We had an absolutely fantastic event last night. The room was packed and there was lots of sincere excitement over the films being screened and the awards being presented. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who participated in the festival last night, everyone who submitted films, Erica Derrickson for being our MC for the awards, and I am particularly thankful to Kristina Stone Kaiser for so masterfully organizing this event! Thank you so much to all of you!
Let’s take a look at the winners last night in the order in which they were presented:
Congratulations to all of our nominees and winners. Every single one of the ten films officially selected to be part of our festival this year deserve recognition for the passion, dedication, and incredible amount of hard work and talent poured into creating each one. We are so honored to be able to showcase these films and be able to celebrate the work of these filmmakers.
On a final note, I am quite excited that just today, hot off of it’s four awards and eleven nominations last night, “The Womanhood” has officially been released on the web. You can now see this amazing short film for free on YouTube and Vimeo. I highly recommend checking it out and liking the film’s official page on Facebook.
Tomorrow night, we will be holding the very first Stories by the River Film Festival. Tickets for the event sold out on Wednesday afternoon! I can’t wait to sit down in that packed and buzzing room to celebrate indie filmmaking from New England and from across the country. Once the ten official selections have been screened, there will be a chance for those present to mingle, chat, and network with fellow filmmakers in attendance. Following this time, we will be presenting the awards to the films which have been nominated in various categories as well as the Audience Favorite Award that will be voted on that night.
I want to take a moment to look a little closer at the four films that have been nominated by our panel of judges (of which I am a member) for the Best Picture Award. Those four films are: “Brightwood,” “Take My Keys,” “Thieves,” and “The Womanhood.” Each of these four films stood out to us as possessing not just specific qualities that were well executed, such as the scripts, cinematography, production design, performances, and directing, but these four films also exemplify that core virtue and purpose of cinema: good storytelling. And to be clear, this is not to say that the other six films we selected do not also succeed in telling their stories well. The nomination of these four films for Best Picture is an acknowledgement that these three narrative short films and one music video combined the technical excellence and artistic crafts of each discipline involved in the filmmaking process in the service of telling stories that we found particularly compelling. And in the spirit of the Best Picture Award, they present the most cohesive and complete package as short cinematic stories. So let’s take a closer look at our nominations for Best Picture in alphabetical order:
“Brightwood,” produced and directed by L. Gabriel Gonda (along with a team of producers and co-producers who helped bring this story to the screen), tells the story of Sparrow, a young girl who initially seems to have a rather idilic life. However, as we are pulled deeper into the story, we learn that there is a much darker side to her and her brother’s home life. Exploring the amazing resilience of children, “Brightwood” offers a visually rich and stirring picture of the importance of imagination in coping with life’s harsh realities. The film is also nominated for several other categories, including Best Screenplay by LaDora Sella, Best Cinematography by Connor Hair, and Best Directing for Gonda.
Of specific note to our community of New England filmmakers is that Local Art Director and Production Designer, Bryan Felty, is nominated for his work as the Production Designer for “Brightwood.” Gonda and much of his team are located in Seattle, Washington. Screenwriter LaDora Sella is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Take My Keys,” is a music video directed by Nick Pedini & Christopher Thomas and produced by Carlyne Fournier for the song by the same title by Matt Clarke & MattyFee. This cautionary tale of youthful indiscretions relating to drinking at a party that leads to a car wreck may seem like an odd nomination for Best Picture. Yet, so well crafted is the narrative Pedini and Thomas mold with the visuals (aided by the effective production design by Fournier and the tight editing by Pedini), that a very compelling and moving story unfolds before our eyes. It may not be a traditional narrative short film, but in many respects, it is more effective at telling its story using music and visuals alone in three and a half minutes than many longer narrative short films out there. We are glad to see projects like this being produced in New England and we think you’ll enjoy it too. Even if you can’t join us at the festival (or if you are just that impatient), you can check out the music video on YouTube. “Take my Keys” is also nominated for the Production Design (also by Fournier), Editing, Make-up, and Visual Effects, among other things.
