STAFF REPORT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN — From Sept. 30, to Oct. 3, Film COOP hosted a group of female filmmakers for a location tour and networking event.
“It was an amazing, transformative weekend,” said Film COOP Board President Greg Klein. “We started on Thursday as a group of strangers but by Sunday it was like a family of artists who had bonded in unpredictable and amazing ways.”
Film COOP is the pioneer film commission in the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District and the official film office for Otsego County, the village of Cooperstown and the town and city of Oneonta. Klein said the tour was underwritten by Film COOP, its donors, including the C.J. Heilig Foundation, and a tourism micro-grant from Otsego County.
“We figured it was about $1,500 per person for the weekend, including food, hotel rooms and renting a trolley for two days,” he said. “However, no one paid more than $300 and we gave out scholarships as well.
“The idea was to bring the women here and wine and dine them at a ridiculously low cost for them in order to bond them to each other, Film COOP and Otsego County,” he continued. “It worked better than any of us could have imagined.”
The group stayed for three nights at either The Landmark Inn or the Inn at Cooperstown.
“Everything was rave reviews,” Klein said.
The Community Foundation of Otsego County via Otsego 2000 sponsored a diversity inclusion scholarship, which went to Skye Bailey, a Black filmmaker from Bowie, Maryland.
“Skye is an amazing artist,” Klein said. “She is the film version of an outsider artist. She took two trains to get here not knowing what to expect and I think she left with hours of footage, a dozen new friends and several ideas to make a horror film here.”
Klein credited Film COOP board member Sierra Sangetti-Daniels for proposing the scholarship and Harry Levine and the Community Foundation for sponsoring it.
The foundation and Otsego Now also paid for PPE, Klein said.
The event featured an opening-night reception at Templeton Hall in Cooperstown, followed by two days of touring on the trolley, and Sunday visits to the Sculpture Trail in Cherry Valley, the Art Garage in Middlefield and Origins Cafe for brunch.
There were five official customers, but with Film COOP members or friends who are in the film business, there were seven or eight people scouting sites each day. Delhi location scout Jeri Cohen joined the tour on Saturday, as did Film COOP’s intern and recruiting coordinator for the event, Ellie Pink, a Cooperstown Central School graduate who is studying film at Boston University.
“Ellie worked on an award-winning student film at CCS, ‘Utica, a Town That Loves Refugees,’ that was produced by our board member, JoAnn Gardner,” Klein said. “In one day of touring we got jobs for her during Christmas and summer breaks. She was just one of the women filmmakers for the day. And JoAnn was such a proud teacher watching her and learning the CCS student film led to Ellie studying film as a potential career.”
Friday, the group toured Cary Mede estate, Hyde Hall, Brookwood Point and finished the night at The Stanley Theatre in Utica.
“The Stanley is one of the two qualified production facilities in the MVEDD where filmmakers can qualify for the tax credits,” Klein said. “To say it stunned us all with how beautiful it is would be an understatement. And they rolled out the red carpet for us and fed us on the main stage and gave us a tour. Plus, they are going to let a local producer who was on the tour shadow them on a show. She is thrilled about it.”
Alysa Blasetti, an Oneonta High graduate, now works as a producer with Otsego Media, which just opened an office at 76-78 Main St. in Oneonta. She will attend a Donna Summer tribute* concert in Utica soon and work backstage to see how the theater operates.
“The Film COOP Women in Film weekend was a huge success,” Blasetti said. “It has been an honor to be part of this historic group. I look forward to what the future holds.”
Saturday, the filmmakers went to the Fly Creek Cider Mill, the Lake House on Canadarago Lake, Spring Park and the Richfield Springs Community Food Cooperative in Richfield Springs, Brewery Ommegang, and Schenevus to say hello to state Sen. Peter Oberacker, whose business Form Tech Solutions Inc. is a Film COOP business partner and co-sponsor of the tour.
“We saw so many ‘Hallmark movie’ sites on the tour, Cheyenne and Sierra started talking about making a movie here to highlight those sites,” Klein said. “Long-story short, we are plotting how to turn that into a starring vehicle for Cheyenne with the intent to film Christmas season 2022.”
Sunday finished with a tour of Foothills, Main Street in Oneonta and dinner on the back deck of the Autumn Café.
“We even got to show them a political rally when we came upon the women’s rights event in Muller Plaza,” Klein said. “It was great. Half of us had gone to get our table at Autumn and one filmmaker texted me, ‘we will be there after one more speaker.’
“Otsego County take a bow. You really put your best foot forward for our group,” Klein said. “The bad weather held off until Sunday, the leaves were just turning colors, the hotels and restaurants wowed them and they really bonded with Film COOP and its board members. Plus, everyone spoke about returning to film here. We checked all the boxes.”
The filmmakers had positive things to say about the tour, too.
Actor/model/producer Cheyenne Phillips grew up in Los Angeles. She recently moved to Oneonta, following her mother/manager Christine. Both said they wanted to get away from the L.A. culture and live some place with a healthier pace and lifestyle.
“Film COOP offers a unique opportunity for filmmakers to witness the beauty and opportunities that Otsego County has made available to the artistic community,” Phillips said.
The event included a screening of Elizabeth Zephyrine McDonough’s documentary, “Still Standing,” about two octogenarian standup comics. A night after screening it for her peers, McDonough had a Friday night slot showing the film at the Woodstock Film Festival.
“She left the tour for a half day Friday and met her husband in Woodstock,” Klein said. “I think she was exhausted Saturday, but it was probably one of the highlights of her career so far, too.”
The filmmakers met a host of dignitaries along the tour. Besides Oberacker, they met Otsego County Board Chair Dave Bliss, Otsego Town Supervisor Meg Kiernan, Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig and Oneonta mayoral candidates Len Carson and Mark Drnek, among others.
“We introduced them to a nice cross section of Otsego, in people and places,” Klein said.
He said Film COOP will definitely do another location tour and it will also hold more women in film events.
“We created a group this weekend that I expect will return here on their own, with their families and for Film COOP events,” he said. “I don’t know where or what it all leads to, but I know it was a special, transformative weekend for all of us involved.”
* Because of an editing error the show being a tribute to the late Donna Summer was mistakenly omitted from an earlier version of this story.