OCFF 2018: The DC and Baltimore Contingent
The 2nd annual Ocean City Film Festival (OCFF) is screening 101 films over the course of three days. Nearly a dozen or so films come from filmmakers from the Washington, DC and Baltimore area, particularly from Towson University. The founder of the OCFF, William Strang-Moya, is himself a graduate of Towson University. Therefore, the presence of current students at Towson isn’t coincidental or surprising. I spoke with two of those Towson students. Towson is just outside Baltimore, but the Charm City isn’t the only metropolitan area near Delmarva where talent has been drawn. I also spoke with two filmmakers with work in the OCFF that hail from the nation’s capitol or DC’s nearby suburbs.
First is Kenny Brossoie (pictured above). Brossoie, pronounced bro-swa, was born in Columbia, Maryland, but he grew up in Ellicott City. He’s now a junior year student at Towson University. He’s a film and advertising double-major. He’s always had a passion for the arts, ever since elementary school. When he was little, he used to draw cartoons. His life was changed upon seeing JJ Abrams’ Super 8 (2011), a love letter to Steven Spielberg and a love letter to filmmaking, especially the kind of action adventure, popcorn flicks that are Brossoie’s favorite.
Brossoie said that M. Night Shyamalan is his favorite filmmaker. He said he watched Shyamalan’s first, three films religiously. He also loves Robert Rodriguez whose book Rebel Without a Crew is Brossoie’s bible, but Shyamalan is his particular favorite. Both Brossoie and Shyamalan share a heritage and background from India. Shyamalan is also based in Philadelphia where Brossoie’s father grew up.
Once he started studying film at Towson, he joined the school’s film society, Lambda Kappa Tau or LKT, a fraternity meant to bring film enthusiasts together and help them advance their careers and projects. Through LKT, Brossoie has met other aspiring filmmakers and has gotten to work on their projects, but of course he would want to work on his own creation.
He took an introductory, screenwriting class with Professor Marc May who encouraged him when he had an idea to tell a story through flashbacks and with bread crumbs. He then decided to write his script over the summer of 2016. What he wrote was called Breaking Free. It’s about a young woman reexamining her relationship with her boyfriend.
He didn’t really have a casting process. His movie has two main actors. Both were from Towson. The actress was a theater major and Brossoie met the actor while a script supervisor on another short called Remember by Daniel Offenbacher. Brossoie filmed his script in January 2017 over the course of five days. He had a crew of about 20, mostly friends. This is where LKT comes in handy. His makeup artist, for example, was someone he met while working on a fellow LKT student’s project, Incident Report by Ryan McNulty whose film will also be at this year’s OCFF.
Ryan McNulty (pictured above on the right) is the second of the two filmmakers from the Baltimore area whom I interviewed. McNulty is also a junior at Towson University. His major is Electronic Media and Film. He’s from Westminster but lives in Timonium. Growing up, he said he watched classic films with his dad.
At first, his major or his field of study was Secondary Education. McNulty thought he might be a teacher. A month into college, he changed his mind and decided to pursue film and media production, which he had enjoyed since high school. He too was given an assignment in his screenwriting class to do a 7 to 12-page story or script. What he did was an adaptation, but a very unlikely one. He didn’t adapt a book or short story or a news article or even a poem. He basically decided to adapt a joke.
Like Brossoie, McNulty filmed his script in January 2017. He shot for four days. He didn’t audition actors. He pulled people from Towson’s acting database. He filmed in three locations in Baltimore. He found empty homes, evicted or remodeled ones, thanks to the brother of his producer. His film Incident Report is technically a horror film and shooting in actual, evicted homes in Baltimore help with that horror feeling. He said the production went smoothly, despite the cold.
Brossoie also talked about the cold. His climactic scene was difficult due to the cold and rain. McNulty was shooting in homes with no heat. Brossoie filmed outside in the woods near a farm in Westminster. The crew got soaked, but, despite that, Brossoie noted that those woods were not too far from the Pennsylvania border, the home state of his favorite filmmaker, Shyamalan. The color scheme of blues and purples for his film was partially inspired by Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000). He was really specific with the art department to bring out certain colors in every shot.
From the DC area though, there’s Michael E. Pitts whom I’ve interviewed years ago. Pitts has a film playing on the first day of the festival called Death, Sammie Baker and A Loaded .38, which I will go into in a later article, but there’s also William R. Coughlan (pictured above) with whom I spoke ten days ago. Coughlan has the most films of any filmmaker playing this year. He has three films, a comedy, a horror and a dramatic short. All three were produced through the 48 Hour Film Project that’s held in various cities, including DC. Coughlan explained what it was like to produce those movies.
