Another fantastic weekend in Shreveport, LA. as the Louisiana Film Prize comes to another close. This is the fourth year that I have attended, and once again the festival organizers did not disappoint.
Every year you hear the same old phrase that, “… this year was the best ever!” However, this year that actually rang true! Having hit a historic level on ticket sales, the streets were completely full of anxious filmgoers waiting in lines to see both the Orange and Teal blocks and to vote on their favorites for the weekend.
Yep, I had an ugly cry.
As an actor and producer in this event over the past four years, I would confirm another rumor, that this year’s crop of films was the best that has ever hit the event. There were three in particular that truly stood out for me.
I’m a crier. I admit it. I love a good tear-jerker, and as I have gotten a little older, I have become an even bigger wimp when it comes to the tug of the old heartstrings. So, you will be none too surprised that each of the following films made me not only sniffle but on one occasion, someone actually handed me a tissue. Yep, I had an ugly cry.
The true story of one soldier's journey through the heat and hell of the Vietnam war.
Directed by J.C. Doler & Taylor Bracewell
Cinematography by Alexander Jeffery
So I watched this one twice. Yes, I was one of those people that snuck out of the theater late in the screening processes because I only wanted to see this one film one more time. However, I have a really … really good excuse.
The first viewing was, unfortunately, less than ideal. The venue was a little loud, as it was late into the evening, and several folks were deep into their cups (another fine prize fest tradition!) I may or may not have also been into a couple of cups, but nevertheless, I needed another fix.
The film follows a young man who joins the service and is enlisted to serve in Vietnam. The war movie can be a played out thing for many short films, so you really have to bring something unique to the table. Well, Taylor Bracewell & J.C. Dowler (Co-Director and lead) delivered!
The entire picture is shot with a brutally unforgiving close up of J.C.’s face. We see every experience from the perspective of how it affects him directly. The camera never wavers and never allows the audience a moment of peace, as we stare back into the leading actors piercing blue eyes.
We follow the young recruit through his training and in-country tragedies through to ripe old age, where the war-torn elder actor wears not only his weathered skin but his emotional turmoil as his war paint. Knowing that the elder actor was J.C.’s father and the story was that of his father’s experience in Vietnam only made the film a bit sweeter.
Daisy Does Daisy
Approaching 40 years old, Daisy Green wants to have a baby and will go to great lengths to make her dream come true.
Directed by Jency Griffin Hogan
Written by Alexander Jeffery
Cinematography by Aaron Hogan
I turned 40 just over six months ago, and the amount of self-reflection I do on a daily basis has escalated to a problematic scale. I’ll admit that my navel gazing has become an issue. Anyone else willing to accept that their life is not exactly what they thought it would become will see their reflection in our heroine Daisy.
With two beautiful kiddos, I feel fortunate to call myself a father and being a daddy might be one of my more successful jobs thus far. Daisy wants to be a mom, but so far life has not provided that mate to fulfill her desire.
The film is funny with some cringe-worthy scenes that anyone in the adult dating game will most certainly appreciate. Self-deprecating and desperately attempting to navigate her path in life, Daisy displays the fear that so many of us face in our “near” mid-life crisis, what if this whole life thing is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Jency Hogan is a fantastic performer and, I’m happy to say, friend. She announced at the festival that she is currently working on turning this short into a feature-length film. This proof of concept short film deserves some attention, as it has an audience that is desperately asking the same questions as our leading lady.
Wilbur Goodnight on a quest from Chicago to profess his love at a local poetry slam for his grade school crush whom he hasn’t seen in over two decades.
Directed by Paul Petersen and Rachel Emerson
Written by Paul Petersen
Cinematography by Domenico Grasso
A mockumentary styled short wrapped around a fictionalized graduate thesis project about a bumbling poet attempting to find true love. Yeah, it was a mouthful, and I’m sure the co-directors Paul Petersen and Rachel Emerson would do a much better job of laying out this beautiful film.
In a “The Office-esqe” tagalong, our cameraman and documentary filmmaker follow Wilbur Goodnight as he seeks to reunite with a childhood friend that he has idealized through their years of separation. Between flashbacks to their childhood fun and Wilbur’s current struggle to find the energy, courage, and wit to face his lifelong love, this short plucks all the heartstrings.
The writing and pacing are beyond perfect and pushes the audience into a frenzy of support, hoping beyond hope that Wilbur can get over Wilbur. Paul Petersen’s writing especially shines when we finally hear the poem that he has been working on for his big reveal.
I saw two versions of this short during editing, and both made me a little weepy, but the final version brought on the ugly cry.
If you would like a list of all of the films that were selected in the Louisiana Film Prize 2018 Top 20, you can find them here. In addition, each film has a dedicated page with trailers and information on their creators. There are numerous other films on the list that deserve attention and praise, but these were the ones that touched me in that dark hole in the center of my chest. I can not wait to see what the future holds for these films and filmmakers.