ActionFest began as a dream by its founders to give recognition to the men and women responsible for the action in films. Aaron Norris, Bill Banowsky, Dennis Berman, and Tom Quinn wanted to honor stunt people, stunt coordinators, fight directors, and others who often get little attention in an industry defined by its stars.
April 12-15 saw ActionFest 2012 entertain throngs of action film fans who came to Asheville for the third annual event. Growing in attendance and worldwide interest, ActionFest 2012 saw more people, including many who report on or otherwise document the film industry, attending the event.
Festival goers had the opportunity to watch films, interact with action heroes, learn more about the craft, and enjoy Asheville in what is becoming a top event in a town that is gaining recognition as a movie town. Back in April, North Carolina ranked No. 2 on a list of the top 10 worldwide film travel locations, and with the success of The Hunger Games, which was shot around Asheville, Western North Carolina is especially on the map.
The majority of ActionFest’s action took place at The Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Road although opening and closing films and after parties took place at various locations around town. ActionFest had its opening film screening at the Diana Wortham Theatre, its final screening at the Fine Arts Theatre, and an additional Sunday film screening at Asheville Pizza & Brewing. Arcade Asheville was the site for the opening night after party.
But back at The Carolina Cinemas, two panel discussions enthralled film enthusiasts and industry insiders on Saturday. The first was “Trailblazing Stuntmen: Mickey Gilbert & Jack Gill”. Both recipients ActionFest’s Lifetime Achievement Award, these two stuntmen and stunt coordinators answered questions and talked about their long and distinguished careers in the stunt world. “Whapp! The Art of Fight on Film” offered ActionFest Fight Director of the Year J.J. Perry, “Chick” Norris Female Action Star Gina Carano, and Rising Action Star Cung Le leading a discussion about depicting realistic fights for the camera.
In addition to the previously mentioned award winners, ActionFest also named its Best Young Stuntman of the Year: Trevor Habberstad; Best Film: I Declare War; Best Screenplay: I Declare War by Jason Lapeyre; 30 Seconds of Action Winner: Tim McGaren for Operation C; Best Directors: Alan Mak and Felix Chong for The Lost Bladesman; Best Action Scene: The Lost Bladesman; Producer of the Year: Courtney Solomon (Dragon Eyes, Transit), Best Villain: James Frain, Transit; Spirit of Action Award: Manborg.
Among ActionFest 2012’s scores of films, several were regional or even world premieres. The opening night film was the regional premiere of Michael J. Bassett’s Solomon Kane. The event’s closing night film was the regional premiere of Wu Xia. Others included the world premiere of Bad Ass, regional premieres of Goon, The Aggression Scale, and The Day, and the North American premiere of The Lost Bladesman.
As usual, one of the favorite aspects of the event, and one that annually draws lots of spectators, is the stunt show. The free event saw amazing motorcycle tricks, a visit from Rocketman, an old-fashioned Western shootout, and the always-amazing stuntman on fire. That guy up in flames was John Can, who is president and CEO of Action P.A.C. Stunts, L.L.C., and a veteran of the entertainment industry for more than 25 years.
Now gaining a foothold as a major film festival, ActionFest organizers are now looking ahead to plans for 2013. Stay tuned to The Asheville Post for more details on the 2013 event.