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Stephen Israel to Chair 2009 ONFilmFest Jury

Film producer Stephen Israel will chair the jury of the 2009 Old Dominion University / City of Norfolk Film Festival of Independent Film (ONFilmFest). The panel of judges comprises film directors and producers, as well as film industry executives, and includes Virginian-Pilot film critic Mal Vincent. Visit www.onfilmfest.com for jury profiles and more information about the 2009 ONFilmFest, which runs March 25-28.

Israel, who is probably best known for executive-producing the critically acclaimed sleeper hit "Swimming with Sharks," starring Kevin Spacey, is a prominent figure in the film festival world, having served as a programmer for both Outfest and the Slamdance Film Festival, for which he currently serves on the advisory board. Slamdance takes place each year in Utah at the same time as the Sundance Film Festival, competing with Sundance to provide what its supporters consider a truer representation of independent filmmaking and is known as a festival "by filmmaker for filmmakers." This is the model of the newly independent ONFilmFest.

"Stephen Israel's willingness to help shape this year's new ONFilm Festival format constitutes an extraordinary leap for the Hampton Roads film community, as he has been one of Hollywood's most successful young independent film producers. He has produced many acclaimed films - including the legendary 'Swimming with Sharks' - and has been on the inside of the meat-and-potatoes world of film studio financing. With his success at major film festivals such as Cannes, Tribeca and Sundance, the ONFilm Festival's new focus on independent film will have a real pro to help put our area on the international film radar screen for many years to come," noted ODU's Peter Schulman, artistic director of the 2009 ONFilm Festival.

"I look forward to working with Stephen as jury chair of the 2009 ONFilm Festival," said Jeffery Frizzell, commissioner of the Hampton Roads Film Office and associate director 2009 ONFilm Festival. "He brings great credibility to the festival in its first year as a competitive one. From his involvement with the Slamdance Film Festival and Outfest, to producing such independent hits as "Swimming with Sharks,' Stephen is truly a 'rock star' in the independent film industry."

Israel's "Sharks" has recently been revived as a stage play, which opened in London's West End in October, with Christian Slater reprising Spacey's role. More recently, he produced "Happiness Runs," starring Rutger Hauer and Andie MacDowell, which is currently in post production, and Q. Allan Brocka's sophomore feature "Boy Culture," which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival before playing at more than 80 film festivals worldwide, garnering 20 awards. TLA Releasing recently released the film. Other productions include Kevin DiNovis's "Death & Texas," starring Oscar nominee Charles Durning, and Dan Mirvish's "Open House, the Musical," with "Rent's" Anthony Rapp, Oscar nominee Sally Kellerman and Kellie Martin.

Judges for the 2009 ONFilmFest are Mark Costa, partner and producer of New Hollywood Order Entertainment (NHO), a Los Angeles-based film, television and interactive media production company; Brian Cox, writer/director/producer and executive with Distant Horizon; Doug Wedeck, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems; and Trish Whitehurst, an independent producer and president of Whitehurst Media in New York City; as well as Vincent and Israel. Hampton Roads Film Office Commissioner Frizzell will also serve on the panel.

For more information about the 2009 ONFilmFest, visit www.onfilmfest.com.

This article was posted on: December 1, 2008

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