Normal Activity was a tour de force in all aspects of filmmaking. Ben Austen helmed this story of a group of ghost hunters who find themselves up to their necks in a horror they thought was a hoax but find out it was all too real. Actress Elizabeth DelloRusso shined in the role of Dr. Echo. Austen guided his cast and crew of Normal Activity and Lena Thomas proves herself as a truly up and coming talent that should be ear marked for success in this town. This film was brilliantly executed and took home many of the festivals awards, including the coveted GRAND JURY PRIZE. I wouldn't be surprised if the filmmakers take this concept to the next level and we see "Normal Activity" on television in the very near future.
Director Ben Austen Holds up OK SMILEY artwork before auction
Right In Two
Right In Two, directed by Meghan Cox, is the story of what happens when two girls stop at a gas station and suddenly one of the girls vanishes from inside the car. Feeling like a David Lynch film yet set on an exotically baron location, of where JJ Abrams might film the next installment of Star Wars, this film lacked story telling finesse but the breath taking visuals provided by Cinematographer Brad Kaz all but made up for it. Watching this film, it was hard to believe it was accomplished in 120 hours with the different locations utilized. During the Q&A, director Meghan Cox informed us the film was shot in the salt flats of Death Valley.
Rich Heart, Poor Intentions
This filmmaking team chose the logline "A poor man falls in love with a rich woman but their social circumstances soon leave them separated". Directed by and starring the talented WIlliam Gabriel Grier, the film had a solid story and jaw dropping moments provided by a daring script, also by Mr. Grier. Sean Crampton gave a brave performance in the role of Ray Fisker, Marlene McCohen graced the screen with her beauty and acting chops, and Roderick Buycks Jr., was great in his supporting role. The real take away from this film is Mr. Grier and the many hats he wore while delivering a performance that earned him the BEST ACTOR award.
Logline chosen: Don't drink the yellow blood. It's bad for you. Skilled and proven director Michael Stratigakis was captain of this magical ship. Stratigakis has many editing credits on his resume but it's very clear he is a director at heart. Dreamt's opening sequence was the most cinematic in the festival and his film felt like the first five minutes of a feature that was about to leave the audience happily scratching their heads with the same feeling most audinces had when they walked out of Christopher Nolan's "Inception" for the first time. Strong and daring performances were given by leading ladies Laura Steigers and Kinga Rosen, and Alex Boron does well with his supporting role. Stratigakis took home BEST EDITOR award for this piece that as an audience member, I'm hoping he turns into a feature.
Deserted was the stand out film of the festival. It took home the AUDIENCE AWARD and probably would have won the GRAND JURY prize if it weren't for a few technical issues it incurred. This beautiful story is what happens when two best friends are forced to reconcile their differences when they find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. Both actresses gave unforgettable performances laced with courage, emotion and beauty which easily won them BEST ACTRESS awards for the festival. Virginia Crawford directed this film and her talent is evident. Crawford led her actors into the fire and walked them out with grace leaving the audience wanting more from Crawford and her team. Shot on an amazing location in the middle of the desert, cinematographer Josh Maas shows his ability to find the perfect shot and tell a story without feeling intrusive or forced with his camera techniques. Deserted, and its award winning talents of Crawford, Maas, Beavers, and Scheid, deliver a film that entertains and inspires, and should do extremely well in the festival circuit. Definitely keep an eye out for Virginia Crawford, Kim Beavers and Danielle Scheid as they continue their journey of success in Hollywood.
Kim Beavers Gabe Grier on the red carpet
After the two screenings on Saturday at 8 pm and 10 pm, the filmmakers all engaged in a Q&A with the audience and jury. The filmmakers expressed their gratitude for the festival being imagined and launched at The Sherry Theater. Festival Founder Scott Haze expressed his mission that The Sherry Theater and the 120 HOUR FILM FESTIVAL will continue to support its filmmakers by opening this new and exciting avenue for the artists to make films and get their endeavors seen by a world class jury and entertain the festival goers in the process.
Overall, given such a rigorous deadline, the films were beyond impressive.
As promised, Festival Founders Scott Haze and Jim Parrack brought in their industry colleagues to be the respected group of Jurors, ranging from managers and agents to award winning film producers. This all star jury brought its knowledge and experience which afforded them the insight to pick the winners of the film festival.
The night was innovative, charming and brilliantly produced led by festival coordiantor Felicia Lambreton under the direction of Haze and Parrack.
Festial Coordinater Felicia Lambreton sets up as the red carpet is about to begin
The festival was sponsored by "ACTIVATE" water which was giving out free water and product to the festival goers.
There was free catering thanks to The Sherry Theater company member, Shana Wesner. Her desserts were out of this world.
And to top off the night, rising artist "OK Smiley" (Matt Smiley / www.mattsmiley.com) provided an original piece of artwork to be auctioned off at a raffle which was exclusively available to the festival supporters, donors and ticket holders. Mr. Smiley arrived at the festival to deliver the piece to Haze with paint still on his hands. It was beautiful.
From what I'm hearing this will be a monthly event at The Sherry Theater and I know for sure I won't be missing one festival.
Keep an eye out for the "120 HOUR FILM FESTIVAL", this is something special happening at The Sherry Theater, here in the heart of the beautiful NoHo Arts District.
Following the Q & A with the Directors
The awards were as follows:
Grand Jury Prize - Normal Activity
Best Film Audience Award - Deserted
Best Director - Ben Austen (Normal Activity)
Best Actor - Wiliiam Gabriel Grier (Rich Heart, Poor Intentions)
Best Actress (was a tie) - Danielle Scheid (Deserted) and Kim Beavers (Deserted)
Best Cinematographer (was a tie) - Brad Kaz (Right In Two) and Josh Maas (Deserted)
Best Editor - Michael Stratigakis (Dreamt)
Best Screenplay - Lena Thomas (Normal Activity)