History behind Lake Tahoe film festival | TahoeDailyTribune.com

History behind Lake Tahoe film festival

Three women envisioned a film festival on the South Shore.

Now, after countless hours of research and hard work, the Lake Tahoe Pioneering in Film Festival will become a reality April 7, 8 and 9.

It all started with some old furniture and a bottle of wine.

Almost two years ago, Claire Fortier, Mindy Johnke and Denise Sloan were sanding furniture in Sloan’s garage when an interesting idea came up.

“We started discussing the benefits of planning a special event for the off-season,” Sloan said.

Naming themselves “The Three Girls in the Garage,” Fortier, Johnke and Sloan began researching the idea of creating a film festival.

“We had to find a time when other national festivals weren’t going on,” said Sloan, who is now the executive director of the festival.

The South Shore’s inaugural festival is being produced in conjunction with the American Film Institute and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

“AFI is providing the programming,” Sloan said. “They’re putting together an appropriate mix of films. I think it’s going to be an interesting blend of the classics plus world premieres from major studios.”

Celebrities who have been invited to attend the event include Doris Day, Dennis Hopper, Fess Parker, Eva Marie Saint, Dennis Weaver and others.

“I have extended invitations to my celebrity contacts and AFI is extending invitations to their celebrity contacts,” said Sloan, who has been the Entertainment Editor at the Tahoe Daily Tribune for 14 years.

But celebrities aren’t the only important people involved.

If not for the help of volunteers and incredible support from South Shore businesses and arts organizations, the dream of The Three Girls in the Garage may have never come true.

“It’s all volunteer,” Sloan said. “I have about 50 ambassadors who will be seating people, serving food, showing people to the bathrooms.”

Lake Tahoe is a prime location for a film festival, according to Sloan.

“Our research showed that film festivals that are successful offer alternative activities other than just watching films…,” Sloan said. “(People) can come up here and enjoy all of the outdoor recreation we have to offer during the festival.”

The Lake Tahoe Pioneering in Film Festival is a celebration of film creativity and the advancement of moviemaking throughout the century.

“The whole thing is going to be extremely fun and I think it will be a very high-energy event,” said Sloan, who hopes the festival will drive tourism during the off-season.

“Since Lake Tahoe is already a preferred destination for travelers, this festival can entice new and returning visitors, film aficionados and industry experts in addition to providing an exciting new event for locals.”

Within five years, Sloan’s goal is to bring in at least 30,000 visitors to South Shore during the weekend of the festival.

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