& Area Guide
Just who is Cynthia Niedland?
By STEVE PERSHALL
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2000
Thirteen years have passed since Cynthia Niedland lived in St. Petersburg, but she remembers the place well.
"That's where I did all my partying, growing up," Niedland, 37, said from New York this week. "All filmmakers must have something to tell stories about, you know. I didn't know what I was missing until I left."
Niedland lived here from 1978 to 1987, attending the Canterbury School and St. Petersburg Junior College before moving to New York. Odd jobs and travel occupied her time until 1996 when she enrolled in the University of Central Florida film school. Niedland returns to St. Petersburg to visit her sister, Jennifer Parrish.
Niedland became interested in documentary filmmaking at UCF, prompting another move -- to Manhattan and the City College of New York media arts program. Niedland is graduating soon, with one more assignment to complete.
Later this month, Niedland's short documentary, Who Is Alice Guy?, will be showcased at the CityVisions film festival, a fund raiser for the CCNY film program.
"I'm very excited about that," Niedland said. This is a calling card for me, hoping to get a break on the documentary festival circuit."
Exactly who is Alice Guy (pronounced GHEE)? She is probably the most prolific female filmmaker you've never heard about. The French artist was part of cinema's origins in 1896, credited by the Internet Movie Database with making 229 films. Niedland says the total could exceed 700 films.
"Back then, they were mostly one- and two-reelers, maybe 15 to 30 minutes in length," Niedland said. "And very few people know about her. I was in undergraduate film school for two years and she was never mentioned."
Footage from several Guy films were located through French museums, movie studios and the Libray of Congress. Niedland incorporates interviews with film historians in the compact 20-minute production, including Anthony Slide, editor of the late filmmaker's autobiography.
"She matters greatly because, first of all, in 1900 she was a woman who became vice president of a film production company," Niedland said. "Back then, women were basically secretaries, if they had a career at all.
"She's an excellent role model for women of today. We should know that a woman made volumes of contributions to an industry so influential on our society. It's important that she's remembered for what she did."
CityVisions will be held May 23-25. For information about Niedland's film and the other competing entries, visit the festival Web site at http://www.ccny.cuny.edu/cfv/cityvisions.
FILMS WANTED -- The 15th annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival is now accepting entries from professional and student filmmakers. This year's festival is scheduled from Oct. 16 to Nov. 12.
Entry fees are $30 for shorts and $40 for features and documentaries. Forms are available on the festival Web site (http://www.fliff.com) or by calling (954) 760-9898.
Deadline for professional submissions is Sept. 1. Student entries have a Sept. 30 deadline.
Only films that have not secured distribution deals are eligible for competition. This year's schedule is expected to comprise more than 100 independent and foreign films. Yours could be one of them.
RUDE DEBUTS -- Three lowbrow comedies sneak into local theaters today without benefit of an advance screening for critics. If we have to remind you what that suggests, you haven't been paying attention.
The funniest thing about these movies may be their titles' placement on marquees. Enterprising employees can have a blast hanging names like Held Up, Whipped and Screwed.
Paying customers might feel that way after wasting time and money on these movies.