Local moviemakers featured in festival

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

Plank House, Juneau photographer Theresa Manzanares first effort at moviemaking, garnered a $500 first prize in The Panhandle Picture Show.

Plank House is one of 13 videos that will be screened in succession in the two-hour show, beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 20 at the Goldtown Nickelodeon theater.

Shot in a Douglas Island graveyard, the 10-minute movie features Juneau actor Ishmael Hope as a young Native man contemplating his culture. Manzanares served as co-director, editor and director of photography. Christopher Mierzejewski wrote the screenplay and co-directed.

Plank House just scored highest across the board, said Mark Fontenot, one of the organizers of the contest. It seemed relevant and spiritually potent and cleanly well made and well acted. Its a concise and interesting piece.

Manzanares has a background in sociology, and she said she dropped out of a doctoral program to pursue photography.

I think I still look through the lens as a sociologist, she said. Its the same thing. Im sort of still studying people, just from a different angle.

She currently has seven photographs in a show by the Alaska Photographic Arts Association at the Big Picture gallery, and last year she had three images in the statewide Alaska Positive exhibition at the Alaska State Museum.

The three of us met through the Perseverance Theatre cross-training workshop last summer. Chris and I were in the same directing class, she said. We were supposed to come up with our own small production at the end of class - writing, directing, finding an actor and producing. So we had to go to the other classes to get (people) to be in our piece.

Mierzejewski was born and raised in Juneau. He teaches English in Paris and returns to Juneau for the summers. He said by e-mail that he spent two years writing Plank House.

It was first performed as a theater piece last summer in the Douglas cemetery, played by Ishmael, he said. The feeling everyone had after seeing the piece was that it would be great to capture it on film.

Peter DuBois, who taught the directing class, suggested he and Manzanares collaborate.

Our first approach was to simply film the theater performance, but soon we realized all the other possibilities that film offered us, Mierzejewski said. We had no budget to speak of, but via the cross-training connections we were able to get help each time we needed it.

The University of Alaska Southeast media services department helped with editing, and Jeff Brown at KTOO helped with the audio.

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