Lights, Camera, Lasso 

True West to open media center

For wannabe filmmakers, documentarians, video artists and animators, Idaho can be a lonely place to practice their craft. But all of the above should breathe a sigh of relief now that a local organization has unveiled plans to open a film arts center. True West Cinema, a Boise-based non-profit organization and sponsor of the annual True West Cinema Festival, announced last month the January 2007 opening of the True West Media Arts Center in the Muse Building of Boise.

For Greg Bayne, True West co-founder and artistic director, the center is not only the first-of-its-kind but greatly needed. He says, "In short, the idea grew out of seeing the need, and remembering back to when we were in high school in Idaho and how much we would have loved to have a resource like this available." Bayne, Travis Swartz and Heather Rae created True West Cinema in 2004 with a mission to "foster the development and growth of the film and media community in Idaho and the appreciation of cinema arts."

According to Bayne, in January 2007, the True West Cinema Festival will begin year-round operations with the opening of its media arts center, allowing continued dedication to the festival and support to amateur filmmakers.

"The media center is in a unique position to offer specialized training, in many cases through partnerships with schools and universities, that is up to date, highly adaptable and generally taught by industry professionals that can offer a deeper understanding into the tools and language of cinema based on their years of working experience." Bayne also says the center will act as a hub for emerging artists to share work and ideas, find collaborators and locate equipment. Once the center is fully operational, equipment rentals including film and digital video cameras, sound recording equipment, editing systems and grip and lighting gear will also be available at an affordable price. The center will also provide a screening space for artists, and will host local exhibitions of regional films, videos and animations.

The centerpiece of the art center is the True West School of Cinema, offering year-round training programs in film, video and multimedia arts. Courses will be taught by industry pros in the field and are discipline-specific to topics like editing, directing, cinematography and animation.

The school will also implement a Cinema Youth program, an immersion program in video/film production focusing on film and media workshops, including screenwriting, digital filmmaking, computer animation and film appreciation. Working independently and in cooperation with local area schools, the program is for children ages seven and up from around the Treasure Valley. The program will engage youth in a safe, fun and nurturing environment where they can develop and share their creative voices.

Another program in development is The True West Work In Progress. It will allow green filmmakers to screen their unfinished works to a group of their peers, providing them with valuable feedback while fostering an environment of artistic growth.

True West also hopes to partner with universities, local and regional film producers, directors, writers and skilled film technicians to provide on-set training internships for students on feature film productions.

Like all non-profits, True West is always looking for fundraising opportunities. With a goal of $175,000 in 2007, they have managed to secure their first year's lease in the Muse Building.

Because fundraisers will probably not be able to cover all of True West's costs, the center is expected to have some sort of price tag attached. "Because of the generally costly nature of film and video making, most programs, workshops or classes offered will cost; however, it is very much our intention to make these programs available to the widest demographic possible," Bayne says.

Their next fundraiser is scheduled for December 16 at The Flicks with a screening of 51 Birch Street. In association with Priddy Brothers Entertainment, True West Cinema will premiere the highly acclaimed documentary for Boise audiences.

In 51 Birch Street, filmmaker Doug Block comes to terms with unexpected truths in his life. Following his mother's death, Block's 83-year-old father, Mike, calls to say he's moving to Florida to live with "Kitty," his secretary from 40 years ago. When Mike and Kitty marry and sell the longtime family home, Doug returns to suburban Long Island with camera in hand for one last visit. And there, among the lifetime of memories being packed away forever, he discovers three large boxes filled with his mom's daily diaries going back 35 years. Told through a myriad of candid conversations with family members and friends.

Block is expected to be in attendance at the premiere, which will follow with an open house at the site of the True West Media Arts Center. Food, drink, a silent auction and an introduction to the art center, which will still be under construction, will also be provided.

As for the future, Bayne hopes the media arts center becomes an integral part of the growth of filmmaking in Idaho, "Our programs, classes and workshops will provide artists with valuable and potentially marketable skills, as well as crucial artistic development," he says. "Our industry lounges will provide a direct connection to people and companies residing outside of Idaho. Our festival provides a reputable venue in which to showcase work."

With the opening of their Media Arts Center in the horizon, True West Cinema has saddled the horses and is ready to invest in the future of Idaho filmmaking.

The premiere of 51 Birch Street and the fundraiser are December 16 at 4:30 p.m. at the Flicks, 646 Fulton St. Tickets are $12. For more info, visit www.truewestcinema.org.

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