Asbury Film Festival

At long last, the Asbury Film Festival piece. I've been building up to this one for a while, so I figure that I'll divide this up into multiple posts in order to not have to stay up all night typing. Thanks to Ben, by the way, who found the Lexington Herald article that had my picture in it. Even though the pictures didn't make it into the web version, it's still exciting to see one's name in an article, especially in an article about a film festival that one has recently won.

You read correctly, folks - Leaves won "Best Picture" at the inaugural Asbury Film Festival. How did this miraculous event come to take place? Let's start this back on Friday night.

Friday Night
This was a good night. Jeremy White (my partner on, and the star of, Leaves) and I were looking sharp - I was in tux and silver tie, while Jeremy sported the dark suit with charcoal sweater - and we went and took our young co-star, Christie Osterhus, out to dinner. Okay, we took her out to Applebee's, but when you're 10, I'm assuming that's still pretty cool. We all did the Veggietales wordfind on the kid's menu, and just to let you know how competitive Jeremy and I are: neither of us let Christie finish first. We were both too concerned with winning ourselves (Jeremy won. I was a close second. "Princess" was a tough find). After that, we headed back to school to grab seats for the festival.

Opening night was fabulous. Everyone was dressed to the nines, the anticipation was palpable, and the mood was electric. Jeremy's family, had, of course, turned out in force for the festival - they came both nights, and were always one of the first ones there - and so Leaves got a lot of popular support in the audience vote (there were about a dozen of them, and Leaves had a 15-vote lead at the end of the first night. Probably not coincidental).

I loved the film festival. Each one of the 13 short films selected was creative, clever, and was usually well written. In a future post I'll critique each. For now, suffice to say it was a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience. Especially for me: I appear, or was involved, in seven of the productions.

The student films were followed by the premiere of Stolen Moments, the film shot by Asbury students early this semester (end of January to the beginning of March). There's a lot to say about Stolen Moments, so I'll critique the film later. But to answer your question, yes, I was involved in its production. I was a behind-the-scenes documentary cameraman. But I was also a storyboard artist. And I did pre-visualization for some of the bigger sequences of the film. Oh, and I did continuity for a scene or two. And I typed up the shot sheets for some shoots. And I was a production assistant once in a while. And a camera assist. And an audio assist. And I ran the camera once in a while. And I acted in the film. Oh, and I directed a few shots. I think that covers it. And it was the best time of my life. I loved every minute of it. Seeing it all come to screen was an interesting experience - both thrilling and anti-climactic. I don't know how to explain it. It's like Christmas feels these days: it's exciting and it's fun, but that pure visceral thrill that you'd expect it to be isn't there. Ah, well. It was still a great time.

Most is the Academy-Award nominated, Sundance-winning half hour film written in part by Billy Zabka (the blond guy in Karate Kid). Billy's a cool cat, and I love the film, it's beautifully moving, but it's a tough way to end a film festival when you've been there for three hours and you're starting on another film and it's a foreign film about a father having to make a choice between the life of his son and the lives of a few hundred people on a train. Tough note to close on. It mighta been better if they'd showed Most first and finished with Stolen Moments. But who wants their film to be shown after a Sundance winner? All in all, Jeff Day, the director of Stolen Moments, who put this whole thing together, probably made the right choice.

And then the after-party. Having sweated through most of the festival in nervous anticipation, I now stripped off my tie, undershirt, and vest, and wandered the party looking, as several people mentioned, "like a drunk best man at a reception." That's as may be, but Becca Harvey saw fit to mention "you look so hot right now," and Erin Channell demanded that I stay right next to her for the rest of the evening for protection. Where I come from, that's a pretty good night.

Saturday Night
As great as Friday night was, it can't touch Saturday night. To start it off, at the Media Communications Awards Ceremony, I won "Radio Producer of the Year." Which is really cool, even though I really didn't do that much radio production this year. I really won the award for my work from last year, when I really was the best radio producer. This year I was on coast, but no one else was doing radio production, so I get an award. It wouldn't matter that much to me except that the victory means that I get to go on the "Wall of Fame" in Corbitt, so my place in the Asbury Media Communication Annals is assured. And that is something to be excited about.

But the best was yet to come.

Each film only won one award, so that each deserving piece would get to leave with something. Which I agree with, but when you don't know it's coming, it sounds more like you've been swept out of competition entirely. After the first few awards had been handed out to other films, I'd already resigned myself to my defeat. After four or five awards had been handed out, I noticed the lack of repeats, and suddenly realized that "if those films have already won awards, then they won't win Best Picture, which means that maybe I..." By the time they announced Best Comedy (a tie between Beaver and Mug - more on that in a later post), it was suddenly sinking in that I was about to win a film festival. Then they announced that [Let Go] had won Best Drama, and my jaw dropped. I had written and directed [Let Go] at the end of the last semester and entered it into the film festival on a whim, offhandedly hoping that it would be entered. Once it did, I never gave it another thought - I'd moved on, and my effort was on getting Leaves noticed. But people really responded to [Let Go] (it ended up fourth in audience voting - awfully high for a drama about someone coping with losing his girlfriend in a car accident they were both in). A lot of people came up to talk to me about it, which is always exciting.

Right after they announced Best Drama, they announced Best Picture - and I got to stand up again. By this time, my face was flaming red, and I was trying unsuccessfully to look as if this was no big deal to me - I made the foolhardy decision to give Jeremy a huge high-five from three rows away, almost toppling myself into the row behind me in the process. Surefire Hollywood high-roller, right here. I sat down quickly, but then they announced the Audience Choice award: it went to Leaves, as well. Isn't that crazy? I fully expected Beaver or Mug to take it: comedies always do well, and particularly inventive ones like those two you would think would be locks for the top spot (they finished second and third, respectively). I suppose they probably split the vote between them, leaving us the opportunity to take the award.

The rest of the night is a bit of a haze, but I recall it wound down with me jumping around a lot, hugging a lot of people that I hadn't realized I was that close with, and declaring an impromptu celebration at the local coffeehouse until dawn. Admittedly, enthusiasm waned a bit before then, but this ain't New York City, and a couple hours of celebration is about all you can really handle when you're in a low-key coffeeshop and you haven't really slept for weeks. Still, props to Solomon's Porch for letting us stay an hour late to stretch out the moment, before I finally wandered, still dazed but ecstatic, back to my room.

As Plutarch noted, every dog has his day.