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Film Oxford -stepping up the focus on film industry

August 27, 2009

Elizabeth Dollarhide may have spent the last 11 years living in L.A. but she never lost that southern charm. When first meeting her, you would hardly tell that she has been involved in working with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars over the years, particularly because of her preference to be behind a camera, not in front of one.

Dollarhide started in the film industry while living in Mississippi. She began as a production assistant on the set of the Elijah Wood film, “The Adventures of Huck Finn.” But even before that she was volunteering her time at the Dallas Film Festival when she lived there in the late 80s.

After the Finn film, she began working for Project LEAP at the university, also working as an assistant director with Kent Moorhead on his educational film, “Radishes and Butter,” as well as filming conferences and events in Oxford.

She went on to get a job as an assistant to the line producer for the film “Soul Food” in 1996 before finally surrendering to the siren call of Hollywood.

Planning to merely take a vacation in L.A., Dollarhide ended up getting a job to help with a TV series pilot by Lleweyn Wells (who she also worked with on Soul Food). Though the show did not get picked up, she kept working in town, first getting a job as assistant to the executive producer of “Monkeybone” and then as assistant to director-writer-producer Lawrence Kasdan.

Dollarhide said she was surprised when I knew who Kasden was and said she often has to explain to young people who he is. For those who are scratching their head trying to place the name, Kasden wrote some of the most iconic movies of the 1980s, from “Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” to “Raiders of The Lost Ark,” “The Big Chill” and “Body Heat,” which he also directed. He recently produced “In The Land of Women.”

Since then, she has worked closely with him on numerous projects both as assistant and in development and management, finally taking on a producer position with Kasden’s last film “Dreamcatcher.”

Although the film did not perform well at the box office, Dollarhide said the experience was a vital one for her to transition into DVD work. The original intention for the DVD release of the film was to have behind the scenes interviews with all of the cast. Dollarhide created the 3-minute vignettes, all 36 of them only to have most cut after the film did not do well, therefore the DVD could not be released as a two-disc.

She also produced the documentaries for the DVD release of his films, “Wyatt Earp” and “Accidental Tourist.” Dollarhide has continued to work behind the camera making documentaries for numerous DVDs including “Cinderella Man,” “The Weather Man,” “Backdraft,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” and “Parenthood.” She was also the publicity campaign behind the “United 93” film about 9/11.

In 2007 Dollarhide began her own production company where she works as
a freelance writer and producer. She currently has several films in the works.

After returning home six weeks ago, Dollarhide returned full circle to her first job when she moved to Oxford the first time around, working with the Tourism Council.

Hired recently to begin moving the Oxford Film Commission forward, Dollarhide is hoping to emphasize Oxford as a film destination. Although the Oxford Convention and Visitors Bureau and Tourism Council has been the film commission, the group has not been proactive in getting filmmakers into town, or providing much information about filming opportunities until now.

Dollarhide hopes to change that with the creation of a new Web site that will highlight scenes of Oxford through video.

“I’ve looked at a lot of film commission sites and no one is using film to promote film,” Dollarhide said.

The Web site, while still in construction, will provide still images and video of scenery as well as information about filming in Oxford. A print version will also be made available.

While Dollarhide is being hired as a freelancer for the Web site project, she hopes to remain involved with bringing more film industry to Oxford in anyway she can.

Although Dollarhide has returned home, she has in no way quit Hollywood.

“Face-to-face time has really been lost, now I can just e-mail my pitch and that I can do from anywhere,” Dollarhide said.

But the studio system is something that continues to be a disappointment to many in the industry, Dollarhide said. Funding sources continue to dry up and studios insist on making only blockbusters that will guarantee ticket sales, leaving much of the creativity to dry up.

“But it is really an exciting time for independent film,” Dollarhide said.

By Melanie Addington, as published in the Oxford Town

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