Occasionally taking a meeting really does lead to something taking off — maybe even something eerie and special. For instance the creation of the Stanley Film Festival (through Sunday).
Late last November, film festival maven Jenny Bloom joined Colorado film commissioner Donald Zuckerman for a meeting with John Cullen, founder of Grand Heritage Hotel group. The outfit owns the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Freelan Oscar Stanley's white, neo-Georgian hotel was built in 1909 and famously inspired Stephen King's eerie, ghost story "The Shining."
Cullen had called Zuckerman about the Stanley holding a horror fest.
"I thought it was a great idea," says Zuckerman. "The Stanley is so identified with 'The Shining.'"
Yes, it is, even though another Stanley (director Stanley Kubrick) didn't actually shoot his 1980 classic — starring Jack Nicholson as haunted writer Jack Torrance — at the hotel.
Bloom had just finished her publicity and events duties at the Starz Denver Film Festival. Along with friend and media consultant Katie Shapiro, Bloom is the cofounder of Reel Social Club. The young patrons arm of the Denver Film Society hosts happenings at Denver's annual festival as well as trips to Film on the Rocks and the kitchy fun gathering, Summer Scream at Lakeside.
Bloom, who does contract work for the L.A. Film Fest and the Palm Springs International Film Festival in addition to Denver's fest found herself at the helm of a festival of her own. So how does a newbie festival director put together a four-day gathering in fewer than a six months?
"I basically put out a casting call to all my festival gypsy friends," she said over coffee early one Sunday morning. Film festivals run with the help of a nomadic community of film lovers who do programming, publicity, projection, and all sorts of operational logistics.
While Bloom believes in gypsies, she admits she doesn't hold much stock in ghosts. At least she didn't. Then she and some of her staff attended a private seance conducted by the Stanley's go-to tour guide, Scary Mary.
"We were standing in a circle in a room at midnight with our hands in the air doing 'Ring Around the Rosie.' And my hand was being pushed down." When she peeked, she says, her "hand was like this." She holds her arm straight.
"That is the creepiest thing."
Highlights at the inaugural Stanley Film Festival bode well for the future of the event. Thursday night opens with "The Purge," starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey. Written and directed by James DeMonaco, the movie delves into an American future that hardly seems dystopian. Instead, crime and unemployment are at all-time lows. Things are just peachy. Credit this preternatural calm to the one night a year when all citizens are allowed to get their murderous freak on. (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.)
Not only is the festival showing a director's cut of "Cabin Fever," the debut feature of horror upstart Eli Roth ("Hostel," "Grind House"), the filmmaker will be in Estes Park to receive the inaugural Visionary Award. (Saturday, 9:35 p.m) Roth also stars in Chilean director Nicólas Lopéz' post-quake flick "Aftershock." (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
The past gets a deserved close-up with the 1920 German Expressionist silent "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari's," with piano accompaniment from Hank Troy. (Sunday, 2:15 p.m.)
And how could this festival not honor Kubrick's masterwork? "The Shining" screens for free on the hotel's front lawn at 9:30 p.m. Also screening: Rodney Ascher's documentary "Room 237," about the obsessive interest some film geeks have taken in Kubrick's classic. (Friday 7:20 p.m.; Saturday 7:15 p.m.)
Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567, email@example.com or twitter.com/bylisakennedy