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Lights, camera, action
by Casey Phillips
Sunday, March 31, 2013    |   
Wayne Hickey II, portraying an umpire, waits out a rainstorm during filming of the movie “42” at Engel Stadium.
Wayne Hickey II, portraying an umpire, waits out a rainstorm during filming of the movie “42” at Engel Stadium.
Photo by John Rawlston.

In 2012, advocates of the silver screen made serious headway putting Chattanooga on filmmakers’ maps, and for 2013, that trend seems set to continue.

Arguably the biggest cinematic story of 2012 was that Engel Stadium served as a major filming location for “42,” a biopic of racial-barrier-destroying baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

On April 21, filmmakers descended for a shooting session that lasted about two months. During that time, Engel Stadium, the former home of the Chattanooga Lookouts, was redecorated to serve as a stand-in for Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Hundreds of locals answered a casting call for extras and donned ’40s duds to help fill the seats. The movie, which will premiere on April 12, stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers team executive Branch Rickey.

Later in the summer, helicopters circled the Market Street Bridge to film a scene that was shown briefly in “Identity Thief,” a comedy that premiered Feb. 8 and starred Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.

Since its formation in 2006, the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Film Commission has attracted studios to the Scenic City for work on several major feature films, most recently for “Water for Elephants” in 2011 and “Leatherheads” in 2008.

In October, Carmike’s Majestic theater downtown featured an exclusive showing of “Sahkanaga,” a film based on the national scandal in 2002 surrounding improper disposal of remains at the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Ga.

The film, which won a number of awards at juried film festivals around the country, was shot in Walker County by writer/director John Henry Summerour, a former Chickamauga, Ga., resident now living in New York City.

Film Festivals

Chattanooga also is increasingly becoming a place for cinephiles to host festivals celebrating the work of filmmakers, both national and local.

* Last year, ChattaMovies, a local independent film group, collaborated with the film commission and the city’s Department of Education, Arts & Culture to present Open Screen Night, a series of free independent film screenings at Heritage House Arts & Civic Center. The audiences’ favorite films were later shown downtown at the Majestic.

* The Russian Film Club also formed last year. The group meets the second Saturday of every month at 801 Poindexter Ave. to view and discuss films with particular significance to Russians or with ties to Russian culture and heritage.

* The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga humanities program and English department co-host Awake and Engaged, a series screening documentary films.

* The Jewish Cultural Center, 5461 North Terrace, hosts the Jewish Film Festival, a multiweek summer series featuring foreign and domestic films with Jewish themes.

* Mise en Scenesters is a pop-up movie theater and film club of filmmakers and enthusiasts who meet at Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave., to screen classic, independent, cult and obscure cinema, often with a musical guest or two.

In 2012, the city lost the Arts & Education Council’s long-standing Independent Film Series, which was reformatted from a weekly event into a handful of intermittent special showings at the Majestic. However, other festivals are stepping in this year to make up for the lack.

Representatives from the Nashville Film Festival selected five films that were shown Feb. 5 at the Heritage House in the inaugural Gig City Film Festival. After the screenings, experts were on hand to discuss topics relevant to the festival’s theme of nonviolence and tolerance.

This month marked the debut of the Lookout Wild Film Festival, which screened outdoor, adventure and conservation films at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St.

Lookout Wild, said festival director Andy Johns, was designed to appeal to Chattanooga’s burgeoning film community as well as the city’s long-standing appreciation of its natural resources.

“We think the festival is at the intersection of a number of efforts gaining momentum in Chattanooga,” Johns said, in a news release. “The region is trying to bring in film projects as well as promote outdoor tourism and sustainability. The Lookout Wild Film Festival is where those ideas come together on-screen.”

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.