As you probably know by now, our first festival happened over the summer (the recap's not on the blog, but I did write a little bit about it here). Since then, we've been keeping busy with our $5 Film Nights, a monthly event we started soon after the film festival ended so we could continue screening films throughout the year (and so you wouldn't forget about us in between festival seasons).
So far we've had four great months of film nights (almost five--November's will be this coming Saturday the 18th). Each night's proved to be a totally unique experience, as each night has featured a unique amalgamation of showcased feature-length and short films ranging from sci-fi to drama to rockumentary. Here's a brief run-down of what's been happening the past couple of months and what's coming up for the Ocean City Film Festival.
July: Films for a cause
Our first $5 Film Night was back in July, so of course now it feels like it happened an eternity ago (and it was also more of a $20 Suggested Donation Film Night, but for a good cause). We screened Dan O'Hare's feature film "Rehearsal," preceded by two short films by local filmmaker Zak Seidman of Unicorn Propaganda, to a huge crowd. All proceeds from the "Rehearsal" screening were donated to Athletes Serving Athletes, a non-profit dedicated to athletes living with disabilities. There was also popcorn and homemade cake thanks to Dan and his crew, which made for an excellent after-party.
August: Locals-only double feature
Many, if not most, of our screenings have been and will be for local filmmakers, of course--but this one was especially personal because I directed "Shady Shadows," the first film we screened at August's $5 Film Night. I also did production design on the second film, Erich Gelling's "Take Away," and BL was the director of photography on both films. This screening was super fun, and I consider it to have been a success because only two people walked out midway through my film! (There are some gratutitious bathroom jokes in Shady Shadows, but I had to write those in for the sake of the Art™.) This was my directorial debut and, more importantly, it was the acting debut of me and BL's dog Gypsy, who really shines on the big screen.
September: A trip back to 1984
We first screened Rudy Childs' rockumentary "1984: Riding Into Hell" at the film festival in June, but Childs' film--an examination of mid-80s world news and politics, pop culture and the rock n' roll scene as told by metal band Forcer--was such a hit that we brought it back for an encore screening in September. Coincidentally the screening date fell during Ocean City's Bike Week, so attendees were able to rock out with Rudy before biking off into the night. \m/
October: The spookiest night of your entire life
Whether the name of the party proved to be true or not, we did break some literal skeletons out of our closet to decorate the Art League with.
The Spookiest Night of Your Entire Life took the usual spot of our $5 Film Night, because we really wanted to have a Halloween party, while also raising money for the upcoming festival season. We screened five short films, including "Emily on the Lake" by Jordan Gibson, which had won Revival House's Horror Trailer Challenge earlier in the month, "Sleeptalker" by Jillian Lebling, "Suburban Skeleton" by BL, "The Scare" by Torrez Wise and "Undertow" by Rob Waters. We also gave away a good number of passes to our 2018 festival, and were happy to see at least some of the crowd came out in their Halloween costumes.
We were also happy to host a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show earlier in the month. Rice was thrown, songs were sung and money was raised for New Beginnings, a non-profit that hopes to build an addiction recovery house in West Ocean City.
This Saturday, we'll be screening the works of Salisbury filmmaker Torrez Wise. In December, we might just have to throw an ugly sweater Film Festivus holiday party (stay tuned for updates) and as for 2018, the January and February $5 Film Nights leading up to the '18 festival will certainly be special.
We're also working hard to ensure that the 2018 film festival is the best one yet. Of course, it'll only be the second one, so we only have one previous festival to compare it to...But regardless, it'll be a great time.
(It's been a busy summer, hence the extreme, sad lack of posts here. Luckily, my work stuff and my Film Blog stuff sometimes coincide, so I'm able to keep this blog somewhat active and updated on what's been going on!)
There's nothing wrong with cover bands. Except, maybe, the sheer number of them that exist in Ocean City. Which is totally fine if you're a diehard lover of classic rock and jam bands--maybe that's why you visit/moved here in the first place?--but if you're someone who frequents the Delmarva region and loves seeing original, local artists, it often seems like the only way to fulfill your musical needs is to know a guy who hosts shows out of his house, or to buy tickets months in advance to see big-name groups like the Beach Boys at the Convention Center.
