The Supernatural Was Brought to Life at the Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival  

Paul Williams receives the inaugural Washington Irvine Legend Award at the Sleepy Hollow Film Festival on Thursday 10 October 2019 at Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown. . Picture by Julie Edwards.

For four days from October 10-13, the first annual Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival (SHIFF) shared the seasonal spotlight in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. Film fans—as well as lovers of live performances and the Halloween spirit itself—participated in the festival’s celebration of outstanding genre cinema that showcased film premieres, such as the U.S. premiere of the acclaimed documentary The Phantom of Winnipeg, the U.S. East Coast premieres of The Wretched, Making Apes, and other groundbreaking new films, shorts, and screenplays in competition. 

The Phantom of Winnipeg premiere screening was followed by a live panel discussion with legendary stars Paul Williams (honored with SHIFF’s first “Washington Irving Legend” award), Gerrit Graham, and producer Edward R. Pressman (honored with the “Horseman” award for achievement in producing).  

The inaugural year’s fest winners, among works in competition, were The Wretched (Best Film and Best Director—Brett & Drew Pierce), Driven (Best Screenplay—Casey Dillard, Best Score—Matthew Steed), The Phantom of Winnipeg (Best Documentary—Malcolm Ingram, Sean Stanley) and The Spirit Seam (Best Short—Ashley Gerst). The winners of the Original Unproduced Screenplay awards were: 1st Place—Vulture by Tyler Christensen, 2nd Place—Sunshine State: Duende by Kai Thorup, and 3rd Place—Egghead by Andrew Pelosi. 

SHIFF set out to honor the legacy of artistic inspiration that Washington Irving first established in Westchester and the Hudson Valley,” said Taylor White, one of the co-directors of the festival along with Matt Verboys and Dale Cunningham. “We’re very pleased with the response.” Matt added, “Sleepy Hollow is the cradle of the American supernatural, so there was no better time and place to make it happen.”   

The stars indeed aligned for the festival’s debut as the region marks the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Washington Irving’s classic tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” “The Village of Sleepy Hollow was honored to help host the first annual Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival,” said Recreation Superintendent Matt Arone. “The event was an exciting addition to an already action-packed October schedule here in our area. 

SHIFF’s programming, presented at the historic Tarrytown Music Hall and nearby Warner Library, offered everything from family-friendly fare such as a free showing of Return to Oz with special guest, composer David Shire, to late night anniversary screenings of cult horror/fantasy favorites like Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and The Crow. A cornerstone highlight was the exclusive presentation of Disney’s Hollow-een Treat, in collaboration with D23, the official Disney fan club, which featured a special 70th Anniversary screening of the 1949 animated classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Still more film fun was had with a celebration of Brian DePalma’s cult classic Phantom of the Paradise, a salute to the 1935 classic The Bride of Frankenstein, and a special advance showing of acclaimed director Peter Strickland’s In Fabric 

Jeffrey Combs performs NEVERMORE: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe during the Sleepy Hollow Film Festival on Saturday 12 October 2019 at Tarrytown Music Hall , Tarrytown. . Picture by Julie Edwards.

Live stage offerings at the Music Hall included Jeffrey Combs’ mesmerizing performance as Edgar Allan Poe in Nevermore, and a hilarious live reading of Plan 9 from Outer Space! with an all-star cast including Dana Gould, Bobcat Goldthwait, and more.  

“We heard nothing but positive feedback from people that attended,” said Anthony Giaccio, Village Administrator of Sleepy Hollow. We congratulate the organizers who created this great new event for our Village, and were already looking forward to next year’s film festival. 

“All of us involved with SHIFF are so grateful to, and thankful for, the people, governments and businesses of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown,” said Matt. “None of this could have occurred without them or the support of our wonderful sponsors. We encourage businesses and entities to join us in supporting and sponsoring next year’s fest!”  

“We’re thrilled to have started a new tradition among the amazing activities and events in the region,” said co-director Dale Cunningham, “and we can’t wait to see you all again next year.”

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