The Arts

Greenport Film and Music Festival coming to Mitchell Park shines light on local talent

After screening his films at festivals across the United States and beyond, Greenport native Jim Morrison decided to start a similar event back home.

The independent filmmaker is launching the first annual Greenport Film and Music Festival, which will take place Saturday, June 3, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in Greenport’s Mitchell Park. The free event is open to the public and attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs, blankets and movie snacks to the event.

Two of Mr. Morrison’s short films — “The Clam Kid” and “Rent a Neighbor” — will close out the festival. Although these films have already played on screens around the globe, they are deeply rooted in Greenport.

“ ‘The Clam Kid’ was shot right here in Greenport,” Mr. Morrison said. “It’s about life in Greenport, stars a lot of people from Greenport, has music from Greenporters.”

The family drama, a small segment of a feature-length screenplay Mr. Morrison wrote, was partly inspired by Mr. Morrison’s own childhood.

“It’s about a kid who shellfishes the bay … getting harassed by entitled, second-home, beachfront homeowners, and that’s something I experienced as a kid because clamming was my first job,” he said. “And it’s something I encounter in my adulthood when I go out on the bay and go shellfishing from time to time.”

“Rent a Neighbor,” which was adapted from the same original screenplay and spun into its own story, has a lighter, more comedic tone as it follows Airbnb renters seeking a getaway.

“I was playing one of the renters looking for a place to stay,” said Amie Sponza, a Greenport-based actor who co-founded Northeast Stage, a community theater group which hosts Shakespeare-in-the-Park style performances at Mitchell Park. “And the grumpy neighbor next door, Waylon … he doesn’t like all these tourists invading his town, so he tries to steer me wrong.”

For the Friends of Mitchell Park, which hosts cultural, artistic and educational events each year, the film festival marks their first foray into showing movies in the park.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the park filled with people enjoying this program,” Friends of Mitchell Park treasurer Lisa Richland said.

When Mr. Morrison initially decided to screen his film in his own community, he envisioned a much more low-key affair. 

“I thought maybe I would screen it in my yard, leave the gate open, invite people in, or I would do it at the library,” he said. “But I got to talking to the Friends of Mitchell Park and they were very encouraging to move it into the park.”

Having secured a proper venue for a larger event, Mr. Morrison decided to showcase more local artists, including several of his fellow Greenport High School graduates. 

Kicking off the festival is a musical performance courtesy of The Second Hands, a local group which provided the soundtrack to “The Clam Kid.” Then Terry Keefe will discuss a film he produced, “18 1/2” by Dan Mirvish, who Mr. Morrison described as “an icon in the independent film world.”

The festival will also screen “En Mi Camino,” in which Greenport documentarian Rosario Rodriguez visits Guatemala and encapsulates “the importance of giving back to our communities with something that sometimes we may take for granted — shoes,” according to the film’s successful GoFundMe page from 2019. Two animated films — “Happiness” and “New First Full Last” — by local motion designer Bran Dougherty-Johnson will follow.

“There are a lot of creative artists in this area,” Ms. Sponza said. “And certainly many new people that we don’t even know about because they’ve moved here from the city.”