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CSO's Big-Screen Close-Up

Arts marketing types, listen up: the next time you need to fill some seats, let me suggest partnering with one of the CofC's Arts Management classes. If the Charleston Symphony Orchestra's second Symphonic Film Contest last week was any indication, your event's guaranteed to be teeming with attractive 20-somethings and tanned college kids, giving it the look of the hot cultural event du jour, even if a lot of the fresh-faced newbies in attendance are comps.

It also wouldn't kill you to make sure you've got Kevin Harrison and John Duckworth involved. Together, the local artists' peninsula-spanning entourages may well make the difference between a mostly empty performance hall and a packed house.

The CSO's film event at Charleston Music Hall Thursday night landed somewhere in-between those two extremes. A crowd of what looked to be about a third of the joint's 1,000-butt capacity watched five short films, sipped wine and beer, and showed off new spring tans and slinky sundresses last Thursday.

The first film, essentially a northern Italian video travelogue (there's one in every bunch), was set to Strauss' Serenade for Winds. In it, we saw a recap of somebody's Florence to Nice trip with footage of all the things we're told not to take pictures of on vacation: fountains, doors, gardens, churches, flowers, and landscapes, complete with — I kid you not — a Sound of Music moment on an Alpine hillside.

We left Powerpoint territory and entered the realm of actual filmmaking with the next entry, a professionally shot and edited tour of a Savannah cemetery by Dr. Michael Frierson, set to Fouré's Pavane, loaded with time-blurring imagery, overlays, and impressive tracking and craning shots.

Harrison and Duckworth's winning effort, entitled The Serenade and set to the sounds of Elgar's Serenade for Strings, showed heavy influences of both artists' painting and photography styles. Using lots of blurred and fast-motion effects, split screens, and archival footage (even sampling their own previous film, if I'm not mistaken), the trippy Duckworth/Harrrison work nabbed the top prize again.

But not before an intermission and two more films, one of which — wonder of wonder — featured actors and an actual narrative, something not one other film in the competition has ever boasted. I thought William Stancil, creator of The Traveler, deserved an award for this reason alone. The final work, an impressionistic piece of based on paintings by Mark Rothko, had a very cool score by 27-year-old composer Adam Schoenberg. It made me think of sand and sky. Though, come to think of it, that may have just been all the sundresses. —PS

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