10 short films vie for in­au­gu­ral prize

Mem­phis movie­go­ers to vote on win­ner of $10K com­pe­ti­tion

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - STAGE - By John Bei­fuss

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.”

PHO­TOS BY JOR­DAN DANELZ

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.

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