The 2nd Annual Ocean City Film Festival
The 2nd annual Ocean City Film Festival (OCFF) is the first festival of its kind in the calendar year but it’s the third film festival to be created on the Delmarva peninsula. It follows the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, the longest-running film festival on Delmarva. It also follows the Chesapeake Film Festival, which started in 2007.
William Strang-Moya is the festival’s director and founding member. He created the festival with his fiancée, Kristin Helf, last year. Strang-Moya or BL, as he prefers to be called, is from Ocean Pines. He graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2013. He attended Towson University where he studied Electronic Media and Film. He lives in Worcester County and works as a projectionist and as a videographer for WMDT.
In September 2016, he reached out to the Art League of Ocean City to help him with his interest in film. He wanted to make movies and screen them here in Worcester County or at least the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Yet, there really wasn’t the place for it. The Rehoboth Beach festival hosted more mainstream, independent films or foreign titles and the Chesapeake festival leaned more on documentaries. Rehoboth Beach used to feature local filmmakers or regional ones in its festival but stopped about five years ago. There was no place for a filmmaker from Worcester County to see his or her work on the big screen in or near his or her hometown.
BL wanted to create a platform for local filmmakers, as well as create opportunities that weren’t there or were no longer there. For the inaugural OCFF, he set-up an account with FilmFreeway and last year got around 700 submissions. Many of those submissions were from all around the country and world. The first OCFF took place in June 2017, but BL didn’t want it to stop there.
Following the inaugural festival, he started having monthly events where he curated the works of local or regional filmmakers. Since July, the Art League has hosted Dan O’Hare, Zak Seidman, Kristin Helf, Rudy Childs, Jordan Gibson, Torrez Wise, Rob Waters and even BL himself. In fact, a few of those names will be returning for this year’s festival.
There will be 101 films playing at the festival. The majority of them are short films. 14 are feature length. Many are playing concurrently with others over the various venues. It’s impossible for one person to see everything. The festival organizers have collected or bundled the shorts into different categories, from dramatic to comedic, to horror and music videos, to documentaries, animation, experimental, social commentary and youth-made shorts.
One’s preference for either of those categories will determine what one will want to see. However, I’ve had the opportunity to preview a handful of the films across the different categories and I’d like to spotlight some important selections for which to consider buying tickets. The screenings start at 10 AM on Friday, the first day of the festival, but the Opening Reception is at 5 PM. In that morning and afternoon window, there are four titles that I want to underline.
The Dramatic Shorts on the first day of the festival will play at the Clarion Resort hotel. Those shorts feature six titles that deal with people having to reexamine their lives. One in particular is about a girl in an abusive relationship called Breaking Free. It’s by Kenny Brossoie, one of many Towson University students who have films at the fest, representing Lambda Kappa Tau, the film society for college students across the bay. Leading off that first Dramatic Shorts collection is Death, Sammie Baker & A Loaded .38, a Twilight Zone-ish, existential crisis, created by DC-native, Michael E. Pitts who is an actor-turned-director now based in Los Angeles.
The first feature-film to be screened at noon in the Princess Royale hotel is The Sisterhood of Girls Who Won’t Date Me. The comedy by Max Radbill, a former Lambda Kappa Tau member, is a dark farce, self-described as Mean Girls and Heathers meets Superbad and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Radbill had a previous film that played at the Rehoboth Beach festival.
Counter Histories: Rock Hill is the documentary from Atlanta-based filmmaker Frederick Taylor aka Fr3deR1ck from Chicago who studied at Temple University. It tells the story of the Friendship Nine, a group of kids in South Carolina, 1961 who were notable in the Civil Rights Movement.
The true centerpiece though is Life’s a Stage, the first film to play after the Opening Reception at the Ocean City Center for the Arts on 94th Street. It’s set in Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin, Maryland, and it’s in tribute of retired teacher, Gwen Lehman who ran the theater program there for over 40 years.
The second day of the festival is the only time for its animation block. This might be the only time that families could bring their children for a hour, but note that the animated films here tackle a diversity of subjects. This includes having a baby, dealing with anxiety and an interview about being a transgendered kid.
The second day of the festival screens four, very interesting features. The first is Utøpless by A. J. Resh, the filmmaker from Virginia. BL described this film as a little controversial, as it deals with the homeless. BL had more words about American Vienna, a documentary that was partially shot in Vienna, Maryland, in Dorchester County. Hoop is by Rob Bell III whose work was shown at last year’s OCFF, and finally, there’s The Sign by William Strang-Moya, BL himself, and Torrez Wise, which focuses on the Confederate marker in Salisbury, MD, which recently made the local news.
The third and final day of the festival has a block of shorts that are the most curious. The Youth Shorts is a hour of films by filmmakers under the age of 18. All of which take on some heavy issues like immigration and war. One is simply a look at the solar eclipse. Others are a bit horrifying, but it’s good to see talent from people at an early age. Yet, the last feature to be screened at the festival might be the most timely. A Woman Without a Name is from Iranian filmmaker, Farzad Khoshdast, about women who have lost their freedom due to violence, coercion, abuse and sexual assault.
Through the three days, the festival will also host four workshops. Filmmakers who have submitted work to OCFF have been invited to talk about what they do and how they do it. The workshops include writing, shooting and budgeting. Each workshop is a brief seminar where one of the filmmakers will share their experiences. All will take place in the Ocean City Center for the Arts.
The Closing Reception will take place on Sunday at the Squarz Pizza Hub. There will be refreshments and awards handed out. BL says there are three awards. The People’s Film is the award decided by audience reaction. The Pink Flamingo is the award for the film that most uniquely represents Maryland life, named in honor of John Waters, one of Maryland’s most successful filmmakers. Finally, there’s the Damn Fine Film Award, which is chosen by a panel of judges.
Tickets can be purchased online at ocmdfilmfestival.com or by calling 410-524-9433. The festival runs March 9-11 in Ocean City.