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Lights, Camera, Action 

Flick Chick

Channel surfers who come across Trapped: Buried Alive, which is periodically broadcast on Lifetime, might not realize the film has a Rutland pedigree. Made in the Green Mountain State two years ago, it centers on a vacationing family threatened by an avalanche. The picture emerged from Edgewood, the remarkable studio David Giancola founded in 1987 in his hometown.

In the beginning, his focus was on the action-adventure genre, with productions shot on shoestring budgets in the Rutland area. His actors have mostly been relative unknowns. One exception was Sean Astin, who starred in the Lord of the Rings trilogy after appearing in the Giancola-directed Icebreaker a 1999 tale of bad guys taking over the Killington ski resort. At that point, terrorism had become the villainy of choice in Edgewood films.

On a fateful September day in 2001, Giancola was boarding a plane to meet potential backers for a movie about terrorists seizing a nuclear plant -- not unlike this season's plotline for "24" on the Fox network. After 9/11, however, "Nobody wanted Arab terrorists anymore," he recalls.

So Edgewood returned to what Giancola calls old-fashioned "aggressive action" themes. More recently, he's focused on nature's fury for TV, DVD and video markets. "We've done a bunch of disaster movies in a row," explains the 35-year-old entrepreneur. "We've done lightning. We've done floods. We've done killer hail. We've done mutant spiders. What's left?"

How about the end of the world? That's one of several premises slated for upcoming Edgewood fare, including: Landslides, renamed California Landslides after the recent West Coast calamity; a comedy about senior citizens turning into zombies scheduled to go before the cameras this spring; and some sort of horror saga, expected to get underway in November.

Ice Queen, now in post-production, concerns the victims of a plane crash who meet up with a prehistoric monster -- also at Killington. "I think of it as Alien meets Towering Inferno," Giancola says. Sound like Lost? Edgewood's endeavor was already in progress before the ABC hit debuted.

Giancola, who has been busy as a producer and cinematographer for four years or so, plans to return to directing this summer. He'll helm a futuristic thriller about creatures from outer space that inhabit the bodies of gangsters, a project he describes as "Charlie's Angels meets Men in Black."

Giancola often gets involved with work by non-Edgewood filmmakers, many of whom book the studio's crews, equipment or soundstages for their own efforts. "We'll sometimes finance a portion of it or do a re-edit and re-mix," he says.

In the next few months, Giancola anticipates the 40,000-square-foot Edgewood facility will make a 190-seat space available to some central Vermont theater companies. The same room can also be used as a venue for showing "off-Hollywood and indie stuff," he suggests.

Since 2003, Giancola's commitment to his community has extended to free outdoor screenings. Giancola says he really enjoys Downtown Flicks, as the summer series is called, because "I get to run the projector."

Inside Deep Throat, a documentary that premiered last month at the Sundance festival and just opened in New York City, examines the history of the landmark porn film. As it happens, Vermont played a role in the controversy that greeted the sexually explicit 1972 release during an era of anti-obscenity fervor.

In February 1973, the U.S. Justice Department launched a nationwide crackdown on Deep Throat. The FBI confiscated the offending celluloid reels from the Flynn, then a movie house just purchased by Merrill Jarvis.

But the real target seemed to be the Massachusetts-based distributor, who was indicted by a grand jury. Jarvis was subpoenaed to testify at the federal court trial that followed in Burlington. The charges were eventually dismissed, but the brouhaha had an unanticipated effect: Local business for Deep Throat quadrupled.

Jarvis, who sold the Flynn in 1980, recalls his surprising encounter with a woman on the jury: "After I left the courtroom, she walked up to me on the street and said: 'I'll be damned if I let any government agent tell me what I can and can't see.'"

While not accustomed to political confrontation, Jarvis remembers the censorship experience as endangering First Amendment rights. "Those were the Nixon years," he says. "I don't know if he personally ordered the search and seizure, but we took it personally. He was out to destroy free speech."

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