Festival bound: Williamson's okay with Muskogee


It's not Sundance. And it's not even Slamdance. But one local company is feeling okay about Muskogee, an Oklahoma city whose Bare Bones International Film Festival features two showings of an indie film written, produced, and filmed in Central Virginia.

"We're going to be soaking in all that Muskogee has to offer," says 37-year-old Kent Williamson, who's leading a five-person entourage from Paladin Pictures, which he runs from his house in Ruckersville.

When Love Walks In, Paladin's feature film, has been a long time coming. Although shooting wrapped in 1998, Williamson's day job meant editing had to be done in early morning before he went to work.

"It was invigorating, and it was exciting," says Williamson of those typically 5am to 7am sessions. "But then I'd say, 'Oh, great, I've got 90 more scenes to edit.'"

Having earned his masters in film at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Williamson made films for UVA until he decided to go into business for himself in 2002. His customers now include the Virginia State Bar, UVA's School of Continuing Education, and best-selling novelist Jan Karon.

When Love Walks In tells the story of a photographer struggling to raise his only child after his wife's untimely death. The devastated daddy– played by Williamson– tries to pick-up the pieces of his life with the help of his charming father and an unlikely new love interest.

"It's a tragic situation," says Williamson, "but there are funny moments."

Roger Ebert hasn't reviewed it yet, but quotes culled from test screenings call the 92-minute film "a believable, tender love story" that is "touching and real."

It debuts Thursday, April 21, at Muskogee's historic Roxy Theater. The Festival, which wraps on Sunday, will also screen the picture at none other than the Muskogee Civic Center, site of one of the world's most famous live recordings, Merle Haggard's "I'm Proud to Be an Okie From Muskogee."

Now in its sixth year, Bare Bones emphasizes films that cost under $1 million to make. "This festival," says Williamson, "is what Sundance started as 25 years ago."

Sundance now revolves around big names and big deals, which another Charlottesvillian happily discovered two years ago with The Station Agent. Barry Sisson backed that film and took it to Sundance 2003. Before the Festival ended, Sisson had sold the rights to Miramax, whose boss, Harvey Weinstein, flew in to ink the deal.

"Every town in the country has a film festival now," says Sisson, admitting he's never heard of Bare Bones. "There's a thousand of them."

But Sisson thinks Williamson has plenty to be proud of with When Love Walks In. "A jury looked at it and thought it was good," says Sisson. "That's something to be celebrated."

Eager viewers can buy the DVD ($19.95) at paladinpictures.com. It includes a 19-song soundtrack including ditties by such regional favorites as Carbon Leaf and Terri Allard.

Kent Williamson

Kent Williamson