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Location, Location, Location 

Flick Chick

Published May 21, 2003 at 4:00 p.m.

Keep an eye out for Lemony Snicket. Vermont might be chosen as a setting for A Series of Unfortunate Events, a movie version of the wildly popular children's book series by Daniel Handler, who uses the Snicket nom de plume.

According to Danis Regal, executive director of the Vermont Film Commission, Hollywood location-scouts are here checking out "mill towns and mansions" that would suit the novels' Gothic ambiance. The story concerns three orphaned siblings -- Sunny, Klaus and Violet Baudelaire -- and Count Olaf, a distant cousin trying to steal their inheritance.

The role of Olaf is supposedly going to Jim Carrey, who was in this area four years ago making Me, Myself and Irene with costar Renee Zellweger. But the show-biz trade publication Variety reports that the Nickelodeon production has been plagued by budget woes.

Although the Green Mountain State may be under consideration, there have also been rumors the shoot could take place this fall in New York City, Los Angeles or Wilmington, North Carolina. Wherever it goes, the film is slated for Christmas 2004 distribution by DreamWorks and Paramount.

Unfortunate Events wasn't the only project on the commission's radar in recent months. Between July 2002 and February 2003, Vermont hosted three features, three commercials and 11 TV programs.

The essentially homegrown theatrical movies were Arachnia, directed by Brett Piper, Killer Flood, by Doug Campbell, and The Mudge Boy, by Michael Burke. The ads included spots for Toyota and the drugstore chain Walgreen's. The television endeavors included the Discovery Channel, the Food Network, the BBC's home-swapping "Right House, Wrong House," and a Japan Broadcasting Company piece on the Trapp Family in Stowe. The hills were alive with the sound of camera crews.

Regal also enumerates a few notable still-photography sessions, one by the famed Annie Liebowitz. She snapped pictures in Marlboro of classical pianist Mitsuko Uchida for an issue of Vanity Fair.

Glitz aside, the commission's nonprofit Vermont Filmmakers Forum has invited local cineastes to a May 31 gathering. "We're committed to supporting the indigenous film industry because it's part of our overall mission," Regal explains. "This is a way to figure out what's needed, in addition to the same old money and distribution difficulties."

A similar discussion at last year's Vermont International Film Festival in Burlington drew about 30 directors, producers, screenwriters, actors and crew types. This time, 500 such people listed in the commission's database have been notified about the retreat, scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton. "We want to hear from established filmmakers," Regal notes, "and anyone who hopes to become established." To establish contact, call 828-3618.

I have to disagree with my esteemed colleague Rick Kisonak's negative review of A Mighty Wind, which opened last week in the Queen City. While a bit subtler than previous mockumentaries directed by Christopher Guest, it is a hoot. Pun intended.

Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean -- the metalheads of This Is Spinal Tap -- portray The Folksmen, a 1960s trio who are now middle-aged and rehearsing for a big reunion concert. During an early scene, I almost fell on the floor laughing when two of the faux performers recall how they first met, Phish-like, as students at the University of Vermont.

Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, playing the fictitious Mitch and Mickey, brilliantly negotiate the delicate line between comedy and pathos. Once lovers, this defunct duo also makes really beautiful music together. My fellow Seven Days critic compared them to Ian and Sylvia, genuine folkies from that era whom he lambasted. So I dusted off one of their old albums. Hey, Rick: They rock!

The Manchester Film Festival, which premiered in late June last year, may not recover from a legal brouhaha that erupted this spring. The two co-founders, Alan Scott-Moncrieff and Michael Hill, are suing each other. A third lawsuit by New York publicist Malcolm Petrook was settled through mediation.

Stories in the Bennington Banner have detailed a tangled web of acrimony: Petrook claims he was dismissed without pay after only three months on the job, despite a one-year contract. Scott-Moncrieff, an Arlington resident who did the dismissing, is himself seeking $30,000 for back pay and out-of-pocket expenses. Hill, a Manchester native, is claiming that Scott-Moncrieff spent funds without board authorization, as well as allegedly absconding with the festival's computer equipment and DVD player.

And this is the event that actor Burt Reynolds, who was honored there with a lifetime-achievement award, suggested could become another Sundance.

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Susan Green


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