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Films made locally to premiere next week

Directors inspired by area locations
By: Raheem Hosseini
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Hollywood may boast the big names, but Folsom and El Dorado Hills are producing their own batch of homegrown film auteurs. Next month's premier of "Something in the Clearing" at Crest Theater on June 6 - the 6/06/06 date is no coincidence - will coincide with "Elsa Letterseed's" release on Netflix. Both films were produced in Northern California, with "Elsa" shot primarily in Folsom, a fact writer/director Sarah Kreutz is very proud of. "LA and southern California think they have the corner market on movie making and they don't," she said. "We can do it in our backyard."
Students use film to promote conservation

By Raheem Hosseini

Marrying art and environmental issues, the winners of the Folsom High School Water Conservation film contest were announced on May 18.
Out of eight films submitted, four student teams received certificates for their short films about dry year planning and water conservation. Two teams split the first place award.
Two teams tied for first place. Team 4 members are Megan Marburg, Chris Hamilton, Brian Nickerson, Griffin Goc, Keleigh Apperson and Jessica Motroni. Team 12 members are Emily Caruso, Paul Howllwedel, Robin Packer, Stephanie Christen, Joanna Wirkus and Paola Martinez.
Second place went to Team 3, whose members are Megan Poole, Britton Donato, Ian Gray, Steve Ignacio, Cary Grossart, Justin Jinoubei, Matt Baudendistel, Stevie Roy, Ryan Rau and Chase Burke.
Third place honors went to Team 10 members: Jeff Becker, Max Shiro, Taylor Pontes, Katie Livingood, Marianne Lawlor, Josh Weatherspoon, Aaron Moayad, K J Graham, Andy Rubly, Alex Orr, Luke Mazzanti, Kaveh Madani and Tyler Goodmanson.
This is the second year for the contest, with the impetus being a 2000 agreement between the city and Water Forum to provide community outreach on conservation issues.
Rather than hire consultants, Folsom utilities director Ken Payne said the decision was to "make it a community type program instead."
As a result, the consultant's role became coordination and planning, said MMC Communications account supervisor Jennifer Tencati.
"We had a sub-consultant with a film background work with the students in the classroom alongside the film instructor, and coordinated with the Folsom Utilities Department to schedule interviews for the students," she said.
"It's worked really well," said Payne, who served as a judge last year.
Water Forum consultant Jim McCormack and one of this year's judges was impressed with the student output. "Definitely the ones that are up at the top we were very impressed with," he said.
The films ranged from 2 ½ to 7 ½ minutes, mixing interviews and tours of Sacramento area water projects to get out a message of conservation.
"What I looked for was were they fitting the message," McCormack said of his judging criteria. "I was impressed the kids took it all away ... in a way that might make the citizens of Folsom take notice."
The 35 students from the top four teams will receive awards during city council's June 13.
The winning films will be posted on the city's Web site, said Folsom High film instructor Sandi Hathaway.
This is Kreutz's first film project, beginning nearly four years ago with a script she planned to sell. Driven by the belief that Hollywood isn't producing the classic films it used to, Kreutz decided to undertake the project herself, scouting locations in Folsom and rewriting scenes as necessary. "One of the greatest things about shooting in Folsom was working with the city council," the El Dorado Hills resident said. Kreutz and her crew were allowed to shoot the project back in early 2003 without having to worry about sneaking permit-less shots "guerilla style." The dramedy stars Cameron Park model/actress Garian Grewe as the titular violin prodigy struggling to survive. The film's Web site bills the movie thusly: "As a girl, Elsa Letterseed couldn't do anything wrong. As a woman, she can't do anything right." A clothing stylist who "dresses talent," Kreutz said the movie is geared toward audiences, age 13 and up, and is "just meant to be entertaining for a couple of hours." As for "Something in the Clearing," the thriller comes from writer/director Sonnie Hamner and producer Gary Hamner, who owns Folsom Lake Chrysler Jeep. The Loomis couple filmed the movie late last year primarily in their hometown and parts of northern California. "That's why we're doing the world premier here (at Crest)," said Gary, who is also negotiating release dates in Los Angeles, New York and at Regal Theaters in Sacramento, as well as internationally. Sonnie describes the film alternately as a modern day "Rosemary's Baby" and "a throwback to a '50s style," in which good and evil are clearly delineated. "Clearing" tells a story based on actual federal kidnapping investigations about a family man played by British actor Luke Goss discovering dangerous secrets in his hometown. "He's really delightful," Sonnie said of Goss, who has appeared in "Blade II," "The Man" and other films. Proceeds from the June 6 premier at Crest Theater in Sacramento will benefit the Parent Hope Foundation, while more than half the film's gross will go to the Kingdom Foundation, a nonprofit assisting worldwide child abduction and sexual exploitation outreach efforts. Both Kreutz and the Hamners took interesting routes to their budding film careers, starting their projects because of what they felt was a lack of quality coming out of Hollywood, and relying on local talent to make their first pictures. Both Kreutz and Sonnie Hamner initially planned on selling their scripts, but changed their minds for various reasons. For Hamner, it was the idea of relinquishing control over the material and enduring probable changes. "So long story short, we ended up going into the movie business here," said Gary. That meant starting Narrow Gate Productions LLC last year as a way to give northern California a greater toehold in the ultra competitive world of filmmaking. The couple also hopes its films will have redeeming social impacts. "We've already started a new project," said Sonnie. "The desire is to use Placer County and El Dorado. ... It's an easy place to make a film." Kreutz has also started her next project, but hasn't stopped fretting about the current one. Though the film had its financial backers, Kreutz poured in most of her own savings to see it through. "The film is not making any money yet," she said. "I'm really anxious to start paying off those credit card bills." As such, Kreutz is eager to mention that "Elsa Letterseed" will be available on Netflix and can be ordered through the film's Web site, www.ElsaLetterseed.com. If the fact the movie has just completed a successful film festival circuit doesn't prompt you to make your reservation, Kreutz has one final ace up her sleeve. The Folsom Telegraph makes a brief cameo. "So people should watch it just for that," she laughed.