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.
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.”
Loudoun Arts Film Festival Awards
Narrative Feature Awards
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
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
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
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
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
1st: Flat Rate Frank
2nd: Stranger to Blue Mountain
1st: Making Waves
2nd: The West Virginian Starfish
3rd: Come Along, Harry Higgins
Go Bananas, By Little Big
Virtual: A Bastards Road
Drive-In: The Outside Story
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
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Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.