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A First-Year Film Festival Shows Just What’s Possible No Matter the Odds

A First-Year Film Festival Shows Just What’s Possible No Matter the Odds

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Loudoun Arts Film Festival awards both up-and-comers and seasoned filmmakers

The Loudoun Arts Film Festival, presented by Artistic Fuel, wrapped up Saturday night with an award ceremony that placed a sought-after feather in the cap of both new and veteran film makers.

The big winners at the first-year festival included Waffle, a short that won second-place Midnight Jury Award, as well as Best Actress (Katie Marovitch), Best Supporting Actress (Kerry Barker), and Best Writing — Murmur — which took home awards for best Narrative Feature, Best Actress (Shan MacDonald) and Best Director (Heather Young) — and The Subject, which won awards for Best Actor (Jason Biggs), and the festival’s Spotlight Award.

Waffle, with a run-time of just under 11 minutes, tells the story of Kerry, who’s at a sleepover with the socially awkward, mysteriously orphaned heiress Katie. Friendship — in a society that grows ever isolating — is explored as Kerry learns the hard way that Katie always gets what she wants.

film festival
The team behind the Loudoun Arts Film Festival, from left, Owen Palmiotti, Kaeley Boyle, Wendy Keeling, Katie C’etta, and Jack O’Donnell. [Photo by Marty Shoup/Blue Lion Multimedia]

Murmur, with a run-time of one hour, twenty-five minutes, follows the story of Donna, who is ordered to perform community service at the local animal shelter after being convicted of “Driving While Impaired.” When an elderly dog is scheduled to be euthanized, Donna decides to take the dog home. In a futile attempt to fill the emptiness she feels, Donna begins to take home more and more animals and she is soon in over her head.

The Subject, the narrative feature film shown on the festival’s opening night Sept. 10, follows a successful white documentary filmmaker as he deals with the fallout from his last film, which caught the murder of a Black teen on tape. While he shoots a new documentary series, he finds himself at the other end of the camera as someone films his every move.

Kaeley Boyle, co-founder and Director of the Loudoun Arts Film Festival, said she and her team chose to open the fest with The Subject because it offers an up-close look at film making, and captures the art of storytelling.

“‘The Subject’ does what all great art is supposed to, start a conversation and make you think,” Boyle said.

A film festival charting new territory

The film festival in historic Loudoun County, Virginia, 35 miles from Washington, DC, was just getting off the ground earlier this year when COVID hit. Organizers considered letting go and starting over next year.

But instead, they pushed forward and revamped how the films and special events — including Q&A sessions with the filmmakers — would be presented. The result? A whole new look at just what’s possible for a film festival.

They moved the festival to a drive-in setting at the picturesque 50 West Winery and Vineyards near Middleburg, Virginia. Nearly 800 people attended the drive-in showings over seven nights, and each evening included live music, art shows, meet-and-greets with the filmmakers, and dinner and wine offerings. Organizers also curated an online slate of films, which drew viewers from 33 different states.

Boyle describes her creative team as “too gritty to say no.” Rethinking how to put on the film festival in a year when travel and large gatherings are discouraged resulted in a shiny silver lining. Boyle said, “What we now realize is we have access to a broader audience this way.”

Jack O’Donnell, founder of Artistic Fuel, the film festival’s signature sponsor, told those gathered at the winery on festival’s opening night that this event — this moment — was special. He launched ArtisticFuel.com, along with his son, actor and influencer Sean O’Donnell, as part of a long-held dream to help artists pursue their passions. In addition to its existing editorial offerings, Artistic Fuel is developing a soon-to-be-released app that will help artists connect, collaborate, and create.

“Events like this is really why we started Artistic Fuel,” O’Donnell said at the film festival. “We want to bring artists together, to share and appreciate art and to showcase their work.”

film festival
[Photo by Marty Shoup/Blue Lion Multimedia]

Loudoun Arts Film Festival Awards

Narrative Feature Awards

1st: Murmur

2nd: 1986

3rd: Show Me What You Got

Best Actor: Jason Biggs, The Subject

Best Actress: Shan MacDonald, Murmur

Best Supporting Actor: Evgeni Sangadzhiev, 1986

Best Supporting Actress: Cristina Rimbaldi, Show Me What You Got

Best Director: Heather Young, Murmur

Best Cinematography: Show Me What You Got

Breakthrough Performance: Daria Mureeva, 1986

Documentary Shorts

1st: No Crying at the Dinner Table

2nd: Lions in the Corner

3rd: The Starr Sisters

Best Directing: No Crying at the Dinner Table

Best Cinematography: Eastern Skies 

Documentary Features

1st: Finding Yingying

2nd: We Are Freestyle Love Supreme

3rd: A Most Beautiful Thing

Director: We Are Freestyle Love Supreme

Cinematography: Bastard’s Road

Special Jury Mention for Setting the Historical Record Straight: Be Natural

Virginia Shorts

1st: The First

2nd: The Killer of Grassy Ridge

3rd: Tie between Eastern Skies II and Operation Overlord

Best Virginia Feature

Up to Snuff

Student Shorts Awards

1st: Sin Cielo 

2nd:  Hot & Tasty

3rd: Zorg II

Best Student Film Cinematography: Molly Manning Walker, November 1st
Best Student Director: Auden Lincoln-Vogel, Zorg II

Narrative Shorts Awards  

1st: The Devil’s Harmony 

2nd: Hudson Geese

3rd: Heart to Heart

Best Narrative Short Cinematography: Simon Dvoracek, Figurant

Best Narrative Short Director: Ashley Williams, Meats

Narrative Shorts Acting Awards

Best Actor: Malik Shakur, Buck

Best Actor: Svetlana Alekseevna Barandich, Anna 

Best Actor: David Tennant, Heart to Heart 

Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Physical Acting: the cast of No Exit 

Special Jury Mention for its Original Approach to the Subject Matter: Eli 

Midnight Jury Awards

1st: Regret

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2nd: Waffle

3rd: Stucco

Best Actress: Katie Marovitch, Waffle

Best Actor: Brent Skagford, Regret

Best Supporting Actress: Kerry Barker, Waffle

Best Supporting Actor: Paco Hidalgo, Piggy

Best Director: Regret

Best Cinematography: SELFIE

Best Writing: Waffle

Feature Screenplays

1st: Flat Rate Frank

2nd: Stranger to Blue Mountain

3rd: Kaleidoscope

Short Screenplays

1st: Making Waves

2nd: The West Virginian Starfish

3rd: Come Along, Harry Higgins

Music Video

Go Bananas, By Little Big

Audience Awards:

Virtual: A Bastards Road

Drive-In: The Outside Story

Additional awards:

Spotlight Award: The Subject by Lanie Zipoy

Special Mention for Outstanding Breakout Performance: Maya Harman, Chubby

Best Ensemble Feature: Beast Beast

Best Emerging Director: Eva Ulreich

Keep tabs on the Loudoun Arts Film Festival’s happenings at loudounartsfilmfestival.com or on Instagram and Facebook.

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