“Thieves,” produced and directed by D. Erik Parks, is set in a not too distant post-apocalyptic future. We follow one man’s journey through empty city streets seeking any means to survive he can happen upon. When he’s confronted by two other people, he must make the choice to trust them or run. Featuring excellent use of locations and Nashville streets devoid of activity and life, “Thieves” succeeds instantly and sucking us into a disturbingly still world. We quickly get a sense that most people are long gone. However, those left may not be deserving of trust so easily. In true indie film fashion, Parks wore several hats in the making of “Thieves,” serving as screenwriter and editor along with his producing and directing responsibilities. Challenging as that may be, Parks utilizes a solid cast, fascinating locations, and kinetic cinematography by Jordan Lynn that drops us into a hauntingly silent Nashville and then keeps us on edge the whole time. “Thieves” is also nominated for Writing, Editing, Cinematography, and Directing, among other awards.
“The Womanhood,” produced by Stephen Cashmere, Ellen Dickson, and Tara Mastroeni, and written & directed by New England native Yvonne LaBarge, pulls us right into the emotionally volatile moment in ten-year-old Jocelyn’s life when she has her first period. Bucking predictability, LaBarge crafts a witty and endearing tale as Marian, Jocelyn’s mother, is confronted with having to have “that talk” mothers know one day they’ll have to have with their daughters. Weaving an imaginative story of a secret society of heroines who are initiated upon having their first period–as periods are actually a part of the superpowers all women have–LaBarge offers us female empowerment with genuine humor and warmth. The writing is sharp and cleaver and the cinematography of Dan Finlayson is beautiful. “The Womanhood” has also earned nominations for it’s writing, cinematography, editing, and directing, among several other categories.
So that’s a quick look at the four Best Picture nominations. If you’ve got your ticket for tomorrow night’s first Stories by the River Film Festival event, you are in for a treat with not just these four films, but all ten selected shorts. For those of you unable to snag a ticket for our screening and awards show in Quincy, Massachusetts, I highly recommend you keep an eye on our Facebook page for news about who wins what tomorrow night and for where you might be able to catch these films in the future!
2014 marks a new milestone for Stories by the River. This year we are starting things off by launching our very own film festival to celebrate short films and the efforts of independent filmmakers in the New England area and around the country. We have officially selected ten short films which will be screening at our festival event on January 24th taking place in Quincy, Mass. Following the screening will be the presentation of several awards and an opportunity to mingle and network with the filmmakers in attendance. Seating is limited and tickets are selling quickly. So if you are interested in attending, I highly recommend getting your ticket now!
We have several categories in which many of the selected films have been nominated. We will also be presenting the Audience Favorite Award at the festival once the films have been screened and the audience votes tallied. Erica Derrickson, creator of the Hollywood East Actor’s Group, will be hosting the festivities. It’s sure to be a fun and lively evening.
Let’s take a look at the ten films selected this year in alphabetical order and their respective nominations:
“The Actor,” written by Mike Messier and directed by Skip Shea and Messier, tells the story of an actor who looks back at his past choices in a crucial relationship that has shaped the direction of his life. Embracing the black box theater setting, the film unfolds much like a play within the space and in the interactions between the characters.
“Amy Kidd: Zombie Speech Pathologist,” written, directed by, and starring Audrey Noone, blends genres in a unique way. Faced with a post-zombie-apocalypse world where things are far from what they used to be, Amy Kidd has to resort to some innovative thinking when it comes to staying afloat as a speech pathologist. In this short, zombies and comedy blend quite well.
“Brightwood,” written by LaDora Sella and directed by L. Gabriel Gonda, tells the story of a young girl caught between her imagination and the harsh realities of her life. Contrasting beautiful fantasies with the ugly pain adults seem so capable of imposing on our world, “Brightwood” feels right at home in the company of films like Pan’s Labyrinth.
“Candles in Paradise,” written and directed by Rob Azevedo, is a film about loss and the fragility of life, especially in face of senseless acts of violence. Looking at what may await us on the other side of this life, “Candles” focuses on the story of one young woman and her journey into the the other side.
“Mildred’$ Million$,” written and directed by Ben Proulx, is a comedy created as part of a 48 Hour film competition. Instantly dropped into the lives of a man who’s just lost his IT job and a woman who has just won the lottery, “Mildred’$ Million$” explores the desperate measures we might go to in order to ensure our survival and the role of relationships in this complicated mix.
“Residual,” written and directed by Christopher D. Grace, is a psychological thriller focused on a husband and pregnant wife. As they draw nearer to the birth of their child, strange things being happening around the house. Even as they try to make sense of the unexplainable, things that go bump in the night take on an unexpected nature.
