What MAKES Sammy Run? - Blazing NEW TRAILS in 2012
Welcome back everyone - what better way to commence Super Bowl weekend by recounting one of my recent victories at the 2012 TRAIL DANCE FILM FESTIVAL. This particular BLOG is all abou the potential to network that awaits both filmmakers and actors alike at many of the film festivals across the country. TRAIL DANCE - for those of you asking at home - is a wonderful festival in Duncan, Oklahoma that takes place right about the same time as its more well known counterpart, SUNDANCE in Park City, Utah.
So, if you don't make SUNDANCE take a stab at TRAIL DANCE! A lot of filmmakers do ;) And why not? The experience, friendships, networking opportunities and memories you can gain at a festival are invaluable. More than that, they are priceless.
Still, I have to say, I made the most of my time in Duncan last week. My film, NIGHT CLUB, had arguably the most successful screening and the largest crowd. Seeing a large crowd in a venue that was two thirds full (it's capacity was about 300) was amazing, considering we screened at 3 p.m. on a Friday in Oklahoma. We have had sellouts across the country, most notably in PHOENIX (500 strong) and NEWPORT BEACH (175 officially, but we had close to 210 in that theater with SRO), however to get that many people in the small town of Duncan, Oklahoma at 3 p.m. on a Friday, I can't tell you how proud I was.
Equally proud of the reaction of this large crowd, which helped us to win the Director's Choice Award at the festival, earning me my first-ever GOLDEN DROVER. The fact that the audience in Duncan reacted just as well - if not better - to the film as audiences in NYC, LA, AZ, LI and NJ, as well as others, just shows that NIGHT CLUB has an instant Audience ID. It shows that it is a very relatable topic that so many people can wrap their heads - and hearts - around. But, this screening, showed me all I needed to see. That whether it's the West Coast, East Coast or Mid-America, the audiences all react the same to my film.
And despite the fact that my good friend, journalist Stephen Hart, and my new protege Samantha Tuffarelli both have said I looked like a wax statue in the above photo, I am proud of the accomplishment nonetheless. ;)
However, I have always said that both Producing and Directing - for me - has been about the wonderful relationships I have formed. And, Trail Dance drove that point home even further. Whether, it was forging a wonderful relationship with festival director Anthony Foreman and Festival Programmer Ed Foreman (2 of the nicest festival people you will ever meet, right up there with Bill Sorvino of the GOLDEN DOOR INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF JERSEY CITY and Chris LaMont of PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL), or meeting scores of filmmakers such as my good friend Daniel McQueary, who referred to me as "the Godfather himself," or Scott R. Thompson, who brought his film SICK OF LARRY to Trail Dance. In fact, it was the SICK OF LARRY cast and crew that I met first at the Kickoff Party, followed by Daniel and our 3-movie group seemed to hang together for the entire festival.
SICK OF LARRY's cast included Jay Villwock as the titular character, so much so, in fact, that we all took to calling him Larry throughout the course of the festival. See the movie my friends, and you will so get the joke. Larry, who does everything from refrigerate his urin, to drink a co-ed's bath-water, to licking silverware and perhaps poisoning his girlfriend (you have to see the movie to see if he really does this), is one of the most unique, creepy and yet fascinating characters I've ever found. There was also Jim Brockhohn, who played Joe in the movie, however it was his character's daughter in the film, Kiera Morrill, who truly shined the most. This is in no deference to other actors, but she - along with Villwock's crazy and creepy performance - carried this film.
A wonderful actress, she was discovered by Thompson, who has worked with her several times. Still raw and not classically trained, Morrill showed a great deal of promise in this role. The same way I have taken to working with people such as Michael Maugeri, Guyviaud Joseph, J. Todd Smith, Daniel Roebuck and it looks like Tuffarelli is the newest member to join the inner circle, Thompson has shown a great belief in Morrill. It was because of this festival that I got to see her work. And, I am now a believer, as well.
