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Production of "Phoenix, Oregon" continues

Gary Lundgren, director of the movie “Phoenix, Oregon,” sits inside Hanscam’s Bowl and looks on as other members of the crew take a quick bowling break between production shots Friday, May 18.

Food trucks, live music and film-lovers will shut down Seventh Street outside of the Ross Ragland Theater Friday, Sept. 13, starting at 5 p.m. to kick off the seventh annual Klamath Independent Film Festival.

Following the gathering, the festival will open at 7 p.m. with a 2019 film shot almost entirely in Klamath Falls, entitled “Pheonix, Oregon.”

KIFF Executive Director Jesse Widener said it’s exciting to get to open the festival with a film that has such a strong local tie.

“That’s our overarching goal,” Widener said. “To get filmmakers to Klamath.”

Some audience members will have the chance to see themselves on screen during part of the movie shot at Hanscam’s Bowling Center in which about 60 members of the community were captured in the background as extras.

The crew was in town shooting the film for about three to five weeks, according to Widener.

Widener also enjoys the crowd the festival draws from outside of the city and the benefit the traffic brings to local shops, restaurants and other businesses.

The prominent role Oregon plays in the festival shows off the places some in the crowd likely call home.

“The audience really has fun with that,” he said. People can ask the filmmakers where they shot different scenes and go vacation there or recognize favorites.

The line-up of films includes six feature films and 38 shorts, about the same numbers as last year’s entries.

Widener is aiming for about 500 people to attend this year’s festival, up from last year’s attendance of about 350 people. Still, he doesn’t see the festival’s growth slowing down any time soon.

“I think we could get to a thousand to 2,000 people,” he said.

The festival used to feature films specifically affiliated with Klamath, Lake and Modoc counties, but three years ago organizers expanded the event to include films from across the state.

“I say this every year, but it really is true,” he said. “Every year is bigger and better.”

New this year is a Sunday morning category called “Hard, Wacky and Weird” for films meant for mature audiences that include aspects like violence, gore or cursing.

“With Klamath being such a church town we were going to push the time back on Sunday because people will be in church,” Widener said. Instead, he’s going to show the films people might find more offensive during that time so that “people who don’t want to be there won’t be.”

Another film Widener is eager for is Sunday afternoon’s “Souls of Totality.” It was shot in Oregon during the 2017 solar eclipse, and he said the crew had to rehearse the timing of some of the scenes multiple times so they didn’t miss capturing the eclipse.

Still, the slate of films ensures a variety of new stories.

“It’s better and better every year,” he said. “People will see just about everything in there.”