Bits 'n' Pieces: Locally made movie goes to NYC film festival

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‘Dancing on the Edge,” an independent film created by and featuring local talent and shot in Clark County, has just been accepted into the New York City International Film Festival.

“I think it’s a validation of what we’ve done,” said Tom Zalutko, a 48-year-old Camas resident and partner in Highland Light Productions, the Vancouver-based company behind “Dancing on the Edge.” “It’s a feather in the cap and just an exciting opportunity to showcase our wares.”

The movie was written, directed and produced by Alexander “Sandy” MacKenzie, Highland Light’s president and chief executive officer. It’s about a teenage ballerina’s struggles with substance abuse. Zalutko plays Darryl Farmer, the ballerina’s father.

Zalutko and other Highland Light partners have submitted the film to more than a dozen festivals around the country and internationally, including the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival here in Vancouver. They plan to submit it to about a dozen more festivals, as well.

New York City International Film Festival, which takes place in August, is the only one they’ve heard back from so far. Zalutko and others from Highland Light will attend. The film will be included in the market portion of the festival, which could help “Dancing on the Edge” land a distribution deal, Zalutko said.

“In securing distribution, you wind up securing the opportunity to share your work with a grander audience, a worldwide audience,” he said.

Vancouver vet revisits past in new book

Gene Olson started writing about his life as a means of therapy rather than from any desire to publish a book. As the chapters and stories began to build up, though, the 65-year-old Vancouver Navy veteran realized his tale could help others, he said.

So in early June he self-published his story, “The Boy from Bothell: Bipolar, Vietnam Veteran.”

He hopes that by telling others about his mental “issues” — he hates the word “illness”— they won’t feel as alone or frustrated, he said.

“I really think there is an answer,” Olson said. “People shouldn’t get discouraged if their medicine isn’t working or people don’t understand. There’s always hope.”

Olson, who takes lithium for the disease, said he dislikes calling it an illness because it sounds too final.

“If you have an issue you can get over it, if you have mental illness it sounds like you can’t get over it — and that’s not true,” Olson said.

The book tells of how he moved from Navy service in Vietnam to college to the Seattle Veterans Administration psych ward and eventually to finding a medical solution and spiritual help through his Christian faith. The book will soon be available online at http://csnbooks.com/ and at http://amazon.com/, he said.

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Courtney Sherwood 360-735-4561, or e-mail features@columbian.com.