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Head on up to Cripple Creek 

Film festival has something for everyone

Last year, its first, this festival was called the Gold Camp Film Festival. But as good sense dictates, specific is better, so the festival held in Cripple Creek on what's sure to be one of the most spectacular season-turning weekends of the year (Sept. 29, 30 and Oct. 1) is now called The Cripple Creek Film Festival.

Created as "a tribute to the West -- then and now," the festival showcases both classic Western films and new independent Westerns to be shown in three venues -- Womack's Special Events Center, Cripple Creek Parks and Recreation Center, and the new Butte Opera House. Films will be shown on Friday from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

But Cripple Creek prides itself on not just being a venue for moviegoing. Also offered are two workshops on screen writing and producing. "Pitch Your Heart Out," sponsored by the Broadcast Club of America, gives participants a chance to learn how to write and how to present the classic Hollywood pitch to a working producer. Guests at that seminar will be Marie Gillen of Morgan Freeman's production company, Revelations; Jack Allen, producer of The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory; and Donald Gold, producer of the television show Diagnosis Murder. The fee is $75.

The second workshop is a four-hour, two-day event hosted by S.C. Martell, an accomplished screenwriter and writer for Hollywood Scriptwriter and Scr(i)pt Magazine. Martell will combine several of his well-known classes, "First and Ten to Fade Out," "Character Toolbox," and "Action Screenwriting." The fee for the workshop, to be held on Saturday and Sunday is $99.

The festival will also host two free industry panels with independent filmmaker Shelly Mellott and Sundance Film Festival winner Gregory Harrison, open to all interested attendees.

Binding all the events together is the Cripple Creek Film Festival's claim to fame -- a chance for the audience to participate in a professional stunt show and live Western movie set -- making this the "first interactive film festival" in the country, according to its promoters. Participants can get involved in the filming by standing in as actors or acting as part of the production crew. Filming will take place in the streets of historic Cripple Creek.

Friday evening, the festival will kick off with a gala Opening Night Cocktail Party hosted by actress Katharine Ross (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), the festival's official celebrity host. Also in attendance will be veteran character actor Barry Corbin (Lonesome Dove, Urban Cowboy, Northern Exposure) and former Dallas ingenue Lucy Ewing, actress Charlene Tilton. The reception begins at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and will be followed by the premiere screening of The First of May, a film starring Julie Harris and Mickey Rooney. Tickets for the evening are $40.

On Saturday evening, a Western Gala and Dinner benefiting The Carousel, a nonprofit riding organization and facility for children and adults with physical and mental challenges, will be held at the Womack's Event Center. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the evening will include the awarding of prizes to Tilton (Contemporary Western Award) and Corbin (Character Actor Award), a three-course dinner, dessert and two drinks. Tickets are $65 per person or $120 per couple.

The Cripple Creek Film Festival promises activities for kids and grownups alike in the cozy, scenic setting of this historic Western mining town. Pack up the mini-van and head on up for a day or for the entire weekend. Golden aspen leaves will pave the way, and you'll be adding your voice to the growing number in support of Western films, then and now.

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