If that's a problem you face, then Originals Only might just be the answer to your prayers. Once a month, musical mavericks ranging from acoustic soloists to one-man noise bands set up their gear in the 94th street Center for the Arts' Rina & Jeff Thaler Gallery and play to an audience of locals, tourists and fellow musicians who sit on fold-out chairs, sip coffee and bask in the local talent.
OC native Elijah Llinas initially brought the idea to the Art League just over a year ago, but since LLinas moved to Baltimore, musician Dylan Jones has been running the shows.
"It's still growing," Jones said. "I have a lot of people emailing me, people thanking me, because there’s people who write music who are tired with doing the cover band thing, and they don’t have a lot of outlets in Ocean City."
Again, nothing against cover bands--one of the musicians playing Saturday night's show plays in a 50's and 60's cover group when he's not making his own music--but Originals Only hosts a variety of genres, and they're pretty much open to anything.
If you've never heard of Originals Only, don't be sad. It's still a relatively small function, having only celebrated its one-year anniversary this past Saturday, and Jones assumes that the audience mostly consists of locals (especially, presumably, in the off-season). Plus, since the line-up changes from month to month--there's usually four acts that each play a half-hour set--you can't always please everyone.
"[People are] shocked sometimes. It’s always hit or miss with the more shocking acts, they either really love it or I have seen people walk out. Some of my friends walked out on me once, last show."
Jones himself performs under the name Dungeons and Rabbits, and he describes his music as "trying to emulate the sound of a band, a live metal band, a hard rock band, using just a banjo and my mouth for beatboxing and a bunch of pedals." Elijah Llinas, the original Original Only, plays folk punk under the name Human Kitten. Again, there's a lot of variety.
Here's a taste of the music that was played on Saturday, August 5, at "Originals Only Presents: A Year of Original Music."
If you're upset that you missed out on the August show, take solace in the fact that another Originals Only show is only ever a month away. Doors open at 6 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month, so the next show will be on September 2.
"Traveling, being a musician is hard and the only way to make money is to be poor, living in your van traveling around," Jones said. "Getting exposure here, no matter how big it is, we're just happy to have an outlet. That’s the biggest thing."
(Story originally posted on OceanCity.com)
The first Ocean City Film Festival took place last weekend, from June 8 – 11, and it was successful in more ways than one.
First, I want to clarify that I’m not really writing this as a journalist, but as a co-director of the festival, so my outlook isn’t super objective. However, we’ve gotten some really good feedback so far, and nothing catastrophic happened over the course of the weekend, so I’m fortunate enough to not have to report on anything terrible that might have happened. Instead, I get to talk about the adventure of it all, and what we learned from the experience.
I will say that there was a lot of stress involved in planning the festival, especially since none of this has ever been done before. Not in Ocean City, anyway, and the closest that William, the festival director, and I had come to the festival circuit was a one-day volunteer stint at the Maryland Film Festival. We were optimistic, maybe naively so, that such a function could succeed in this town. But because of the incredible amount of support from the passionate and hard-working people at the Art League of Ocean City, as well as our volunteers, our sponsors, and the filmmakers themselves, many of whom were Delmarva locals, it did succeed.
Going into this, we had no idea if there could be an established community for film in Ocean City and the surrounding regions—we didn’t know if anyone cared enough. We invited a lot of our friends and acquaintances from Baltimore, knowing that if we didn’t draw in any attendees, at least we’d have a few Baltimorean bodies in the seats.
One thing we learned is that, while vacationers are not coming to Ocean City during the summer to sit in the dark and marathon movies, there are locals who really care about film and other art forms, an entire world of culture that people don’t typically associate with Ocean City. There is a small underground culture for art that, right now, is mostly being nurtured by the Art League and groups of friends who get together for drinks and discussion every once in a while. One of our biggest successes with the festival was bringing these people together to network so that they can collaborate in the future and expand the underground. While there’s an endless supply of family entertainment in OC, there isn’t much for artists, and we’d like to change that.
So, that being said, here’s an abbreviated run-down of what happened: Thursday was our opening ceremony, which was held at the Plim Plaza Caribbean Pool Bar. There was food and drink and a musician playing acoustic cover songs. Most importantly, there was an opportunity for filmmakers and film lovers to meet and mingle, and invite one another to attend their film’s screenings over the weekend. William spoke, followed by local filmmaker Dan O’Hare and local actress/retired teacher Gwen Lehman, who were also on the festival’s judging committee.
