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Fur Peace Ranch: It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

By Gary Wien

Tucked away in the hills of southeast Ohio is a place called Fur Peace Ranch. Founded by Jorma Kaukonen, guitarist for Hot Tuna, it's a place where musicians share their wisdom and perform concerts in front of fans and fellow musicians from across the country. A new documentary by Andie Walla called Fur Peace Ranch: It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This provides a glimpse into the world Kaukonen conceived in 1989 to be "a ranch that grows guitar players." It's a place where budding and seasoned musicians immerse themselves for several days and leave inspired and better musicians.

Walla works at Fur Peace Ranch, helping them do a multi-camera studio production for their YouTube channel. They film one song from every concert they hold at the Ranch and their videos have been seen roughly two million times. This documentary film was intended to showcase more of the overall Ranch experience.

"I had been doing all these live music videos and during the time I had personally spent at the Ranch there was just this sense of camaraderie and spirit," explained Walla. "I kept seeing this happen year after year with people coming back every year. I wanted to capture that spirit and share it with the world."

The documentary was shot entirely during one Pick N Putt Weekend. This is a special session that runs Friday through Monday as usual, but also includes a motorcycle ride led by Jorma that encompasses about 200 miles of road. The ride is held on Saturday or Sunday and the musical workshops are scheduled around rides, so nobody has to miss anything.

"I decided to capture the Pick N Putt weekend because I love motorcycles and it's one of Jorma's favorite weekends," said Walla. "He's a big motorcycle guy and there's a special vibe that happens that weekend that's a little more over the top than other weekends. I was lucky enough to sit in on a couple of classes by Jorma and some by Steve Kimoch and you get to see inside the classrooms. The films let you hear from people that are first timers and hear what their first impressions are, as well as from people who have been there dozens of times."

Some of the musicians who have served as instructors at Fur Peace Ranch include names like Dave Alvin, G.E. Smith, Bill Kirchen, Dar Williams, Chris Smither, Larry Campbell, Jill Sobule, David Lindley, and Chris Hillman. While guitar workshops are always in session, the Ranch also includes workshops on instruments from bass guitar to lap steel guitar, mandolin and percussion, and even vocals and songwriting. Space is limited and several sessions are already sold out through 2015.

Part of the lure is the way the Ranch removes the boundaries between musicians and fans. Attendees have an entire weekend to sit and talk to people about music with everybody being on the same page. The instructors don't carry a rock star attitude. They're easily accessible and they love passing on what they know.

"Let's say you always admired G.E. Smith as a band leader and guitar player and you wanted to take a class with him," continued Walla. "You'll study with him on a Friday or Saturday during the day, then get to see your teacher perform as part of the Saturday night concert series, and then you get to have class with him the next day. And everybody leaves on Monday. So if you were a fan of a particular style you could just pick the weekend you wanted to come and there's a concert thrown in too!"

Walla, who teaches video production at Ohio University in Athens, is excited to have the film screened at the New Jersey Film Festival with its connection to Rutgers University. She's a big believer in the support of the arts in higher education. Higher education actually played a major role in her first documentary. The subject was Nancy Cartwright, an actress who is best known as the voice of Bart Simpson. Cartwright returned to Ohio University (where she once was a student) as the commencement speaker in 2012. Walla, a huge Simpsons fan, used this opportunity to build a documentary on Cartwright.

"That was my first taste of doing a documentary," she said. "This is now the third or fourth one I've done, but I couldn't have done it without Bart Simpson!"

Working at the Ranch is a dream come true for Walla who admits to being a fan of Jorma's music. She had just finished her undergraduate work when the Ranch began looking for someone to help out with videos. Several million views of the YouTube channel later she's hoping to continue spreading the word about the Ranch with the documentary.

"Jorma's just turned 74 years old and he has more energy than I could ever hope to have," she added. "He's on the road constantly touring as a solo act and with Hot Tuna. He's still very active but a lot of his old buddies aren't around anymore. I think it's cool that he gets to be around the Ranch and share his stories and interact and help people learn from the best of the best. And there are so many Jorma fans out there that don't even know this is going on. I just thought it would be great if more people knew about it."

Saturday-January 31 at 7pm
Voorhees Hall
New Jersey Film Festival
New Brunswick, NJ

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UCPAC Presents Three Classic 80s Films on 35mm Film
 (RAHWAY, NJ) -- A series of three classic films is being presented on 35mm film at Union County Performing Arts Center’s Main Stage theater. All viewings cost a $5 admission ticket that includes a 30 minute pre-show on the theater’s historic "Biggest Little Wurlitzer" organ and free popcorn along with the film screening. The films include The Breakfast Club (January 25), Pretty Woman (February 15), and The Karate Kid (March 8).
Hopewell Theater Hosts Special Valentine's Screening of "Casablanca" With Supper
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- Hopewell Theater will host a special “date night” celebration of Valentine’s Day with a screening of the classic romance film Casablanca paired with an optional Moroccan supper on Valentine's Day, Thursday, February 14. An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood's quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
Rahway Presents Pop-Up Screening of "Best of Rahway Reel Shorts"
(RAHWAY, NJ) -- In 2019, the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership will continue to expand the Culture Crawl Concept to include the Culture Crawl Film Series, with the first pop-up screening, “Best of Rahway Reel Shorts,” scheduled for Saturday, January 19th from 8:00pm-10:30pm at Atelier Rosal (74 E. Cherry St.) in downtown Rahway.
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 
NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert, on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. See the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the magical score live while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.

REVIEW: "If Beale Street Could Talk"
Outside of cinephile circles, filmmaker Barry Jenkins is perhaps best known for his role in arguably the greatest debacle in the history of the Academy Awards. On February 26th, 2017, La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner, only for it then to be revealed that Jenkins’ Moonlight was the actual winner.
New Jersey Film Festival: Spring 2019 - First 2 Weeks Preview
The New Jersey Film Festival - Spring 2019 takes place between January 25 and March 1, 2019 on the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the festival features over 35 film screenings. Here is a preview of the first two weeks of the festival. For the full schedule visit
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Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help view the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"
For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.
REVIEW: "Shoplifters"
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Event calendar
Saturday, Jan 19, 2019


ALABAMA @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Cimorelli @ iPlay America, Freehold - 6:00pm

TRAMPS LIKE US @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

Jennifer Holliday @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Zhang & Upshaw: Earth & Heaven @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm


ShowKids Invitational Theatre Presents Newsies @ Voorhees High School, Glen Gardner - 7:30pm

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm


THE CAPITOL STEPS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Woman of a Certain Age Comedy @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 8:00pm


Best of Rahway Reel Shorts @ Atelier Rosal, Rahway - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 2:00pm and 5:30pm

View all events

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