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Method Fest presents new pics from actor-directors.

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nkristal@backstage.com

It's no surprise that Helen Hunt and Mary Stuart Masterson have chosen to screen their feature directorial debuts at this year's Method Fest, scheduled for March 27–April 3 in Calabasas, Calif. After all, the relatively small festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary, is the nation's only festival designed to celebrate actors and acting.

Method Fest executive director Don Franken is thrilled that the fest has attracted films from such well-known talent. "I really feel we have some great, even higher-profile films [this year]," he said. "We have tremendous actors involved in the festival, and I really believe it's our finest lineup yet."

Hunt's Then She Found Me, screening March 30, features the Oscar and Emmy winner as a middle-aged schoolteacher who takes an unlikely path toward personal fulfillment. Based on Elinor Lipman's novel, the film co-stars Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, and Colin Firth. Masterson's The Cake Eaters, a quirky small-town ensemble drama screening March 29, also features an impressive cast, including Elizabeth Ashley, Bruce Dern, Thomas Cavanagh, and Jesse L. Martin.

The Station Agent writer-director Tom McCarthy will screen The Visitor, his eagerly awaited second film, March 29. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity to showcase the film and specifically the four lead performances," McCarthy said. "I'm really proud of the ensemble." The film stars Richard Jenkins as a professor who goes to a conference in New York and finds a young couple living in his apartment.

Aside from fighting to get the Los Angeles premieres of Visitor and Then She Found Me, Franken said he also pushed to land other new films directed by actors, such as Terry Kinney's Diminished Capacity—a comedy featuring Broderick, Alan Alda, and Virginia Madsen as an unusual trio on their way to a memorabilia expo to sell a rare baseball card—which will screen as the closing night film April 2.

Other notable Method Fest films include The Stone Angel, starring Ellen Burstyn and Ellen Page, set to screen March 30. Producer Rick Bieber will screen his directorial debut, Crazy, March 28. A biopic about legendary Nashville guitarist Hank Garland, the film stars Waylon Payne, Ali Larter, and Lane Garrison.

Given that the festival was created by a cadre of actors and named after a famous acting technique, Method Fest will also offer seminars on how to enhance acting careers and creativity. Acting instructor Ron Gilbert will teach his two-hour Stanislavsky class March 29, a day of seminars about acting and filmmaking. "I do relaxation, then I may do a little sensory [technique], and then I do a lot of improvisation," said Gilbert. "I personally think it's the best introduction, covering how you can use yourself to function as an actor."

The festival will include a slate of short films from across the United States. Back Stage National Film & TV Editor Jenelle Riley will present a Maverick Award to actor Melissa Leo on March 30 at the fest. It will close April 3 with an awards ceremony and an evening of indie music. In general, the Method Fest offers a rare medley of entertainment because of its unique selection process. "We look for story-driven films with either breakout performances by up-and-coming actors or what we feel are career-defining performances by more-established actors," said Franken. "We look for acting first."

The 10th annual Method Fest will take place at Carlson Family Theatre, Viewpoint School, 23620 Mulholland Hwy., Calabasas, Calif., and at the Louis B. Mayer Theatre on the Motion Picture & Television Fund's Wasserman Campus, 23388 Mulholland Dr., Woodland Hills, Calif. Tickets are $10 per screening. For more information, call (310) 535-9230 or visit www.methodfest.com.

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