Postcard from Guest Blogger Cathy Arton, Casting Director repping Gone Fishing at the ONFilm Festival, Virginia!

FROM GUEST BLOGER, Catherine Arton, Casting Director for Gone Fishing

While Chris was at The Heart Of Gold film festival in Gympie, Queensland, I am at a film festival with a lot of heart! 

On Wednesday 18th of March I get an email from Chris, telling me that we have been selected to be in competition at the ONFilm Festival in Norfolk, Virginia. Would I go in his place and represent ‘Gone Fishing’. Hurrah!  WOW! Honored, delighted, 6 days later I was in the air on my way.

Two planes later, I stagger out from Norfolk International Airport (Not drunk, just exhausted) to my complete relief I hear a warm and welcoming, “Catherine is that you?” Lane Dare, director or the festival, comes rushing up to me, gives me a huge hug and kiss, helps me with bags and bundles me into her car.

Lane looks as though she has just stepped off the lot in Hollywood, she could be an actress or the president of the studio.  As soon as we are seat belted up we are off at a speed only to be matched by a formula one driver.  Scarier still, Lane roots around in her handbag on the floor, looking for her ringing cell phone and then pulls down the mirror to apply some lip balm.  As I did before the plane took off from London I quietly say a little prayer to myself.  I quickly discover that Lane Dare does everything at the speed of lightening.  I have never had the pleasure of meeting anyone quite like her.  Lane has been in broadcasting for years, in front of the camera and on the radio.  In her home library she has loads of language books.  On asking why, she nonchalantly says that when traveling to a country like Russia or Japan she like to learn the language first so that she can get the most out of her journey.  Seemingly, if Lane is interested in something she becomes a master of it.  Lane loves film and the arts so now Lane is the director of an international, competitive, film festival. 

Lane and I had this incredible conversation on the phone before I left the UK and Lane made the extraordinarily kind offer for me to stay in her house in Norfolk, with her and her lovely husband Jim.   Chris had said that we would get on like a house on fire and my goodness we did.  I asked Chris how he knew and he just shruggingly said, ‘I’m psychic!’ 

Day 1 –  I wake up at 4:30am, which at that point is 8:30am London time, so as the mother of a 5 year old, feels like a lie in.  What to do now, where to go next.  I am jet lagged and not sure what to do.  After a couple of hours I hear the others getting up and after a few homemade espressos it is suggested I stay at their home and Lane will be back at 4pm to come and get me, as that night is  “A Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss”, the official opening event for the festival.  Okay, I have had a crush on Richard Dreyfuss since I was a precocious 10 year old.  After seeing him in The Goodbye Girl, that was it!  Chris is also a huge admirer of his talent.  I am guessing more after Jaws and Close Encounters. Of course I had already picked out my outfit for the event, BUT what to say as I push my way through the expectant crowd to meet him.  I have time to do some research, I go onto You Tube to discover Richard Dreyfuss is a proactive campaigner for the need for Civics to be a part of the national curriculum, to be taught in schools. He is an intensely proud American who wants to get fellow Americans on board, to be proud in their country, to take responsibility for self and country and to protect their country and their very precious civil liberties.  I further learn that tonight’s  “A Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss” is indeed about this political stance and not particularly about his remarkable film career. 

I am moved by the passion I see in this incredibly intelligent good, good, kind man.  Therefore my opening gambit will be to thank him for using his fame for a tremendous cause. 

Dreyfus The evening of the talk arrives. As predicted I push myself forward and we are locked in conversation. Me and Richard Dreyfuss, ah!  I become increasingly aware of a maddening crowd as I am hogging the man of the hour, I excuse myself, to later go back for some more.  With his intense blue eyes and commanding presence, Richard Dreyfuss has the ability to make you feel as though you are the only person in the room, as though you have known each other for years. I have been asked not to film the event so I, accidentally, on-purpose, got a little bit from the talk. Oddly enough, the only bit that was about his career.  I then got a gentle tap on my shoulder and switched off the camera.  His enthusiasm spread through the crowd like a wild fire.  Many of us from abroad, Britain, The Netherlands, Israel, Australia, South Africa, within moments he got us all to stand up and Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, we all willingly jumped to our feet, stood and Pledged our Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America not one person sat.  In that moment I too wanted to be an American, I felt grateful for the idea’s behind ‘The American Dream’, Free Speech, The idea of global security.  Interesting as under the Bush administration I could be heard on countless occasions, to say many a scathing remark in regard to the US.  Now with men like Richard Dreyfuss championing his causes and the dawn of hope permeating the ionosphere under the Obama administration all bets are off and America now seems instantly more like the country I grew up next to while a child, in Canada.

