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RBIFF - A Ninth Life

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Mark William Myers plays investigative reporter Jim Langsly in "A Ninth Life" Mark William Myers plays investigative reporter Jim Langsly in "A Ninth Life"

Writer-director Pamela Preston is screening her 11-minute movie A Ninth Life at the 15th Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival. Her movie is the shortest of the three films wrapped up in the Shorts From Around Here: Take 2 collection. Her movie is also the only one that wasn't actually made on Delmarva or anywhere near the peninsula, unless you consider the city of Denver in Colorado, which is 1800 miles away, near the peninsula. Preston lives in the area and her family lives in Delaware, and I'll get to why she shot the movie in The Mile-High City, but after spending a hour or so chatting with her, I didn't care that her movie wasn't exactly local. Preston was probably the funnest interview I've had all year. Not only was her passion and love of filmmaking apparent but she also provided me with some great insight into filmmaking, which is always my goal when talking to filmmakers.

A Ninth Life is Pamela Preston's debut as a writer-director. It premiered on Sunday, October 21 at the Vermont International Film Festival. Preston was raised in Vermont and the story for the movie comes from her friends who teased her as she was growing up about having nine lives. When Preston was little, she wasn't clumsy per se, but she did have a tendency for getting into situations like accidents that could have resulted in her death but didn't.

At the age of 10, Preston fell out a tree. She said it was a bizarre experience because she couldn't hear herself scream. She had a line of sight of her parents who watched in shock and horror as their daughter fell but perceived their movements and perhaps her own to be in slow-motion. Preston revealed that in an attempt to sneak out the house, she tried to use bed sheets as a rope to climb out a 2nd-story window when she fell again. By the time Preston was through childhood, she had cracked so many bones. She had a broken nose and etc. and etc.

Despite all that, she's still here and she's clearly one tough cookie. I don't know enough about Preston to call her a tomboy, but I get the feeling that she's not as Stanley Kowalski would call "the glamorous type." When talking about filmmaking, Preston said it's like being on a roller coaster. She said, "There's no perfect world when you're filming." She means production can be rough and especially when you're low budget, many problems and rough patches do arise, but, production is when Preston is, as she says, a happy camper.

Preston reiterated that it's rough. It's a lot of work, and there's nothing glamorous about it. Even if there were, my impression is that's not what Preston is in it for. She told me that as she moves forward with directing more projects, she said she wants her work to be family friendly and for her work not to have a negative impact. She included that she at the same time doesn't want her work to be pigeonholed. Even with Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow in the mix, Preston said there's still a pigeonhole on what women are interested in either seeing or doing and that pigeonhole is romance. Preston stated very clearly that she is not about romance, and doesn't want to be stuck in that genre.

Instead of Nora Ephron, she'd rather be the next Alfred Hitchcock in terms of the kind of work. A Ninth Life is in fact inspired by the Hitchcock films that her mom used to watch, as well as by the episodes of his TV show and other shows like The Twilight Zone and Dark Shadows. She loves mystical and magical stories. She worked on a National Geographic documentary that delved into the origins of Dracula.

I don't think A Ninth Life will feature vampires. Vampires don't have nine lives. They typically have just one long life. I'm not sure vampires would love the city of Denver either. Preston wanted and even tried to make her movie on Delmarva, but she worked in Denver before on a TV show there and developed good friendships. Realizing that Denver has a tight-knit community that is conducive to filmmakers, she decided to make A Ninth Life there.

That and she wanted to simulate a plane crash site and Denver had an airplane grave yard that was perfect. It was too bad, therefore, when all of a sudden her crew realized it wouldn't be feasible to shoot there, so Preston, her Director of Photography and her lead actor, Mark William Myers, had to improvise an alternative. If you want to know what alternative they concocted on the fly, you must check out her film.

A Ninth Life
[Shorts From Around Here: Take 2]
November 9, 2012 at 2:05PM.
Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival.

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