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Live ON Film II

Marketing/public relations specialist and film fan Brendan O'Hallarn is taking in the sights and sounds of the ONFilm Festival this week. Watch for regular updates from his blog "Live ON Film" on this Web site, and on the film festival's Web site, www.onfilmfest.com.

Saturday, March 28, 9:30 p.m.

What a whirlwind four days this has been! I've seen movie stars, spent time with independent film producers, seen cool old theaters and chatted with dozens and dozens of passionate film fans.

The ONFilm Festival is in the books, and those who attended the events know what a great time it's been.

I saw director Lane Dare at the closing gala, at the beautiful Granby Theater in downtown Norfolk. She was ebullient about the film festival.

"I think it has delivered in terms of programming what it promised to deliver. In terms of excitement from the participants involved, it couldn't have been better," she said.

I walked around the red-carpeted room, soaking up the atmosphere in the historic theater.

I chatted with Jan Louter from the Netherlands, whose film "The Last Days of Shishmaref" won two awards tonight. He's had an even more whirlwind week than me.

"I got a call from Ms. Dare last Saturday in my home. I didn't receive the call until Monday. On Thursday, I was on a plane, with the ticket paid by the Dutch Embassy, thanks to Ms. Dare," Louter said.

"I've really felt the warmth of the film community here."

Ashley Sawyer was in the crowd at the Granby, dressed in her film fest chic.

The local substitute teacher had a role in "Teachers Pet," one of the shorts entered in the contest.

Sawyer came to the gala to support her friend Steve Strickland, who made "Teachers Pet." But she's really enjoyed the vibe at the film festival as well.

"I was there on Thursday, and they didn't show our film until 10 p.m. So for a few hours I got to see a bunch of other films and talk with a bunch of people. It was a really fun atmosphere," she said.

That it was. Now it's time for rest. For everyone, it appears, except Lane Dare.

"In my spare moments today, I've already been working on ONFilm Fest '10," she said.

Me, I'm about to work on some sleep.

Hey, in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night.

Saturday, March 28, 4 p.m.

Six of the brightest minds in local film took to the stage in the Batten Arts and Letters Building auditorium, to talk about the film industry in Hampton Roads.

This probably isn't a coincidence; all six panelists were women.

But they represented a large cross-section of the local film production industry, and were each living proof that to make it in the business, you need to be hardworking and adaptable, and get experience in as many different jobs as possible.

"It's made me a much better director, because I'm not a jerk if there's something wrong with the makeup, or the pink and yellow towels aren't on the set yet," said freelance director Hunter Thomas, who is also chair of the Hampton Roads chapter of the Virginia Production Alliance.

"I've developed an appreciation for all the jobs in filmmaking, because I've done many of them."

Jeff Frizzell, commissioner of the Hampton Roads Film Office, moderated the panel discussion. After brief biographies, Frizzell asked the ladies what they like, and don't like, about being a filmmaker in Hampton Roads.

"I moved here from Houston, and the toughest thing about this area is finding talent," said independent filmmaker Amy Broad. "It's just difficult to find the groups of people you need, either as actors or crew."

Filmmaker Lisa Hunt, who had a short film she directed screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year, offered a different perspective.

"I'm from California, and I've worked here and there. But the one thing about here is if you want a shooting permit, it's 75 bucks and nobody asks you any questions. I didn't tell you that," she added with a laugh.

Collectively, all six ladies stressed that this is a great market to work in film, provided you're willing to work. There may be fewer projects on the go at any one time, "but I've worked in L.A. People here are nice," Thomas said.

Saturday, March 28, 1:45 p.m.

It's a tough economy out there for job seekers. But people in the radio, television and film industry in Hampton Roads stressed today that there are opportunities for people willing to work.

A dozen exhibitors, ranging from television stations to casting agencies, spoke with prospective employees today at the ONFilm Festival's third-annual Career Day and Expo, put on by the Hampton Roads Film Office and Virginia Production Alliance.

The booths were busy, as ODU students and other wannabe industry workers asked questions, filled out internship applications and collected business cards.

Cinde Beachem has worked off and on in the industry in Hampton Roads for the past dozen years. She's just looking to get back into it, after having a child in November.

"It's exciting. It's always changing," Beachem said. "It's really technology based, so you have to stay on top of things. No two days are ever alike, that's why I like it so much."

Evan Lauderdale drove down from Richmond for the expo. He graduated last year from James Madison University, and would love to find work in broadcast journalism. What he heard wasn't music to his ears.

"There are no jobs in broadcast news right now. I've heard lots of stories about companies laying people off," said Lauderdale, who did a radio talk show in college.

"I really hope to find something. A job like this is work, but it's work you don't mind doing."

Around the corner, casting director Henry Jaderlund of CastingVA said he's always on the lookout for people, because movies are constantly being made.

"There's lots of shooting done here in Hampton Roads. There's also a lot of good talent," said Jaderlund, who cast extras for the HBO miniseries "John Adams," and "Transformers 2," which was filmed in Herndon.

ODU business major Stephie Carbott went into the adjacent auditorium where a panel on the filmmaking industry was about to start.

"I'm here for extra credit. I saw the tables, and I was a little intimidated," Carbott said.

