she's dealing with the Patriot Act, Manifest Destiny or the menacing drama of high school life, Sears creates captivating narratives while exploring the limits of experimental animation techniques and collage -- using both story and frame-by-frame manipulation. In advance of her presentation at First Person Cinema tonight, we spoke with Sears about her work.

See also: Karen Yasinsky Talks Surrealist Animation and Boredom

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From Ink to The Frame, Jamin and Kiowa Winans Are Making Their Mark in the Movies

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Anthony Camera
Kiowa Winans stands in the garage of her West Highland home, shaking a lifeless child.

"This is our stuffed Quinn," she says, clutching the little-girl-sized doll. She's referring to Quinn Hunchar, the actress who, at the age of eight, played Emma in the cult film Ink. The movie was written and directed by Kiowa's husband, Jamin Winans. He stands next to Kiowa, grinning at the macabre Muppet in her hands. Their garage has become a mausoleum for costumes and props, all stacked neatly in boxes and bags like eerie, discarded memories.

"I sewed this myself, which you can tell from the super-high quality," Kiowa jokes. In addition to co-producing Ink and all the other movies made by the couple's Denver-based company, Double Edge Films, she handles such duties as art direction, sound design, costume design -- and crafting creepy props.

In Ink, that prop plays its role well. The blond, faceless doll served as a stunt double in a scene where Emma is kidnapped from her bed by a supernatural intruder who then leaps from a second-story landing while holding her. It's one of many striking images that helped make the modest yet ambitious film a bona fide viral phenomenon. By Kiowa's estimate, Ink has been watched -- either legitimately or through online piracy -- somewhere in the vicinity of five million times since its release in 2009. In Denver alone, it ran for eight straight weeks at the Starz (now the Sie) FilmCenter. Fans around the world still send photos of homemade costumes they've created or tattoos they've gotten in honor of Ink.
Not that everyone has been charmed by the movie's weirdness. "We were at a warehouse late one night after shooting Ink," Kiowa remembers. "We'd paid a guy to help us out. He didn't speak English. He saw Quinn leave with her mom, then he went outside to have a cigarette. A minute later I come out. I'm exhausted, and I'm trying to wrestle this doll back into the trash bag that I'd brought it in. This poor guy is smoking, and he looks at the doll and goes, 'Oh, la niƱa!' I was like, 'No, this isn't what it seems!' as I'm shoving her into a plastic bag."

Things that aren't what they seem are Kiowa and Jamin's specialty. The duo's three feature-length films -- 11:59 (released in 2005), Ink and The Frame, which opens October 17 at the Sie FilmCenter -- have one element in common: They're all set in the real world. But that world winds up being a far darker, stranger and more magical place than their characters -- or their viewers -- ever imagined.


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Must-see Films at the 2014 Snowboard on the Block North American Film Festival

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Courtesy Snowboard Colorado
Scotty Vine gets upside down on his way to winning the 2013 Snowboard on the Block rail jam.
While the first Colorado ski areas won't be opening for another month, locals know that snowboarding season actually starts in September, with the early onslaught of video premieres to stoke the fire. And, for the second year in a row, you can see almost all of them in one place at the Snowboard on the Block 2014 North American Snowboard Film Festival, an all-ages event getting under way on Saturday.

Westword caught up with Snowboard Colorado editor-in-chief Adam Schmidt for the inside scoop on the festival and a highlight reel of selections from the twenty films being featured.

See also: In Valley Uprising, a Boulder Filmmaker Explores Yosemite's Climbing Counterculture


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Podcast Profiles: Adam Cayton-Holland and My Dining Room Table

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Ryan Brackin
Podcasts are in tune with the democratized spirit of Internet media; anyone with a microphone and a computer can offer their listeners unlimited hours of recordings, usually for free. Limited only by their imaginations, podcasters have a freedom of expression unrestricted by commerce, censorship or geography. Indeed, several great podcasts have blossomed from Denver's own flourishing arts community. Here to celebrate them is Podcast Profiles, a new series documenting the efforts of local podcasters and spotlighting the peculiar personalities behind them.

