Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
The 4th Annual Ocean City Film Festival, or OCFF 2020, gave out its awards on Sunday, March 8, at Seacrets Nightclub. The award for Best Dramatic Short went to Insomnia Nights by Richie Wenzler, a graduate of American University. His film focuses on a young, Black man roaming the streets at night reflecting on his friendship with a young woman. The festival had two, separate blocks dedicated to dramatic short films. The second or “Block 2” had six, short films. Insomnia Nights was one of those six. It was the last film to play in that block.
The first film to play in that block was a short film by Taylor Young called Set Me Free. It’s the only film in the block that didn’t have any kind of romantic overtones or romantic undertones, real or implied. Young’s film is about siblings. A woman worries about her younger sister’s medical illness. Her worry though might be having a debilitating effect on her life. It’s sad but ends up being a beautiful letter between the two sisters.
As with Block 1, there was a Q&A for these films on Saturday night after the screening. The filmmakers representing four of the six were in attendance, including Young. One of the two films that weren’t represented at the Q&A was Backbeat by Martin Blank. However, if you want information on Blank’s quirky, little film, you can go to his website and read his press kit, which has all you could want about his charming, 4-minute piece.
I was able to speak to three filmmakers of the four who attended beforehand, either by phone or email. They were able to give me more detailed responses to some of the questions asked them at the Q&A.
The first was The Last Blue Cup by Hannah Thompson. The film is about a lesbian romance between two girls who meet at a Target store. Here’s what Thompson said, “My writing process for scripts always begins at the strangest times. I knew I was doing an independent study for college, another short film, and needed an idea. I was bouncing around with the idea of doing something with a romance in a coastal town, with sailing. I don’t know why that idea stuck with me so much, but the obvious complications were that I live in southern Virginia, with the nearest coastal town being five hours away, with no idea how to sail. So, I abandoned that script fairly quickly. One night, at about 11 p.m, as I was falling asleep, a sentence popped in my head of, ‘two girls meet in Ikea arguing over the last blue coffee cup.’ I wrote it down in my idea book, went to sleep, and the next day I started writing the script. The inspiration was fairly random, but I wanted to do something no one had seen before in a straight or gay romance.”
She continued, “The main thing I want to say with all of my films is that lesbian or LGBTQ+ romances aren’t any different from straight romances. There’s no coming out story, no mention of being gay. I want to tell stories that normalize gay relationships in media, stories that are transferable across any gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The other of the films represented at the Q&A was Myself by Paul Cosby. Cosby is 18 and a senior at Broadneck High School in Annapolis. His film is one of the longest of the dramatic shorts and one of the most ambitious. His film focuses on a teenage black boy who has a crush on a fellow classmate, an Asian girl. However, his anxiety manifests itself as a clone of himself who antagonizes him, so the actor Jerrel Barnes essentially has to play two characters and two characters in the same scene where he’s literally talking to himself. It’s a visual effect or VFX that not many filmmakers, certainly none as young as Cosby, have attempted at this festival.
When it comes to the directing, the camerawork, the VFX and even the music or sound, Cosby did it all himself. It’s all something he didn’t learn in school. He said he and his friends have been making videos or little movies independently of school since the 7th grade. This is by far the best thing he’s ever made, according to Cosby. Yet, he got no formal education on filmmaking. He simply learned by doing. Cosby said, during his sophomore year, he started watching classics. He went through the AFI list of some of the classic films and watched them religiously. He let studying them himself be his education.
In addition to the VFX of one actor playing two parts, he also opens his film with a pretty incredible shot that’s supposed to mimic one, continuous take or a “one shot.” Cosby said this opening shot, which is meant to be a dream sequence, was his most overwhelming. He wasn’t exactly sure what it was going to be before he went to film it. It was also his most difficult because aside from being “one shot,” he had to do a lot of work during the edit to cut out the color, highlighting the Hawaiian shirt that Barnes wore in it. In that regard, Cosby’s film has elements of Alejandro G. Iñárritu and even Steven Spielberg. Despite having no formal education, Cosby said he plans to attend FSU in the fall.
Finally, the last film represented at the Q&A whose filmmaker talked with me beforehand was Linger by Drew Noble. The film is about a young man processing the break-up with his boyfriend at a speed that his ex isn’t. Noble said, “Linger was based entirely on real life events. A few months prior to writing the script, I had broken up with my boyfriend of two years. I was still in the process of understanding what I was feeling once the relationship was over, and in a way, I think I used Linger as a way of coming to terms with the fact that a big phase of my life had ended. Writing the script only took a few days, but we made revisions to the script all the way up until our shooting dates. As for the message I wanted to send, I think I was just looking for a way to put my ‘loss’ into words. I wanted to write something that people could connect with, because I think anybody that’s gone through a break-up of their own can relate to the mix of emotions that come with the experience. I also just wanted to write a dramatic short that featured LGBTQ+ characters that wasn’t aggressively tragic. Parting ways with someone that you’ve spent a good chunk of time caring about can be difficult, but I think receiving a bit of closure can lead to feelings of hopefulness.”
Noble (pictured above in glasses) also added, “Directing Linger is hands down the most fulfilling experience I’ve had in my life so far. It was something entirely out of my comfort zone, and I think watching it grow from start to finish really solidified that filmmaking is something I want to spend the rest of my life doing. There’s something very validating about putting your heart and soul into something.”
For more information on the Ocean City Film Festival, go to http://www.ocmdfilmfestival.com/.