On The Big Screen

Movie 'Madison' to be premiered at
Utah's Sundance Film Festival

Filmmakers hope exposure
leads to major studio deal

By Don Ward

MADISON, Ind. • The small river town of Madison, Ind., is about to go Hollywood. The movie version of the late Jim McCormick's victory in the 1971 Madison Regatta and Indiana Gold Cup race is scheduled to premiere this month at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The independent film "Madison," shot on location in Madison in summer 1999, is among 106 feature films to be premiered at the 11-day festival, which runs Jan. 18-28. Overall, the festival received 1,759 submissions this year. In recent years, Sundance has been credited for launching the successes of such independent films as "The Blair Witch Project" and "The Full Monty."
"The independent film world is still struggling to find a definition of the word Ž independent,' " Sundance director Geoffrey Gilmore said in a statement. "No longer can one characterize independent films as films simply in opposition to studio films. ŽDonnie Darko' has considerable special effects, and major actors now appear in Sundance films." The movie "Madison" will not be in a judged category at the festival but is expected to garner extraordinary exposure among movie industry officials, some of whom may help land the film a major distributor.
The investors and movie makers behind "Madison" say they already have one film company interested in distributing the project but are holding out for possibly a bigger deal, according to Indianapolis native Bill Bindley, who co-wrote the script and directed the movie.
Bindley added that he still hopes the film will be released sometime this spring, with a special premiere showing at the Ohio Theatre in downtown Madison.
Already, a director's cut of the movie has generated excitement among those who took part in its summer-long shoot in Madison. Many actors, including stars Jim Caviezel and Paul Dooley, in November attended a showing of the movie at a Burbank, Calif., studio, although the final version of the film is still in post production. (See David D. Williams' review). The musical score is not yet complete and some scenes may or may not make the final cut, officials said.
Betsey Vonderheide, special projects director for the city of Madison, had a seven-second nonspeaking role in the movie as "Gertie the bank check processor" that took two hours to film.
Her husband, Mel, played a priest who gives the invocation at the Regatta race, and her daughter, Jane Devito, played Phyllis Steinhardt, wife of then-Miss Madison team manager Tony Steinhardt. It is uncertain whether any of their scenes will make the final cut.
Vonderheide, who has seen parts of the movie, said she plans to attend the Sundance premiere and called the premiere "very significant for the producers" in landing a major studio to distribute the film. "That's the key to this thing."
Vonderheide said the portions of the movie she has seen were "beautifully choreographed, and Madison looks great."
Madison resident Marianne Goins worked in the movie's wardrobe department and bought props for various scenes. She would have traveled to Utah to attend Sundance if she didn't have prior family commitments that week. She has seen small parts of the movie.
She said the best part about the experience for her was "meeting people from all over the country, and different aged people." She described the movie set employees as dedicated and hard working. "They had a fabulous work ethic and were totally skilled at what they did."
Goins added, "I always loved to go to movies, but I never realized what went into making one until I got involved in this project." Goins said the movie portrays the city well and feels "it was a real honor to work on it."
In addition to Caviezel ("The Thin Red Line" and "Frequency") and Dooley, "Madison" stars actress Mary McCormack ("Private Parts"), Jake Lloyd ("Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace") and veteran actor Bruce Dern ("The Haunting," "Last Man Standing," "Coming Home"). The fictional version of the 1971 race centers on a father-and-son relationship and opens with voice narration by Owensboro, Ky., native Mike McCormick, the real-life son of the late Jim McCormick.
But some of those who have seen the movie say the real stars of "Madison" are the picturesque town itself and the vintage hydroplane race boats, which were brought to Madison and repainted to recreate the Miss Madison's 1971 Gold Cup victory. Seattle's Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum helped provide the vintage boats for the film. Executive director David D. Williams himself drove the Miss Madison in most of the scenes. He also attended the special showing of the film in November.
"The movie is definitely a family oriented movie with no nudity, no guns, no violence and almost no profanity," he said. "It has a warm, golden feel to it that reminded me of both ŽOctober Sky' and ŽStand by Me.' "
• For more information, visit the websites: www.sundance.org and www.thunderboats.org.

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