And, this has nothing to do with Morrill's amazing ability to win a belching contest with any man on earth. While that is a rare talent, one of her greatest abilities is being comfortable in her own skin, which lends itself to her acting career. Still, it didn't stop me from informing her, "God help the man that marries you," to which she took no offense. Quite the opposite, in fact, she informed me that her mother says the same thing. No disagreeing with a mother. ;)
But, as I jest with you in this BLOG, I am doing my best to illustrate the bond that is formed at film festivals - it's priceless. A filmmaker not only gets to see another actor's work, but they get to meet them, and see the person behind the character. Or take McQueary, for instance, I saw his short film ALFRED THINKS WE'RE ALIENS twice at the festival. Saw his ability, and will look to get him involved in some future projects now.
I've seen Morrill's work, and she expressed an interest in taking one of my classes - if she ever gets her butt to the NY/NJ area from Iowa - where I think she'd enjoy meeting some of my students like Maugeri, Joseph, Mariam Giorgadze, Anthony Pallino, Joelle Poole and my newest the aforementioned Samantha Tuffarelli. She could learn a lot from someone like Tuffarelli, who has been a child actor and classically trained. She also could show some of my younger students her guts, which she throws into her performance on the Big Screen. Keep in mind that Morrill is only 19.
And while I already have 2 younger sisters, none of which are 19 anymore LOL - I feel like I found a third with Morrill. Indeed, one of my favorite moments of the festival came during the awards ceremony when Anthony Foreman announced the Director's Choice Award and simply said, "Come on up Sam ..." No last name, no NIGHT CLUB, just "Come on up Sam ..."
At that moment, for maybe the first time in my career NOT expecting to win, I wasn't quite sure what happened. McQueary shot me a wide grin and Morrill, who was next to me at the time, practically pushed me out of my seat with a look that said, "Get your a$$ up there." Now that I think of it, I think she actually half shoved me. The moment of trying to get out of my seat quick enough still seems frozen in time.
McQueary himself seems to have made a local connection that may lead to some work, in addition to impressing me with his sweet family-based short. More than that, he is one of the few people I have ever met on this earth, who can match my movie knowledge - going line-for-line with me on everything from GOODFELLAS to IRON EAGLE (don't ask).
In addition to all of the above, Rebeka Rutledge did a wonderful cover story on myself and NIGHT CLUB for the Duncan Banner, and I actually gave a phone interview from the festival car that picked me up, just 20 minutes after my plane landed. My driver, who was very interested in the movies, was a festival volunteer, Russ Stewart, a local pastor who previously was a model and actor in Hollywood. He was even so kind as to show me the sights - and there were plenty - such as an old Drive-In Theater, that still operates, a GIANT-sized watermelon on the side of the road and a local chicken joint that had wondeful chicken and biscuits.
Not to mention my interview for ABC Duncan, Channel 7 News, which was one of the many media outlets to cover the festival. Or the fact that I got to meet Rutledge at the awards ceremony, where I gave a short interview and made another friend. And, I have since recommended several of the films I saw to other festivals, as the networking has started to pay off for everyone. THIS is the true value in a film festival, especially a wonderful one such as TRAIL DANCE.
Bottom line - you can network to your heart's content and actually get somewhere. As an actor, you have scores of filmmakers who get to see your work - sometimes distributors, both large and small. You get to know the festival - indeed, this was the second time I had a film in TRAIL DANCE, the first one being my feature REX, which I produced for director Christopher L. Miller. Ironically, THAT, was the only festival I missed for REX. So, it was great to finally get to Duncan, Oklahoma and meet so many wonderful people.
Whether it was McQueary or his DP Rex Hudson, Thompson, Villwock or his entire SICK OF LARRY crew, including Kiera Morrill, who truly feels like my third younger sister, or hanging with both of the Foremans (great people), this TRAIL DANCE FILM FESTIVAL experience - much like my wonderful experience in October at the GOLDEN DOOR INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF JERSEY CITY, where I experienced one of the greatest nights of my life - was all about the making of new friends - the very definition of networking.
And, a few opportunities have already presented themselves to me - and to some of the others - as a result of this festival. THIS is why I always encourage actors, who aren't in a film, to attend as many festivals within 2 hours of their home, as they can. Bring their headshots, chat with the filmmakers, and network. Learn. Ditto for young and inexperienced filmmakers without a film at the moment.
After all, the experience, friendships, networking opportunities and memories you can gain at a festival are invaluable. More than that, they are priceless.
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Film / Theater / TV, Writing
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