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Average Joesquatch? 

Flick Chick

Forget Champ. There's a new freak of nature for Vermonters to consider.

At least that's the premise of Joesquatch, a short spoof with plenty of scatological gags about a Bigfoot-like creature that may or may not be rampaging in the woods. The 15-minute production will premiere in a May 1 program at the Best Western Windjammer & Conference Center that includes several other local cinematic efforts.

Fashioned as a satire of television's "Unsolved Mysteries," with a fictitious "Walter Concrete" hosting, Joesquatch is the result of a year-old collaborative called Burlington Filmmakers. Director Jerry Wood and cinematographer Davy Russell, who co-produced the project, are both Queen City natives with a passion for crafting movies.

Along with sound engineer Jean-Pierre Gagne of Hinesburg, they shot in various locations -- downtown, the UVM campus, North Beach -- for five days in August. An additional sequence was completed in October. The budget: a whopping $400, give or take a couple of bucks.

Wood recruited three Ultimate Frisbee friends -- Scot Rose, Colin Rose and Dave Coutu -- to help him write the screenplay. "We wanted to create a Monty Python-type script," he recalls. "It was supposed to be kind of slapstick but progressed into more of a narrative structure."

Russell had an interest in theater during high school, then got sidetracked by the Internet. From 1998 to 2003 he published an online magazine, X-Project, about paranormal issues. Now 25, he works as a correspondence clerk in the radiology department at Fletcher Allen Health Care and studies film at Burlington College. He says his moviemaking ideas have been influenced by directors David Lynch and Wong Kar-Wai, known for Chunking Express.

Russell formed the collaborative last April to promote an art form that's become increasingly accessible thanks to digital video. At one of the group's weekly gatherings he met Wood, 31, who was inspired to tackle the medium after attending a seminar at Boston University. Wood is a 2000 Champlain College graduate with a day job as an IT consultant for an accounting firm. He got his feet wet in film with a demo reel of a gig by the Middlebury-based band Aliza's Mizery.

Also screening on May Day is one of the duo's earlier enterprises, a marketing piece documenting a Club Metronome CD release party for the Jennifer Hartswick Band. "That was a good experience for us," Russell comments. "It could get national exposure."

The other shorts included in the Burlington Filmmakers-sponsored program are The Veggies by Jason P. Lorber (Walter Croncrete in JoeSquatch), The Visitor by Dawn Kearon, AVA by Jason Menon and Actorview by Gagne. All the participants are associated with Burlington filmmakers.

Wood and Russell have already completed most of the photography for their third joint venture, Baby Talk, an improvisational gabfest in which a couple argues about whether or not to have children. The four-hour shoot took place over the course of an evening at Sweetwaters.

Sales Call, about an eccentric businessman whose loquacious style flummoxes two new associates, is currently in pre-production before a possible start date later this month. The blabbermouth boss will be portrayed by Lorber.

The collaborative has begun to attract its own stable of performers and crew members. "Our mission is to provide opportunities for the indie scene," Wood suggests. "There is no reason Burlington can't be a filmmaking hub."

For information about the Burling-ton Filmmakers, call 223-6616.

Plays by two rather famous film-makers have been added to the 2004-2005 schedule of the Manhattan-based Atlantic Theater Company, which summers at the Flynn in Burlington. Woody Allen plans to direct A Secondhand Memory for the troupe in late fall. Neil Pepe, who hails from the Green Mountain State, will be at the helm for a New York debut of David Mamet's devilish Dr. Faustus in the winter.

A native of Westminster West, Pepe has been ATC's artistic director since 1992. Mamet and actor William H. Macy, both Goddard College graduates with central Vermont getaway homes, co-founded Atlantic in the mid-1980s.

The Merrill Theatre Corp.'s long-delayed Majestic, a state-of-the-art tenplex in Williston, is scheduled to open Friday at Maple Tree Place.

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