The Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcas

Big screen St. Louis

The Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase displays the talents of local artists

By Charlotte Beard

The Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase will mark its 18th year for two weekends, July 13-15 and July 20-22. The showcase screens films that were written, directed, edited or produced by St. Louis residents or films with strong ties to the St. Louis region.

Screenings will include 107 films. Among those 107 will be a documentary feature for ‘The Best of Us: 100 Seasons of Muny Magic.’ Showcase tickets are $10 per show for Cinema St. Louis members and students, and $13 for general admission. The showcase will take place at Brown Hall on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis.

Chris Clark, Artistic Director for the past 18 years, advises attendees to plan for early arrival and parking due to construction in the area. There will be plenty of signs along the campus to assist people in finding their way to Brown Hall for the showcase. Specific dates and times for all screenings can be found at: www.cinemastlouis.org/st-louis-filmmakers-showcase. Tickets are available by clicking on the ‘Brown Paper Tickets’ link on the site.

This year 141 film submissions were received.

“On May 16, I had 50 of those and two weeks later I had 91 more,” stated Clark. “People wait until the last second. I think it was George Lucas who said, ‘Filmmakers never finish their films, they are abandoned.’ They just work until it gets pulled out of their hands. A lot of them are students and they are [completing] student projects.”

Clark reviews the films as they are submitted and makes up a board of the submissions that are received by the deadline to help him complete his programming process. This stage helps him determine which submissions qualify and are appropriate for inclusion in the showcase.

“I just keep going back and forth until I fill up shows and [find] things that make sense with one another; representative across the board and spectrum of ages, race, and sex,” said Clark. “I just like to [represent] everybody as much as possible. The main thing is [to determine] have they told a good compelling story that anybody anywhere, not just in St. Louis, might appreciate. We have an elevated standard for what we’re looking for.”

Clark shared that there were 19 or 20 feature films submitted of which nine were selected. For the differentiation between shorts and features, Clark shared that the standard from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is that 40 minutes and less is considered a short film. Any second over is a feature.

Lisa Boyd, who is a graduate and received her film directing study background from the University of Kansas City – Missouri and the University of Southern California, is the director of one of the feature films – ‘The American Tragedy.’ The documentary is about the healing of two families after the murder of 17-year-old Kelli Hall in St. Charles in 1989 and the transformation of her assailant, Jeffrey Ferguson, prior to his execution in 2014.

Boyd shared that she enjoys working on social projects—projects that she believes in.

“This piece is to create conversation and to open up people’s hearts to see there is possibility to transform people’s lives no matter where they are in life,” she said.

Boyd went on to share that she hopes dialog will happen that opens many avenues for the incarcerated as well as those who are the victims, for healing on many levels.

Sharee Silerio directed and produced one of the documentary shorts “The Mountains that Made Me.” This project was birthed during Silerio’s personal journey to healing and growth through journaling. In her quest to seek how the same process might help others she made a connection with Sierra Dean who is the key cast for the documentary.

“It’s never too late to pursue your dreams; age is only a limit you ascribe to it,” stated Silerio. “Take steps towards what it is that you want to do. No matter how hard it gets, keep going. Those tough times are what will polish you, make you into who you need to be and give you the skills that you need to get going. Have faith in your abilities and your dream. Just do it.”

Clark estimates that more than half of this year’s participants are students. This year’s showcase includes submissions from participants at extreme ends of the age spectrum – one from a 13-year-old girl whose quality of work for “The Ball” surprisingly made it into the showcase, to an 85-year-old man who made a documentary titled “The Passenger.”

Clark shared that there will be a time of Q and A after the feature films only. All are invited July 22 for the free closing night awards party from 8 to 11 p.m. at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room at 6504 Delmar Blvd. Donations at the door are appreciated.

“We have a team of local film critics and filmmakers who are watching all the films now and they will give awards in the various [categories],” stated Clark. “I will make some introductions and give some personal awards to filmmakers who stood out. Then we will have a short list of films that will be invited to screen in November at the St. Louis International Film Festival. That’s a great honor to filmmakers.”

The Whitaker Foundation serves as the title sponsor for this year’s showcase. Other sponsors include the Arts and Education Council, Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Film Office, Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, and Urban Chestnut Brewing Company.

“People who are not familiar with this event, have never been, or [may] not [be] sure what it’s about, will be very surprised and impressed with the deep quality of the filmmakers who are making things in St. Louis,” stated Clark. “This isn’t LA, it’s not New York, not Chicago…none of those [places]. It’s just a great opportunity to see some really talented people who often will move on and go elsewhere to work in the industry once they get out of school. So, it’s a great opportunity for networking, getting your work seen and people have a lot of fun.”

Clark shared that Cinema St. Louis welcomes volunteers for the event. Those interested will be involved in such things as selling and checking tickets, distributing programs and assisting people in finding seats. One perk to volunteering is that unless a show is sold out, when there is an opportunity volunteers can sit and enjoy the show. Those who are interested are can check the website for needs and sign up.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos