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A group of film makers, screenwriters, community leaders and others want to see southeast Queens in bold marquee lights, and they've started a nonprofit organization dedicated to the medium of movies to get there.
The Southeast Queens Film Consortium was formed over the last few months to create Little Hollywood, a film mecca in southeast Queens where residents can meet with industry professionals to learn how to produce a movie and hopefully draw more visitors and businesses to the area, said Morgan Pehme, the group's chairman.
The organization is starting with a free monthly lecture series, beginning in March, but there are ambitious plans, including a film studies program at York College, a film laboratory at Springfield Gardens High School, a film festival, and maybe even a film studio based in the heart of southeast Queens, Pehme said.
"We intended to build a southeast Queens film community for the benefit of the entire borough and the entire city, so as it grows people will look at southeast Queens as a mecca of film," said Pehme, a former editor at the Queens Courier. "We want to call attention to the excellence in film here."
Pehme founded the group with Anthony Andre Jones, an independent film producer and the group's vice chairman, and Anthony Andrews, director of student activities at York College in Jamaica. The three developed the idea and picked up supporters and board members as the organization took form, Pehme said.
An underlying goal of the project is to stimulate economic development in the area, he said.
"Economic development has been on a lot of people's minds," he said. "It's been a buzzword for the area. But economic development has to come hand-in-hand with cultural development."
While a lot of the details on the group's plan are still being finalized, it is moving forward with a film lecture series starting March 21. The first speaker slated for the series is Keith Beauchamp, the director of "The Untold Story of Emmett Till," a documentary about the murder of a young man which sparked the civil rights movement, Pehme said. The film, which has not yet been released to the public, prompted the federal government to reopen the investigation into the death, he said.
"The idea is for the speakers to talk about their own experiences while also imparting specific knowledge about how to produce a film," Pehme said.
The Southeast Queens Film Consortium also hopes to promote the film industry in the area, an aim that U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) lauded to support education in the area, particularly at a time when arts programs are being targeted to save money, he said.
"Film and culture and theater are so important to round out an education," Meeks said. "We need to invest in the raw talent we have here."
And talent abounds in the area, said Matthew Katz, the consortium's treasurer and the managing director of the York College Performing Arts Center.
"This should be the Little Hollywood of New York," he said. "If you provide a structure where the arts in all forms can flourish, you don't need to find talent, it will come to you."
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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