Screenings happened on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at venues across Ocean City including the Art League, Fox Gold Coast Theatre, Dunes Manor hotel and Francis Scott Key resort. The 702 film submissions we’d received in total were narrowed down to about 130 of various genres, from horror to documentary to youth shorts by directors who haven’t even graduated from elementary school yet.
The screenings themselves were a major learning experience for us—technologically, by some miracle, there were only a few minor mishaps, but the crowds in each showcase varied greatly. Some screenings only saw a handful of audience members. Others, like the horror and regional mid-Atlantic showcases, had much greater attendance. Regional mid-Atlantic, I get—we prioritize Maryland and especially Delmarva-based filmmakers, and who doesn’t want to see something that was filmed in their own backyard? The horror turnout I didn’t expect as much, although the landscape here can be pretty desolate and eerily quiet at times, so for all I know, the Eastern Shore is becoming a horror hub.
There were two workshops over the course of the weekend, one about microbudget filmmaking and the other about screenplay writing, both hugely important topics for aspiring filmmakers. On Saturday evening, there was an awards ceremony at the Art League where, after much consultation by the judging committee, three awards were given out. The Celluloid Crab, which is the best use of analog equipment or practical effects, went to Mike Reilly’s short film “Ellie,” and without revealing too much, I will say the film involves a Tinder date gone awry and copious amounts of fake blood. The Pink Flamingo, or the film most uniquely reflective of Maryland life, was awarded to “Malpractice,” a Baltimore-centric buddy comedy. The Verdict, the award for judge’s choice, was given to Joe Dimaio’s “Sonder,” a beautifully shot coming-of-age short. Award winners were given prize baskets with swag from local businesses and, more valuably, the pride of being recognized by Ocean City’s premiere film fest (I’m only being a little tongue-in-cheek, I swear!).
Our closing reception was at Touch of Italy on Sunday night, which is where the Damn Fine Film (aka Audience Choice) award was given (after I painstakingly tallied over 300 online votes). Art is subjective, and I’ll be the first to admit that awards in general mean next to nothing. However, while the film that took home Audience Choice excelled in its use of archival footage, documentary and storytelling, I was surprised that it even qualified for the award. Rob Bell III’s “Bern” is a documentary about Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential candidacy, Black Lives Matter, and how “Bernie or Bust” voters effected the ultimate results of the election. “Bern” won Audience Choice, and what this means, I’m not sure yet. It could be a reflection of the changing demographic and values of people on the Eastern Shore, or of young people in general. It could mean that the climate in Ocean City is shifting, and that it’ll see more art, activism, and politics in the years to come. This could be a very broad and biased assumption to make, but I don’t know. All I know is that “Bern” won Audience Choice at a film festival in Ocean City, and that means something.
Overall, the first Ocean City Film Festival was a ginormous learning experience for those of us that organized it, and for the locals that found their kin over the weekend. I am happy to know that a film festival can exist here, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next year.
Let me introduce you a lil bit to who I am before I get into what this blog is all about.
My name is Kristin, and I moved from Baltimore to the Delmarva area officially in June 2017. My partner BL is from here, so I’ve been spending my breaks from school with him in Ocean City for about three years. We both love this rural, bustling, secretly-really-weird tourist trap of a peninsula, so post-graduation we decided to move here with only our dreams and our chihuahua-Brussels Griffon puppy mix in tow (and some other stuff).
My recently-acquired degree is in journalism, so I’m here to write about things that are happening in my new town. BL and I founded the Ocean City Film Festival just a few months ago, and it’s something that we hope will continue for years and years to come. But still, OCFF only happens once a year, and other artistic happenings in the area continue on – even if they are mostly underground.
This site isn’t just about the film festival, or even Delmarva film in general – it’s about local music, exhibits, artists and anything weird that happens that has anything to do with art and creation. The Eastern Shore isn’t known for its flourishing art scene, but as art-makers and art-lovers, that’s something that we want to change. Through the festival, we’ve met so many talented, passionate locals, and it thrills me to know that there’s a community for art here (I am very, very excited to be a part of it).
So, anyway, yeah! Welcome! If you want to help us water the beautiful blossom that is the artistic community of Delmarva (this blog might be really corny, too, if its title didn’t give that away), send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me tips on things that are happening, cool artists to profile, or if you want to write a story of your own, that’s totally cool, too. I can’t wait to see this tiny blossom grow into a sturdy, 10-foot sunflower! Have a filmarvelous day.