First, Coughlan told me he was an Air Force brat. His family settled near DC when his dad retired. He eventually studied computer science with a minor in French at the College of William & Mary in 1991. He went into graphic design but saw an opportunity to enter into the video-making business when the digital revolution hit. He worked for a consulting firm for over 20 years, but in 2004, he started doing the 48 Hour Film Project, a national film challenge, which was around the time he formed his own media company called Tohubohu Productions. He has participated in this national film challenge every year, sometimes multiple times a year, generating a library of dozens of films. Through his various projects and networking over the decades, Coughlan has risen up to become President of TIVA, the Television-Internet-Video-Association, a nonprofit group in Washington that provides career opportunities, seminars, education, outreach, mentoring and awards for those in the media production community.
TIVA in many ways is similar to LKT at Towson. Having that support system is helpful and can be crucial, especially in a high-pressure competition like the 48 Hour Film Project. The three films that Coughlan has at this year’s festival where all made in that high-pressure system. Despite that, Coughlan says he runs a pretty tight ship for those aforementioned, 48 hours. What happens is that Coughlan submits himself and his team to the 48 Hour Film Project. He’s given a genre, a character, a line of dialogue and a prop that he must integrate into a 7-minute or less film on Friday, which he then has to have completed by Sunday. Coughlan normally has a crew in place with definite assignments ready to go. After a decade of doing this, it makes sense, so when he’s given his material on Friday, his well-oiled machine can start moving fluidly and grind out something efficiently.
He admits though that during those 48 hours, he feels as though he’s always behind schedule and that he’s scrambling the whole time. Coughlan is running around constantly and gets hardly any sleep during that time period. He sometimes even forgets to eat or drink. He says he sometimes has to have someone on the crew to remind him to put food in. He has a well-oiled machine but Coughlan says that that doesn’t mean things don’t go wrong and that there are unknown elements to the 48 Hour Film Project that can make it difficult, given also the time restrictions. That’s why he says he’s gotten good at timing things, figuring out how long something will take to film and edit. That being said, he does like to further challenge himself, even within this 48 Hour challenge. For example, he’ll find different ways to shoot things, whether it’s using an iPhone instead of his usual camera, or incorporating visual effects like green screen, or it’s crafting a physical stunt of some kind.
Since all of Coughlan’s films were made in the 48 Hour Film Project, instead of saying what Coughlan’s three films at the festival are using the typical log-line, I’ll list what his directives were. Coughlan’s first film at the festival is a comedy called Believe Me. At the 48 Hour Film Project, the four directives for it were fable and/or dark comedy as the genre, a judge as the character, “That’s what you always say,” as the line of dialogue and silverware as the prop. Coughlan’s second film is The Least Among Us, which had home invasion or curse as the genre, paid driver as the character, “That’s why I came,” as the line of dialogue and spoon as the prop. Coughlan’s final film is The Rest of Your Life, which had coming-of-age as the genre, activist as the character, “Sorry, the answer is no,” as the line of dialogue and bubble wrap as the prop.
His most successful short was The Greater Evil, a political film made a year before President Donald Trump announced his candidacy but yet Coughlan’s film could be seen as an eerie prognostication of what came. Some times, all Coughlan needs for success is to get one person to laugh, even if it’s laughing at an obscure joke about spaghetti westerns. He, like most filmmakers, enjoys seeing his film play in front of an audience in a theater. Because he makes short films, the only chance to get it in front of audiences are film festivals like OCFF.
McNulty has screened his work at festivals and other places. For Brossoie, this is his first short film “officially” as director and the OCFF will be his first time showing his work outside any venue in Towson. Brossoie said he’s directed stuff before, but Breaking Free is the first one of which he’s proud enough to present professionally. Brossoie will be attending the OCFF, taking time off his jobs at Towson’s Creative Services and Baltimore’s Senator Theatre.
Breaking Free by Kenny Brossoie plays Friday, March 9 at 11 AM at the Clarion Resort.
Death, Sammie Baker & a Loaded .38 by Michael E. Pitts plays March 9 at 11 AM at the Clarion Resort.
Incident Report by Ryan McNulty plays Saturday, March 10 at 7 PM at the Clarion Resort.
Believe Me by William R. Coughlan plays Saturday, March 10 at 3 PM at the Clarion Resort.
The Least Among Us by William R. Coughlan plays Saturday, March 10 at 7 PM at the Clarion Resort.
The Rest of Your Life by William R. Coughlan plays Saturday, March 10 at 8:15 PM at the Clarion Resort.
For more information, go to ocmdfilmfestival.com.