10 short films vie for inaugural prize
Memphis moviegoers to vote on winner of $10K competition
The 17-year-old On Location: Memphis International Film & Music Fest is this weekend’s best-established movie event, but the inaugural Memphis Film Prize — a two-day festival of homegrown short films that shares a venue and other arrangements with On Location — is the most lucrative local film happening of this or perhaps any year.
With a cash prize of $10,000, the Memphis Film Prize is the first attempt by Louisiana Film Prize founder Gregory Kallenberg to “franchise” his idea into a new territory.
Founded in 2012, the Shreveport-based film prize competition awards $50,000 each year to a 5- to 15-minute film shot in the Shreveport area. Competing production teams must create their work over a designated four-month period to be eligible for the cash prize, which is one of the largest anywhere for a film competition.
The idea is to demonstrate the economic impact of film production. Kallenberg, himself a former film producer, said 127 production teams worked on short films in Shreveport last year, and 70 percent of those teams consisted of out-of-towners.
Close to 50 teams worked in Shelby County over the past four months to create a short to enter into the Memphis Film Prize competition. The 10 finalists — titles include “Teeth,” “On Edge” and “He Could’ve Gone Pro,” among others — were chosen by teams of outof-town judges, and the 10 films will be screened eight times this weekend at the Studio on the Square, i n partnership with On Location: Memphis
To vote, a moviegoer must attend a screening and watch all 10 films. Voting is designed to prevent “ballot stuffing.” Nobody can vote for a film more than once. Memphis Film Prize coordinator David Merrill said the value of the prize encourages voters to be especially conscientious and attentive, which transforms screenings into particularly worthwhile events.
Kallenberg called Memphis “fertile territory” for filmmaking. Merrill said the inaugural contest succeeded in that it encouraged and “incentivized” the “creative class” to do great work with the . knowledge that it could lead to more than a kudo or a trophy.
Cordova’s Christopher Raines, 41, a Fedex employee whose 13-minute “Family Alliance” stars Candace Mcgowen as a combat medic with PTSD, said the Film Prize “raises the stakes” for local filmmakers, who otherwise expect little if any return on their projects. “At the same time, you’re competing against people who are
some of the best-known Memphis filmmakers,” said Raines, a relative novice to the craft, citing other Film Prize finalists such as Melissa Sweazy and Edward Valibus.
“Anything that gets cash into a filmmaker’s hands is a great thing,” affirmed Valibus, 37, whose Film Prize entry is a 12-minute drama titled “Calls from the Unknown.”
A longtime loca l
professional filmmaker who earns money for commercials and postproduction work, Valibus said he has created “passion pieces” like his Film Prize short for many years, but never before with the possibility of a definite and immediate payoff.
“It’s something you do more out of love than money,” he said, “so this offers a unique opportunity to make money as well.”
Lara Johnson stars in Edward Valibus’ 12-minute “Calls from the Unknown,” one of 10 homegrown short films that will be screened eight times this weekend at the Studio on the Square as part of a new competition with a $10,000 cash prize.
Mark Pergolizzi stars in Valibus’ “Calls from the Unknown,” one of 10 finalists vying for the inaugural Memphis Film Prize.