Staff photo by Cole Dittmer
Wilmington resident Madden Meiners, fourth from left, addresses questions from the audience following the screening of his short film, “Cat Show,” as part of the Cucalorus Film Festival on Sunday, Nov. 17.
From 6-minute shorts to 180-minute-long feature films, the 19th Cucalorus Film Festival immersed Wilmington in the talents of filmmakers from around the world throughout the weekend of Nov. 14-17.
On the festival’s first night of screenings, a full house at Thalian Hall’s main stage watched the southern United States premier of Michael Maren’s “A Short History of Decay.”
Filmed primarily in Wrightsville Beach, the film followed the trials and tribulations of Nathan, a struggling Brooklyn writer coping with ailing parents and dissolving relationships.
Wrightsville Beach landmarks like Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, the north end beach strand and the downtown business district were prominently featured as the movie’s setting of a seaside Floridian town.
The film’s writer and director, Maren, was in attendance at the screening and said the film was originally set to be shot in Sarasota, Fla., but the loss of an investor derailed the film temporarily.
“My producer came to me about a month later and said, ‘I think we need to take a trip to Wilmington,’” Maren said.
The timing worked out well for the casting of the film as well because Maren’s first choice for the lead role as Nathan’s mother — former Wilmington resident Linda Lavin — was performing on Broadway during the initial shooting schedule.
Following the film, Maren revealed that the overall plot was largely autobiographical as his father had suffered a stroke and his mother lived with Alzheimer’s, just as the mother and father do in the film.
“I remember thinking, ‘this is either the saddest thing in the world or I am going to laugh at it,’” he said. “I started writing the script that night sitting in my parents’ living room so that is the genesis of the story.”
An ad in a local Wilmington newspaper served as the genesis for Madden Meiners’ short film, “Cat Show,” which screened on Sunday, Nov. 17, along with a collection of six other shorts.
“Being a cat owner myself I just wanted to explore that pet-owner relationship a little more and the vibe at the cat show, too,” Meiners said to the audience gathered for the screening at TheatreNOW. “Fortunately enough, you leave the camera on people and there are cats in the background, so there is bound to be some interesting stuff that happens.”
The Sunday Bog Bean Shorts block was one of 19 shorts blocks throughout the weekend and the topics ranged from cat show participants to Dale Varnum and his junkyard that doubles as his art studio.
On Monday, Nov. 18, Cucalorus Film Festival director Dan Brawley said the 2013 festival had been the biggest yet.
“It was definitely bigger than past years, because we expanded in some places,” Brawley said. “What I noticed most was that we sold out of a lot of daytime screenings and people were really connecting with the films and filmmakers.”
While preparations for the 20th Cucalorus began a year ago, Brawley said he and the Cucalorus staff would take some time to recharge their batteries before getting to work again.
“Today we also just found out we were awarded a [National Endowment for the Arts] grant for next year’s festival so that helps with the post-festival depression,” he joked.