Movie makers put their imaginations to work

December 05, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A woman claims to have figured out how to reverse her death.

A boy uses mirrors to contort his face, creating a fake family of "clones."

A man plants red flags on a lawn to mark each U.S. soldier death in Iraq.

Three girls explore a mysterious tunnel.

These were among the short stories, satires and experimental pieces in Washington County's U Create Film Festival.

Filmmakers sowing their imaginations were given few boundaries. Each piece had to last no more than 10 minutes and couldn't have content stronger than a PG-13 rating.

The festival was organized by the Washington County Free Library and Hagerstown Community College's library.

On Friday, a panel reviewing the entries decided that they were a good lot and that none would be judged the best.


All 15 short films will be shown at Hagerstown Community College on Jan. 22.

Kathleen O'Connell, the assistant director of Washington County Free Library, said the idea for the festival came from Naomi Butler.

Butler, the training and advocacy coordinator for Western Maryland Public Libraries, said she thought about soliciting 16-millimeter films, but not many people use that format anymore.

Instead, the filmmakers put their works on DVDs, which the committee watched Friday morning.

Several entries came from students at Mercersburg Academy in Franklin County, Pa., as well as their teacher and their teacher's son.

Kristy Higby, 53, who teaches digital video, created "Flag Day" about the memorial flags.

During an interview Friday night, Higby said she and her husband, Mark Flowers, were attending a film and television workshop in Maine in August when they noticed the flag display.

Higby said a man thought up the idea for the flags, which rotate to a different location each month.

She said her initial plan was to apply some of the tips she learned at the workshop - "then the interest just took hold." It turned into a bigger collaboration that she edited and directed.

Mark Flowers, 49, also teaches at Mercersburg Academy.

Their son, Mo Higby, 20, a sophomore at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, submitted "The Clone Family" to the film festival.

Each "cloned" person has an unusual trait. One loves pickles; one is "deathly afraid of vacuum cleaners."

Kristy Higby said her son's piece makes an interesting, timely comment about cloning, but she didn't think he intended to get too deep.

The Mercersburg Academy students submitted artistic films of a girl spinning in a pool, a hand writing as Norah Jones' "Those Sweet Words" plays and a swirling "cocktail" of colors and images, plus a "mockumentary" about a boy who likes to move to music in a style known as "raving."

An eighth-grade boy from Walkersville, Md., turned his trip to an event about the 100th anniversary of flight into a short film about the Wright brothers.

A Frostburg State University senior made two films, including one about a man whose girlfriend dies, then comes to him with a plan for her to return to life.

A Middletown, Md., man captured, from many angles, a springtime day of flying a kite.

A student from the Greencastle-Antrim School District in Franklin County documented his friends riding skateboards, then switched to them riding snowboards. The film pivots on a stop at a convenience store.

The intent of the festival was to bring filmmakers out of the woodwork, O'Connell said during the review committee's screening session.

"And they came," added John Venditta, the associate director of Western Maryland Public Libraries.

Chris Henry, the head of interlibrary loans at Washington County Free Library, said 40 people expressed interest in submitting films, but 15 sent them in.

"I am thrilled with it," Venditta said. "It's a big success."

"I'd like to say - (based on) my thoughts coming in, I was pleasantly surprised," said Marc Sober, who works at the State Library Resource Center at Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. "I always worry (because) anybody can get their hands on a digital camera now."

"Some of it was rough around the edges, but you'd expect that," said James Feagin, the director of library services and learning technologies at Hagerstown Community College.

Review committee members had good things to say about the camerawork, editing and writing for many short films.

They also chuckled about some scenes and pointed out a few errors.

"Beethoven didn't write 'Flight of the Bumblebee,'" one noted, referring to a film's claim about its soundtrack.

The committee briefly discussed content and language in the films, but didn't feel the need to edit or censor.

One film has flashes of bawdy humor and language.

"I don't have a problem with it," Venditta said of the language. "It goes by so fast."

Another film has a suicide scene.

"We've got to let people know it's not for children," O'Connell said.

The filmmakers will be asked to introduce their pieces at next month's festival, then stay afterward for a question-and-answer session.

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