Filming the perfect story
Fancy high-tech video equipment, an endless budget and Hollywood’s biggest names may produce the most widely recognized films in the world, however, the nuts and bolts of successful screen writing and film may simply come with the presentation of a captivating and interactive story.
Eugene’s upcoming International Film Festival will highlight films of all
lengths and genres but most importantly will feature films with intriguing and thought-provoking plots. The movies find inspiration from a wide range of filmmakers and even foreign contributors.
The film festival will be screening approximately 80 films at Regal Cinemas Valley River Center from not only the Northwest but from all over the globe.
The selected films range from student experimental films to professional productions and incorporate comedy, drama, documentary, science fiction, horror and even animation. The festival’s vice president, Jeff Johnston, explains that the films’ budget and the experience of the producers and cast are a small factor when selecting festival winners.
“We have an open-juried evaluation process, and we see everything from high school-aged student films to professional productions,” Johnston said. “Films come in with budgets ranging from $100 to $1 million, but just because you are a professional doesn’t mean your film is going to win. The most successful films tell the best stories. If you can effectively tell a story, then you have as good of a chance as those so-called ‘big boys.'”
When it comes to judging the wide variety of films, Johnston explains that aesthetics and visual quality of the film play a small part in the overall evaluation of the film. The panel of judges includes 40 voting screeners who are looking for effective story presentation.
According to Johnston, the judges will ask themselves: Did the director of the film accomplish what he or she set out to do, and did it tell an entertaining story?
Independent filmmaker Greg Kerr is one of the many filmmakers who will be putting his film under the limelight this weekend. In his low-budget science fiction film, “Unremembered,” the protagonist, John, loses all memory and understanding of his life. As time goes on, John’s memory begins to grow along with his past, and he pieces together some tragic aspects of the life he once had. Kerr explains that his film ventures far from a typical story plot but holds its ground against high-budget films.
“The festival includes a well-rounded group,” Kerr said. “At many festivals, my self-funded $30,000 film is up against supposedly independent films that were made for $10 million or more. Considering my budget, I think we did some great work on the film. It’s nice when a festival considers the film on its own merits despite how it might look up against a more expensive film.”
Kerr said his film interacts with the audience on many different levels and that his film unravels mystery, human drama and gives insight into the science fiction of alternate realities and physics.
“There’s a lot that people find to like about the film, and it appeals to a wide range of moviegoers. It is an intelligent, complex film, but the human story is something everyone can relate to,” Kerr said.
The global mix of films represents 16 countries, including Cambodia, Croatia, Paraguay, Taiwan, India and the United Kingdom. One international film that was spotlighted by Johnston is “H for Hunger,” written by French writers Neil Hollander and Régine Michelle. This documentary was originally released in French, but following its success in providing insight into global hunger issues in Europe, it has now been released as an English film.
Johnston said the film’s intense assessment of global starvation will leave audiences deep in thought.
“It is not an easy film to watch because it takes a very serious look at global hunger and how countries like the U.S. waste so much food,” Johnston said. “The film also addresses small efforts we could take to help as well as ways for big organizations to contribute to the cause.”
Hollywood literary agent Ken Sherman thinks the inclusion of international films provides diverse subject matter and filmmaking style.
“It’s always fun and educational to see how other writers and filmmakers from around the world make their films,” Sherman said. “Many of the films are short, which ends up
highlighting international diversity.”
Johnston explained that the film festival is highly interactive with its audience and always opens doors for discussion.
Along with the screening of the films, which is open for the public to enjoy, the festival also offers a three-day course where Hollywood professionals will offer advice and direction on screenwriting. Students have an opportunity to become skilled at writing intriguing dialogue, pitching stories and will even learn to create their own vivid characters.
Along with Sherman, screenwriter Tom Sawyer will instruct a three-day screenwriters’ retreat. Sherman and Sawyer plan to pool their first-hand knowledge of the industry to benefit both beginners and professionals. Sherman encourages all levels of writers to attend the workshop because he says his teaching style is both interactive and helpful for all levels.
“One of the biggest problems with new writers, and that has nothing to do with age, is finding the courage to commit to the fantasy of writing,” Sherman said. “You’ll learn that you’re not alone with your fears. The first step is to make a commitment to put your butt out there and see if you actually might be able to write.”
As the festival nears, Johnston encourages anyone who is interested to get involved.
“One of the significant aspects of this festival is that we are open to anyone that is interested in film,” Johnston said. “If someone out there has a film and they are passionate about it, then you are a candidate.”