“Still Life,” written and directed by Chris Esper, chronicles the early efforts of a young photographer as he navigates the often difficult landscape of criticism and self-doubt. Passion and frustration mingle as the photographer struggles to remain positive and hopeful. With clear resonance to the journey every young artist must take, the film takes on a definite meta-fiction quality as it mirrors the difficulties of becoming a filmmaker.
“Take My Keys” is a music video directed by Nick Pedini for the song written and performed by Matt Clarke & MattyFee. More than your run-of-the-mill music video, Clarke & MattyFee’s song tells a powerful story about the consequences of drunk-driving. Pedini takes full advantage of this and crafts an engaging and haunting narrative strictly using visuals.
“Thieves,” written and directed by D. Eric Parks, is a post-apocalyptic thriller that follows one man’s search for a means to survive in a world where order has been replaced with chaos. Who to trust in this profoundly broken world is not readily apparent. Blending careful use of empty locations and visual effects, “Thieves” draws us quickly into a world of mistrust and uncertainty.
“The Womanhood,” written and directed by Yvonne LaBarge, is a witty and quirky take on the what can often be a scary and confusing time for young women as they begin having their period. Whimsical and endearing, the film chronicles the story of a mother as she helps her daughter enter this new chapter of her life.
Well, that’s a quick introduction to the ten short films playing at the 2014 Stories by the River Film Festival. Join us January 24th at The River South Center in Quincy Center (walking distance from the Quince Center T stop) where you can see all of the films, meet the filmmakers, find out who wins what, and celebrate some great storytelling. I hope to see you there!
Mikel J. Wisler is an award-winning filmmaker who has written, produced and directed several short films. He is also the co-founder of Stories by the River and runs the monthly River Film Forum.
Kristina Stone Kaiser is co-founder of Stories by the River, President of The River South Center and pastor of The River Church. Before she was these things, she graduated with a masters in Vocal Performance.
Judy S. Moore is the co-founder of The River South Center’sSpring into Reading Program. As a graduate of Emerson College, she is an established communications and editing professional and is well versed in the world of film.
Shane Fuller teaches film and theatre at Milton Academy, after several years of teaching college. He has directed several productions for both stage and screen, and has an MFA in Script and Screenwriting.
Dominic Stone Kaiser is, among many things, a sound engineer. He began his studies in Sound Recording and has now developed a wide understanding of technology. Dominic has worked alongside Mikel and Kristina to give Stories by the River its’ start.
We love telling and sharing stories! Which is why we created Stories by the River in the first place. You may have noticed that we recently have been trying out a new way of offering our short films to viewers. Up until recently, we had been selling and renting our movies. The whole reason we did so was because making even the most humble short films takes a lot of time, requires the hard work of a lot of talented people, and involves all kinds of resources such as food, locations, equipment, and other materials that ultimately cost money. And as we look to the future, we hope to be able to make bigger, and more ambitious projects that allow us to share meaningful and thought-provoking stories with an even broader audience. So far we’ve been operating strictly with volunteers for our cast and crew. And the majority of these amazing people are professionals doing truly fantastic work. In the future, we’d like to actually pay these awesome people. They deserve it!
To that end, we one day hope to be able to make feature films. In the mean time, we believe in the unique power of great short films to spark great conversations and touch on ideas and issues we might not always readily sit down and talk about on most days. With this in mind, and given the diverse world short-form material offered online for free, we felt it was time to truly open the floodgates and offer our films on a “name you price” basis. And that price can definitely be zero!
We hope that people will feel empowered to check out our movies given the ability to do so without any having to break out a credit card. We hope people will get excited about sharing our films with friends with the ease of simply passing a link along to them and allowing their friends the ability to watch our movies for free, if they would like to. We also hope that those of you who are able to will partner with us in helping us make more films by naming a price that seems reasonable when checking out some of our films or the bonus materials geared at digging more into the stories we’re telling.
Is it scary for us to wonder where the resources will come from to make more films in the future? Oh, absolutely!Terrifying, as a matter of fact. But we believe in dreaming big, in taking risks, and in having faith that good stories connect with people in meaningful ways. Out of all of that, we hope that more doors will open for new and bigger projects as a plunge ahead with excitement. After all, the creative juices seem to flow best when the risks are real.
So I want to invite you to check out our films, if you have not done so already. We hope you’ll find them worthwhile and that you will share them with people you know who might also enjoy them. We hope that our movies can spark interesting and insightful conversations. And we hope that in the process, you have as much fun watching these movies as we do making them!
You can see all of our films by clicking here.