To measure the growth in the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, make room for more silver.
The sixth annual festival, opening Tuesday for five days at the Carmike Cinemas Broadway 16 at Broadway at the Beach, will play on two screens to show more than 120 films.
Jerry Dalton, the event's founder and director, said those two figures - doubling the amount of screens, with about 33 percent more movies from the previous festival's 76 works in December 2009 - mark new highs in this showcase for independent filmmakers from around the world.
"It continues to grow bigger and better every year," said Dalton, who owns Dalton Pictures and Entertainment Co., a movie distribution and production firm in Myrtle Beach.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Moving the festival from late autumn to spring, on the shoulders of the busy summer tourist season, was scripted intentionally.
"There's hardly any better time than April or May to bring people here," Dalton said.
He said a panel of seven local people help in screening the movies chosen for each festival and that so many submissions pour in that only a fraction make the cut.
With more dramas and documentaries from which to choose from in the past 15 months, he wonders whether the global economic downturn drives the type of story lines in general, yet humorous themes remain popular no matter what, Dalton said.
Foreign selections in the 2011 festival include "Silent Shame," about a Japanese girl's look at World War II, playing Wednesday; and "China: The Rebirth of a Empire," showing April 22.
Twelve submissions from Iran were counted, Dalton said, citing considerable increases in the numbers from Canada, as well. He also named other countries such as Georgia, Hungary, Ireland, the Philippines, Russia and Uzbekistan, where creativity flourishes.
He also heaped big praise on quick productions called "shorts," such as "Star Sucker" with actor Tom Arnold in a plot about a vacuum salesman down on his luck, and "Escape," which has the look of a $100 million endeavor. Both play on April 23.
Dalton views independent filmmakers as artists and foresees independent films commanding a bigger piece, as a "new underbelly," of the cinematic share in the next few years. He said he likes helping to increase access not only for those creators and producers who lack major funding to market a production, but for audiences to see their works.
"It's allowing an independent filmmaker a chance," said Dalton, also welcoming local arts groups to exhibit their works in the theater for the festival. "It's all about art - art in many different forms."
When choosing movies to showcase, Dalton lets the business side of him take a break.
"I want to see the film for what it is," said the fan of dramas, including the "007" franchise. "Does it entertain?"
Shooting in Loris
A short filmed in Loris, "13 Miles to Hell," will make its world premiere April 22 at the festival.
Lunden De'Leon, a Marion native who lives in Mullins, stars in the movie. She said this project began two years ago from a script she wrote.
The director, Dave Munn, lives in Loris, which he said reminds him of his native Warrington, N.C., and they spent a month and a half filming "13 Miles to Hell," which follows a couple's wrong road turn.
"It was having a back lot of a movie studio," Munn said, noting the range of scenes handy, whether from the 1920s or in 2011. "It has so many great spots to shoot in."
De'Leon said making indie films affords "creative freedom and flexibility ... calling your own shots," without limits.
Packing a plot into 18minutes poses other challenges, though.
"You're trying to get everything in there within a short amount of time," De'Leon said.
Munn added other perspective in directing with short durations.
"You really have to make every shot count," he said.
Adding her twist
Earlier on April 22, Heather Scobie's debut short, "Twisted Proverbs: Candle," will roll for all of its two minutes at the festival, its second venue.
Based in Texas, Scobie, director/producer of Manu Forti Films, said she has spent more than 15 years in the movie industry in various capacities, such as in graphic restoration with classic animated Disney films and editing with Lifetime TV.
She said "Twisted Proverbs" starts a series of shorts she will make, "all with the same theme, to put a twist on old-time proverbs with sprinkles of humor."
Scobie liked the way the script for "Candle" was written; she added tweaks with its creator, spent a month in production, "and it made me laugh, so why not show it?"
She said indie filmmakers face a big question: "Why tell this story, because the money you're telling it with is your own?"
Shooting "Candle" used a long and narrow living room, Scobie said. Instead of rotating the camera around for a reverse shot of the players, "we just rotated the set," she said.
Through such shorts, Scobie wants to get her legs as a filmmaker, but doing a trailer to promote the start of her "Twisted Proverbs" installment produced laughs, because its length almost matches that of the movie.
A longer project unfolded for the documentary "Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean," part of the festival's menu on Tuesday.
Ellen Friedland, producer, said she and husband Curt Fissel have teamed up on documentaries for about 15 years.
"I'm the writer/storyteller," she said. "He's the cinematographer."
Filming for "Delicious Peace" started in October 2006, and continued for 21/2 years intermittently, along with the editing.
The topic arose from coffee the New Jersey pair found in a gift basket, piquing their curiosity in a kind cause to help fund the building of rooftops and schools in a depressed setting.
"We thought it was a beautiful story of hope," Friedland said of a movie that has played at 20 festivals coast to coast.
"You're helping to make a difference in people's lives," she said. "You're going to drink coffee anyway. Why not do it in a way that's empowering?"
Actor Ed O'Neill narrates "Delicious Peace." Friedland said she and Fissel met him through a coffee klatch they have near their cottage rental in Los Angeles.
"He saw a trailer of the film early on and even ordered some packages of coffee as gifts," Friedland said, lauding O'Neill for volunteering his voice to the movie.
"I really love the fact that he was involved in the production, even if only in a distant way, and that this wasn't just another job."