But, encouraged to go look at what's available, Carbott returned a few minutes later, beaming.

"I could do some work in sales for CW27, and (casting director Jaderlund) told me to call him tomorrow. It's kind of exciting," she said.

Friday, March 27, 9:45 p.m.

It was one of those nights where you just wanted to curl up in front of a movie.

But why lie around at home when you can do it here, at the ONFilm Festival?

For three days, I've talked to as many film fans as I could at various awards shows and screenings. Tonight I was a fan myself.

I'd befriended one of the filmmakers, Catherine Arton, Thursday night at the "Swimming with Sharks" screening. She demanded that I come see her short "Gone Fishing."

So I grabbed a Coke and settled in to watch it, two other shorts and a documentary feature. Just me and the screen.

Then I got drafted.

Catherine is doing a video blog of her journey from England to Norfolk for the ONFilm Festival. So there I was holding a camera while she gave her impromptu speech introducing "Gone Fishing" to the crowd that had braved the weather.

"I'm going to ask you about it afterwards," she warned me before the screenings started.

Two other shorts came first, "The Coffee Break," about a gender-confused cop, and "About Face," a hilarious six-minute short-short about the banality of the Web site Facebook.

Then "Gone Fishing" started, and I was entranced.

Set in the British Isles, it's the story of a man and boy coming to terms with bereavement, taking solace in fishing - particularly the pursuit of a giant pike, nicknamed Goliath.

Right after "Gone Fishing" ended, Catherine pulled out the camera and asked me what I thought. I didn't expect what happened next.

I started to cry.

You see, I grew up in a fishing family. My father actually died of a heart attack on a fishing trip when I was a teenager.

I can totally understand the healing effect that fishing can have.

I gave Catherine a hug, and thanked her for making such a beautiful short.

The crowds at tonight's film festival events were modest, no doubt influenced to stay home by the lousy weather.

It's too bad. They're missing quite a show.

Friday, March 27, 6:05 p.m.

Six of the best short films produced by Old Dominion University students were screened for an appreciative crowd during Friday's third-annual Stephen E. Konikoff Student Filmmaker's Award, for excellence in student filmmaking.

The awards ceremony was held in conjunction with the ONFilm Festival at the University Theatre.

All six of the finalists were screened in their entirety, and they really ran the gamut, from breakups and addiction, to documentaries about the homeless and truckers.

Konikoff told the crowd that something Richard Dreyfuss said during his conversation with Cathy Lewis on Wednesday stuck with him, that Dreyfuss can't remember ever NOT wanting to be an actor.

"I hope there are people in this room who feel the same way about producing, or directing, or cinematography," Konikoff said.

In an interview afterwards, the local doctor said he was impressed with the quality of this year's submissions.

"It's amazing, because I know that it takes a lot of effort to produce a film of this quality," Konikoff said. "There are some really good minds at work here at ODU. And I was impressed how each film was so very different."

In the fiction category, the winning film was "I Want to Hold Your Hand," by Joel Budgen, a delightfully wacky romp about a troublemaking hand.

In non-fiction, Trevor Banks won for his documentary "Through Homeless Eyes," a touching and very real portrait of two homeless men in Norfolk, Victor and Jimmy.

After the awards ceremony, a series of the filmmakers who are competing at this week's ONFilm Festival approached Banks and told him he has a big future in the business.

"I see homeless people, and it's really easy for people to turn and look the other way," Banks said. "I wanted to know what goes on in their lives. I feel like a lot of people really don't know.

"But if you talk with these people for five minutes, you can see they're just like you and I."

Honorable mentions were presented to David Dreyer for "Memories of Nobody," Jon Norton, for "Goodbye My Lover," Sean O'Keefe for "Truck Drivers' Blues," and Emily Bonner, Alex Schlesinger and Kyle Stout for "To Catch an Addict."

Thursday, March 26, 9:15 p.m.

Word seems to be getting out among ODU students about the film festival in their midst.

I went to a screening of "Revolution '67," a documentary about the 1967 riots in Newark, New Jersey.

The modest crowd was almost all ODU students, and their reasons for attending were diverse.

Hope Gordon is a junior in graphic design. She came to the 5-7 p.m. screening in the same theater (the Senegalese film "Mother of All," and enjoyed it so much she stayed for "Revolution '67."

"She reminded me of my mother," Gordon said of Annette Mbaye d'Erneville, the subject of "Mother of All."

"I'm really enjoying the film festival. It's a chance to see up and coming directors, instead of the stuff we usually see in the theaters, which I think is going downhill."

Senior history major Truly Matthews took a course last summer on the 1960s with history professor Lorraine Lees. "It's exciting seeing what we talked about up on the screen," Matthews said. "Plus the film festival is something I just wanted to be part of."

Amarina Betkowski, a freshman taking medical technology at ODU, dragged her whole family over from Suffolk to the screening.

"I took a film appreciation class last semester. I enjoyed it so much I thought about switching my major," Betkowski said.

"Revolution '67" was followed by a panel discussion of local historians, including Cecelia Tucker of ODU.

To read earlier posts by Brendan about the ONFilm Festival, visit http://www.odu.edu/ao/news/index.php?todo=details&todo=details&id=15149.

This article was posted on: March 26, 2009

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