Day 2 –
On the phone and on my arrival I had asked for some help hopefully from some eager film students or interns. To quickly discover that there seemingly were none available. Yikes!

Although, the film festival has being going for the last 11 years as a retrospective festival, this was the very 1st year that it had been opened out to international competition.  Another day at my kind hosts home until Lane could come and get me.  Tonight was the screening of the highly acclaimed ‘Swimming With Sharks’ with it’s fiercely intelligent, charming, dynamic, producer Stephen Israel, chair of the jury for the ONFilm Festival, in attendance. Stephen has been brought on board by Lane Dare. Stephen has long family roots in Norfolk, Virginia, although British-born, and now an LA-based film producer.

Stephen Israel, was one of the earliest supporters of the Slamdance Film Festival, the counter-programmed festival that runs in Park City, Utah, at the same time as the Sundance Film Festival.  "For the longest time, the only way for more specialized films to find a larger audience was at film festivals," Stephen offers.  Stephen is now committed to making the Onfilm Festival for Indie film’s as superb and marvelous a competitive, international film festival as possible.  I give it 2-3 years to get into it’s full stri
de.

Day 3 – I have realized that I need to leave the house with Lane in the morning.  I am up and ready.  After all I have been awake since 5:30am.  Today are the student film awards.  At the awards I can see that there is a lot of up and coming talent.

Tonight is the first screening of Gone Fishing.  The weather report is not good.  Gale force winds and driving rain, which comes to pass. I couldn’t believe that anyone would venture out in that kind of storm but they did.  Gone Fishing was screened along with The Coffee Break, a wonderfully powerful film about 2 police officers taking what should be a harmless coffee break which turns into, a question of gender identity, bullying, fear and humiliation. Also, About Face, a very funny film that takes Facebook to its literal conclusion, and finally a feature documentary by Jan Louter.  A very important film about the last days of an entire society and it’s people as the island of Shishmareff is disappearing into the sea as a direct result of global warming.  The island has between 5-10 years left.  The people of the island have to move but they need governmental aid to do so as they live off the land and do not have the financial ability to move to the mainland. It is called The Last Days of Shishmaref.

Day 4 – Today there are a few more screenings of Gone Fishing at a wonderful old theatre called the Naro, which dates back to 1936.  I will go to scope it out and to do a sound check for levels.

Today I am having breakfast in a typical American diner near to the cinema, with Stephen Israel and Lane Dare.  Tonight are the awards.   I am looking forward to it. 

The Awards ceremony – Okay WE WON for best short film.  I go up on stage thinking, Sh*t I wish I had written something; Chris always makes it look so effortless.  Yikes!  It all went into a blur and slow motion.  Someone puts the awards in my hands and veteran film critic Mal Vincent is congratulating me, and suddenly there is a huge blown up picture of Chris as Chris had pre-recorded an acceptance speech just-in-case.  Whew, I think, I don’t have to speak.  Then it happens, Chris is apologizing for that little gaff at BAFTA and thanking me for all of the 20 odd years we have worked together, and for my contributions to his filmmaking.  Luckily my back is to the audience as my eyes projectile spurt out tears and I am shaking and completely choked up.  I managed to momentarily pull it together to turn around and say something to the audience.  It was such a kind and generous speech so typical of Chris Jones!

Working with Chris is always inspiring!  He is one of the most talented people I have ever met.  He has a way on set that makes everyone feel as though they have a say.  It is always a truly collaborative event.  You know I have seen Gone Fishing umpteen of times and each time it gets me, and I tear up.  That is a true testament to the great collaborative filmmaking behind it.  I am so proud of everyone involved.  Our wonderful actors, Bill Patterson, Lin Blakely, Ruth Gemell, Devon Murray, James Wilson, Eddie Hamilton our amazing editor, Vernon Layton our incredible Cinematographer.   And of course our intrepid director Chris Jones.

Speaking with Mal Vincent after the awards was one of the highlights of my trip.  Mal Vincent was one of the Jurors for the festival, Mal regaled me with stories of when he met Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn, Angelina Jolie well the list goes on.  He was so generous putting up with my endless questions.  I also, got the distinct pleasure of speaking with Jeff Cooper, Doug Wedeck and his lovely wife Mara, actually I met so many interesting people all with a love and passion for film, that it was bliss. 

Time to go home to the UK – It has all happened much too quickly.  I am sad to leave Norfolk, Virginia and especially Lane and Jim, as they are amazing people.  I hope that Lane and I stay friends as we gelled as people who are supposed to be friends do.  What a woman! 

The Festival in its infancy was perfect, and it was such an honour to be at it’s the inception.  I know that with Lane Dare, Stephen Israel and all of the other people who are behind it, it will go from strength to strength.  Thanks Chris!

Catherine Arton, Casting Director

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