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Locally Produced Movie Makes Official Roanoke Debut

Poster for local movie “Blue Ridge - A Rural Tale of Love and Hate.”

by Beverly Amsler

Some good things, like Christmas and birthdays, are worth the wait.  And screenwriter, cinematographer, and director Vince Sweeney is hoping residents of the Roanoke Valley who have been waiting for nearly three years are ready to view his first independent film, “Blue Ridge.”

The 90-minute drama was shot mainly in Craig County.  It stars Sean Gullette (“Pi”, “Happy Accidents”) and introduces Eric Sweeney (who happens to be Vince’s brother) and Audra Glyn Smith.  You may see some familiar faces as the film uses several local actors in smaller roles.

The film will make its Roanoke debut Thursday, June 14th at 7pm at the Grandin Theatre with a question-and-answer period after the showing.  “Blue Ridge” was shown to a very limited audience in Roanoke a couple of years ago, before it was taken on the festival circuit around the country, where it won several awards.

“But I was never really happy with the edit when it was at the festival runs, so I actually did a kind of ‘re-edit’ and made it more of the way that I felt comfortable with it; shortened it by seven minutes than what it was originally.  So now it’s cleaned up and it’s tightened and tweaked”, says Vince Sweeney.  He also added more music.

Sweeney says the film was technically finished last year and he’s spent the past several months trying to negotiate with companies to get it released.  He says a lot of people are watching movies through game consoles and smart TVs now and he finally has worked out a VOD (video on demand) deal.  “Blue Ridge” will be available for streaming on iTunes and VUDU later this month and the DVD will be for sale on sometime next month.  “It’s like a thousand rejections and you wait for that one acceptance.  He’s also hoping to have Netflix pick it up at some point.

The film may also be shown at other theaters but Sweeney says it requires so much effort and time to line those up, it’s more efficient to spent time solidifying VOD deals.

Sweeney says he’s been learning a lot about the distribution side of the movie-making business.  “I had to start at the bottom and learn.  Over the last two years I’ve just been learning how complex and expensive distribution can be.”

He declined to say how much it cost to produce the movie because people may get a misconception – thinking that a low budget may mean bad quality. The crew shot for 28 days with a professional crew and he was able to keep the budget low by doing a lot of things himself, such as the cinematography and authoring the DVD.

Sweeney says “Blue Ridge” has consumed his life for more than four years.  “It’s not unusual to spend three or four years with one small movie trying to get it made.”  But his involvement began even before that as it took him a couple of years to write the screenplay.

“I never meant to portray a certain town or county or anything.  It’s purposely ambiguous.”  He named the film “Blue Ridge” just for the mountain ridge which surrounds the unspecified location.  “I always imagined it somewhere near the West Virginia-Virginia border.”

Even as he finishes distributing “Blue Ridge” Sweeney is writing the screenplay for two commercial movies; part of one may be shot in Virginia.

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