Putting the Beaufort in the Beaufort International Film Festival

More than 200 entries worldwide came in for the Beaufort International Film Festival. Those were pared down to 32 independent films and five screenplays that will officially be part of this week's festival. As it so happens, three of the people whose work made it come from Beaufort.

Filmmaker Michael Givens and documentary director Michael Hudson will have films shown and writer Teresa Bruce will read from her screenplay.

Beaufort itself has been featured in movies such as "Forrest Gump" and "The Big Chill," but it's not exactly known as a hub of the industry. That said, the film festival continues to grow, nearly doubling its attendance each of the five years it's been in existence, executive director Ron Tucker said.

With the attention that the festival brings to the Lowcountry as a film locale, the three local entrants into the festival discuss their pasts in the film industry, their work in this year's festival and the benefits of living in Beaufort.


Every time Michael Givens goes back to Los Angeles, he's reminded of why he lives in Beaufort.

"When I get into L.A., it does feel like I'm coming home," he said. "And then I get on the freeway and realize why I left."

Around here, a long drive isn't stop-and-go over a few miles. It's a scenic view of marshes and wide-open country. Givens left his small town in the Upstate to make it in Hollywood, but came to Beaufort about 19 years ago. Los Angeles just wasn't the right place to raise a family, he said.

He made a career in Hollywood as a cinematographer and director. Over his career, he worked on ad campaigns for Pepsi, UPS and Visa. He served as second unit director for "Coyote Ugly," director of photography for "The Celestine Prophecy" and director of the comedy "Opposite Day."

Back when he arrived in the film industry, he figured he had to be in New York or Hollywood to make it. But the industry spread out, technology changed and his resume grew. He now finds consistent work based out of Beaufort.

His latest film is "Angel Camouflaged," starring Dilana from the CBS reality contest "Rock Star: Supernova." The rock 'n' roll drama filmed at Folly Beach follows a singer who inherits a bar. It features guest appearances by rapper Kurtis Blow, the Marshall Tucker Band and former Scandal singer Patty Smyth.

Givens is already working on his next project, a thriller called "Jigsaw" based on the novel by Ted Brogden.


Michael Hudson found his way into the film business through an old shrimp boat. He came to Beaufort in 1989, working as a flight instructor on the Lady Liz docked on St. Helena Island. When location scouts for "Prince of Tides" came looking for shrimp boats, he ended up on board the boat used in the movie.

That experience lead to connections to other movies filmed in the area, such as "Forrest Gump" and "G.I. Jane." The former Navy mine countermeasures specialist from Georgia had become a special effects technician in the movie business.

He's currently coordinating special effects in the Lifetime series "Army Wives." But since 2005, he's been working on a project that's brought him back into the waters off Beaufort.

"Sea Island Secrets" stretches back thousands of years to times when American Indians were the only inhabitants of the Lowcountry. Along with longtime friend and Beaufort native Gibbs McDowell, Hudson teamed with a University of South Carolina Columbia professor to trace the history of the Sea Islands, sharing how they've been shaped throughout history and examining the traces of a now-extinct culture.

They'd wade out into marshes with mud that would swallow a boot, find islands too small for maps but filled with shards of pottery, bones and tools. The documentary is only an hour, but Hudson figures he can get enough material for a series of eight films.

"A lot of people who have grown up here don't know what they have," he said.


When Teresa Bruce left the Lowcountry, she knew she'd be back someday.

Bruce first worked at WJWJ in the early '90s as a reporter and news director. She wrote and helped produce the PBS documentary "God's Gonna Trouble the Water" about Gullah culture. Her success propelled her to a job in Washington, D.C., producing public service announcements, corporate films and marketing materials.

By this time, she had learned how to tell a story visually. So, she decided to branch out. She started telling her own stories.

She returned to Beaufort six years ago. She wrote memoirs about her travels. Accompanied with her husband's photographs, she wrote "Transfer of Grace" about the Lowcountry. She also started writing screenplays.

"Mask of the Innocent" was the first she ever wrote, and it was a finalist at the Beaufort film festival last year. Her latest work is a modern day adaptation of "The Scarlet Letter" called "The Scarlet Registry." It follows a man who is wrongly placed on the sex offender registry. She's also reworked a script for a director she met at last year's festival that's about to be filmed in South Africa.

She admires Beaufort's quaint charm, both as a place to live and a place to work.

"I had always wanted to return to Beaufort," she said. "This is a great place. You can't help but focus on writing."