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CdA rolls out red carpet

‘Without a Ladder’ premiere promotes independent film group

Coeur d’Alene got a little taste of Hollywood on Nov. 13 during the red carpet world premiere of “Without a Ladder.”

Tuxedo-clad gentlemen and ladies in their finest evening wear milled around the red carpet at Regal Cinemas Riverstone until the sound of drums alerted them that the film’s stars were on the way.

Drummers from the Coeur d’Alene High School band, followed by jugglers from Sorenson Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities, led the way. Then a white horse-drawn carriage delivered actors Jack Bannon, Tiger Ashtiani, Leeja Junker and Kelly Eviston with a flourish.

The premiere was the first such event for the Northwest Independent Film and Video Entertainment Society, or kNIFVES, the organization behind the movie.

“Without a Ladder” tells the story of curmudgeonly widower Mr. Dobbs (Bannon), whose first Christmas without his beloved wife is eased by the presence of a boy (Ashtiani) who shows up on his doorstep. The child helps him prepare for the unexpected holiday visit of his son Pauly (Junker) and daughter-in-law Sue (Eviston). But in a surprising twist, it turns out the boy is preparing him for an even bigger adventure.

The themes of love, loss and the magic of Christmas had the audience at the premiere enthralled, and the turnout for the gala event showed area residents value the mission of kNIFVES.

WJ Lazerus, who directed the movie and is also founder and president of the nonprofit group, attended the premiere. “Our mission is to instruct, train and inspire a workforce for media, film and television as well as support efforts to bring production to the region,” he said.

In addition to holding workshops and training sessions, kNIFVES shoots short film projects and PSAs to train people in real production situations.

“Without a Ladder” was conceived as workforce training production. “Our main reason for doing it was to use professional mentors to help people learn the movie production craft in a real-life situation, on a working set. Every position was shadowed by a trainee or trainees,” Lazerus said. “Mountain West Bank liked the community aspect of the production and sponsored it. We also won a grant from the Idaho Film Office.”

Ashtiani, a Lake City High School freshman, has also appeared in “Different Drummers,” another locally produced film. He could relate to the film’s theme of loss. His father, Jahan Ashtiani, died in a plane crash before the film was finished.

Ashtiani enjoys acting. “I like how I can step out of my life and become someone else,” he said. He especially liked working with Bannon, whose long career in television included roles on “St. Elsewhere,” “Santa Barbara,” “Daniel Boone,” “Knotts Landing” and a five-year run on “Lou Grant.”

Bannon called the film “sweet and magical.” While he prefers stage over film, he said he was happy to take part in the production. “We’re growing up some great local talent,” he said. “And filming here boosts the local economy.”

Because the group is made up entirely of volunteers, Lazerus said, all proceeds from the event and from DVD sales directly promote the group’s mission of “training young filmmakers and supporting the further establishment of this industry in our region.”

At the premiere, Lazerus took off his director’s cap and got to enjoy the experience. “I stood to the side and saw everyone’s faces reflected in the glow of the screen,” he said. “All of the work was so worth it.”

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