Local Film Festivals May Lead to Oscar
by Richard David Boyle
For lower budget independent films, the path to an Oscar may lead through smaller film festivals, such as the upcoming Big Bear Horror Fest, running October 15th through 17th, 2010 at the Performing Arts Center.
The last two Oscar winners, “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Hurt Locker,” which were either abandoned or shelved by studio executives, went on to win many smaller venues, such as the Toronto Film Festival and became box office block busters and cult classics.
One example may be “Solitary” which won audience raves at last month’s Big Bear Lake Film Festival. “I was turned down at Toronto,” said director Greg Derochie, “but I may try to get in theaters in Los Angeles a week before the end of the year.”
To qualify for a nomination, a film must be shown in a theater for one week in 2010 in either New York or Los Angeles and then hope for a nomination to raise a feature from obscurity to world fame such as the last two Oscar winners. The star of “Solitary,” Amber Jaeger, who did a masterful job of portraying a woman trapped in her own mind, could also win a nomination if enough actors cast ballots for her.
Another film, which won honors at Big Bear, is the 11 minute short, “Touch” may also be nominated for an Oscar because it already won a major award, best prize at the Florida Film Festival. “If we even get a nomination,” said first time director, Jen McGowan, “it could mean a deal for my next project, a feature length film.” McGowan gets the best out of her actors, Lily Knight and Rachel Kanouse, in a moving story of a chance meeting at a train station.
Other directors, such as Big Bear resident Lisa Doggans Farr-Jagodzinski, whose action thriller about police corruption, “Shady Lane,” is winning audience approval at film festivals, are adopting a different strategy. “We may bypass the Oscars and go straight to video,” said Farr-Jagodzinski, who hopes to market her film online worldwide.
It is often a difficult choice, either to try to get a film in theaters for one week, hoping for a nomination, or waiting for next year and pushing for an Oscar in 2012. This was the dilemma for Chris Ordal, whose “Earthwork,” won best feature at the Big Bear festival. “I will wait,” said Ordal, “and hope my film gets enough buzz next year to win us an Oscar nomination.”
Oliver Stone and I faced the same decision for our film, “Salvador,” which was finished, from inception to being shown in a theater, in one year, 1985, a record for Hollywood.
“I am glad we waited a year,” I told Ordal. “It turned out to be the right choice, because the studios dumped it, but after Z Channel showed it, Oscar voters were impressed and Salvador was nominated for best screenplay (Boyle and Stone) and for best actor.” James Woods was nominated, but lost to Paul Neuman, however Salvador went on to become a cult classic.
Maybe the next cult classic, now unknown, will be unveiled at the Big Bear Horror Film Festival. It is certainly worth a look.
(Richard David Boyle, of Forest Falls, taught film at USC, Stanford and Crafton Hills College and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is also a candidate for the San Bernardino Community College Board of Governors and hopes to start a new film program at Crafton Hills College with Academy funding.)