After he successfully navigated the High Plains Comedy Festival through its second year, it would be understandable for Adam Cayton-Holland to indulge in a bit of glad-handing and laurel-resting before moving forward. Instead, he's been busier than ever. He'll be appearing on the series premiere of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail and competing once more on @Midnight, so tune into Comedy Central on September 17 for a "double-dose of ACH." In preparation for an upcoming show at L.A.'s taste-making alt-comedy venue, Holland will be debuting his hour on Saturday, September 13 at the Syntax Physic Opera. With all these developments in the running, the time has never been better to check out My Dining Room Table, an interview podcast featuring national headlining comedians, Denver luminaries and plenty of discussion about Holland's dog, Annabel.

See also: Podcast Profiles: Werewolf Radar Gets Weird

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House Candidate Susan Kochevar is Starring in a Drama Over Her 88 Drive-In Theatre

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Bree Davies.
Drive-ins were once a major part of the movie theater landscape, but most of them have closed over the past few decades as indoor multiplexes have taken over. In the Denver area, only one remains: the 88 Drive-In Theatre in Commerce City. Business there, it seems, has never been better. It's so good, in fact, that Susan Kochevar, whose family has owned the outdoor movie house since 1976, is in a traffic-related tussle with the city.

See also: Could Commerce City Shut Down 88 Drive-In, Metro Denver's Last Drive-In Theater?

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Podcast Profiles: Werewolf Radar Gets Weird

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The Werewolf Radar crew with guest Andrew Orvedahl at El Charrito

Podcasts are in tune with the democratized spirit of Internet media: anyone with a microphone and a computer can offer their listeners hours of recordings, usually for free. Limited only by their imaginations, podcasters have a freedom of expression unrestricted by commerce, censorship or geography. Here to celebrate Denver's great ones is Podcast Profiles, documenting the peculiar personalities behind them.

Perhaps no local podcast has a clearer mission than Werewolf Radar, a paranormal investigation that mines the darkest recesses of human understanding for laughs. "Like all perfect unions, ours was borne of conversation and the realization that nobody else was filling the niche where comedy and the X Files intermix," says co-host Nate Balding.

See also: The ten best comedy events in Denver this August


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Free Colorado Day showing of the original True Grit, made in Colorado

Categories: Colorado Film

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John Wayne shows true grit.
It takes grit to make a movie in Colorado -- sometimes True Grit. This state's film industry has gotten mixed reviews over the years, but there's no question that producer Hal Wallis created a classic when he made True Grit, based on the book by Charles Portis, in Colorado in 1969. The San Juan Mountains provide the stunning background for a performance by John Wayne, playing U.S. marshal "Rooster" Cogburn, a "one-eyed fat man," that wound up winning the icon his first Academy Award. And on Friday, August 1, you can be a winner, too, because there will be a free showing of the original True Grit in Civic Center Park in honor of Colorado Day.

See also: Ten hit movies filmed in Colorado

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Sands Theatre in Brush makes the leap into the digital age with a new film projector

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Anthony Camera.
Joe Machetta, owner and operator of the Sands Theatre since the late 1950s.
The new projector that Joe Machetta has been waiting for has finally arrived. The owner of the Sands -- focus of the cover story "Can the Sands Theatre survive digital conversion?" -- was looking at a questionable future for the movie house he's been running in Brush since 1958. But with the helping hand of local nonprofit Downtown Colorado Inc. and its Save Our Screens campaign and the robust support of the Brush community, the Sands recently made the pricey conversion to a digital cinema projection system. And now the lights will stay on.

See also: Save Our Screens wants the show to go on at rural cinemas, like the Sands in Brush

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The ten best comedy events in Denver this July

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Robyn Von Swank/ IFC

July, with its sweltering afternoons and late evening sunsets, is filled with a kind of sun-dappled shapelessness; its days were once described by Ada Louise Huxtable as "jeweled balm for the battered spirit."

Balming the battered is also a standup comedian's job description, and this month promises a healing wave of laughs washing over our arid city, featuring seasoned chortle-mongers from across the country. From one-night only theater appearances by sitcom stars to comedy nerd heroes at local clubs, battered spirits from across the spectrum of comedy fandom will find plenty of opportunities to laugh in air-conditioned comfort.

See also: The ten best geek events in Denver in July

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