Local filmmakers enter short film in Pa. horror movie festival

August 31, 2011|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |
  • Amanda Giffin (Jane), left, and Tabetha Holweck (Maura) shoot a scene from The Black-Eyed Children with Matt Matzen, director, behind the camera. The film was co-written by Ashley Hutson, below, and will be shown this weekend at HorrorFind Weekend Convention and Film Festival in Gettysburg, Pa.
Submitted photo

Fledgling director and editor Matt Matzen, 27, and novice screenwriter Ashley Hutson are hoping that the 15-minute running time for their new short film, “The Black-Eyed Children” might parlay into 15 minutes of fame.

The film will premiere at the three-day HorrorFind Weekend, a horror film festival in Gettysburg, Pa. “The Black-Eyed Children” will be shown at 1:25 p.m. during Sunday’s competition.

Matzen, of Hagerstown, said the story was inspired by a 1998 story titled “The Black-Eyed Kids” by journalist Brian Bethel who wrote about meeting two children whose eyes were completely black.

Hutson said the same night they discussed the story, she and her husband, Steve Shives, wrote dueling treatments (“it’s like an overview of the script”) that night.

“We decided mine was better,” she joked.

Hutson said she banged out the script in two hours that same night.

“It was the first time I had written a script,” she said.

After some tweaking by her husband (who shares story credit with her and Matzen), Hutson had a finished product to present to Matzen.

“The Black-Eyed Children” tells the story of an emotionally fragile young woman who, still reeling from the death of her father, grapples with the unexplained appearance of two unearthly children.

Under the umbrella of Neon Reel Entertainment, Matzen said they shot the film in and around Hagerstown beginning in May. The only Hagerstown landmark people might easily recognize in the film, he said, is the U.S. Post Office on Leitersburg Pike.

Over weekends through the spring and early summer, the production team filmed the movie.

“We all have full-time jobs,” he said. “So it was about nine days of filming.”

Matzen is a web developer for Meridian Web in Martinsburg, W.Va., while Hutson is branch manager for Smithsburg Library.

And the price tag for this film? Mazen said, was made for a little less than $500.

“That mostly was food and gas,” Matzen said with a laugh.

Hutson said that “everyone volunteered our time.” She even lent the use of her Sharpsburg house for the film.

Although the film has already been screened for cast, crew, friends and family, the Gettysburg festival will be the first time the film will be screened before the public.

Matzen said he’s excited about this weekend, when the film vies for Best Picture, Best Director and other awards, including Fan Favorite.

“The Black-Eyed Children” isn’t the first film the team produced. Last fall, they filmed “Toby Benson Wants Your Money,” which Shives wrote.

Matzen said working on that film taught them some lessons. He said they workshopped and decided to really invest in their passion, including purchasing equipment.

As for Hutson, she think she would like to be a producer and working with the cast more than being a screenwriter.

“The whole title of screenwriter freaks me out a little bit,” she said.

If you go ...

WHAT: HorrorFind Weekend Convention and Film Festival

WHEN: Friday, Sept. 2, through Sunday, Sept. 4, hours vary

WHERE: Wyndham Gettysburg Hotel, 95 Presidential Circle, Gettysburg, Pa.

COST: Convention tickets are $45 for weekend, $25 single day, free for ages 12 and younger. Weekend pass and admission to An Evening with John Waters $110, costume pass $10 with guaranteed seating for the live costume contest. Film Festival admission included in ticket.


MORE: Thirty films will be shown at the festival. For a schedule, go to

If you go ...
WHAT: Showing of “The Black-Eyed Children”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23
WHERE: Smithsburg Library, 66 W. Water St., Smithsburg
COST: Free
CONTACT: Call the library at 301-824-7722

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