So I wake up, check Twitter and see the following from Blayne Weaver: “Currently 2:10am. Airport pickup with @NatalieMorales at 5am. Still drunk… We’re coming for you, @PhoenixFilmFest.”
The star, writer and director of 6 MONTH RULE presented his movie this weekend both at PFF and the simultaneously occurring Vail Film Festival. Vail premiered Blayne’s first feature OUTSIDE SALES back in 2006, and because of his loyalty and that pesky yearly scheduling conflict, he’d never attended the Phoenix event before. This year both festivals cooperated and allowed him to split his time, and today was the day that Blayne – or at least what’s left of him – arrived here at PFF.Prior to seeing the B-Weave I hit the live action shorts while my wife Leslie sat in on the former Sundance documentary CONNECTED. The shorts, like all the programming this year, was ridiculously strong, highlighted by PLAY BY PLAY, a tale of bullying, baseball and blackmail among some unusually intense ten year-old boys. I emerged into the light to find Leslie coming out of CONNECTED, eyes wet with tears.
“It was amazing,” she declared before launching into a justified rant about how multiplexes, choked with sequels, remakes and soulless found-footage movies, normally lacks such quality fare. Seeing as how she’s my filmmaking partner, I get the feeling our company is now going to be kicking up production a notch or two. This is a producer to be reckoned with.
Blayne finally arrived and, God bless him, operating on no sleep and with more booze than blood in his veins he looked better than I ever have in my life. Within 30 minutes of hitting the Party Pavilion he charmed a capacity crowd on the Actor’s Roundtable Panel along with Christina Rose of HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG and IT’S IN THE BLOOD‘s Sean Eliot. 90 minutes after that, he and his co-star Natalie Morales introduced 6 MONTH RULE to another capacity crowd in Theatre 6 at the Harkins.After an evening showing of THE INTOUCHABLES I worked my way to the Party Pavilion for the awards ceremony and subsequent celebration. Although the festival technically extends four more days with nightly screenings of festival favorites thru Thursday, this was by all other accounts Closing Night. After this, filmmakers will return home and the Pavilion goes dark.
When I arrived at the crowded party the walls were literally vibrating with excitement. Any fatigue incurred over the last four intense days had been buried under a communal electricity and an excess of alcohol. My assessment was that, like myself, no one wanted the festival to end, and we were all steadfastly determined to suck the marrow out of every remaining second.PFF, like most everything else, handles its awards well by moving thru them swiftly and efficiently. Winners were met with thunderous applause and many found themselves giving impassioned, emotional speeches. Perhaps the most telling moment of the night came when actress Christina Rose, accepting the audience award for JOE SCHERMANN, began trembling and weeping as she was seized by overwhelming gratitude and disbelief.
“This is a big deal to us,” she said, wiping away a tear from each cheek. That simple statement boiled it all down to a fine point. After years of hard, intense and unpaid work, such a single moment of recognition can literally change everything for you.The ceremony wrapped up at 10:45pm, leaving only fifteen more minutes of drinking time before the Pavilion’s liquor license expired at 11:00pm. A mass exodus to the Sleep Inn-adjactent Tilted Kilt followed, allowing the fest-weary filmmakers and staff an extended goodbye that lasted until the wee hours.
A sentiment echoed repeatedly throughout the night was that this was PFF’s finest year yet. With that, I absolutely concur.
Camerahead, we’ll see you in 2013.
(A complete list of Awards Winners follows below – I’m happy to report you’ll see some names and titles familiar to this blog.)
Best Picture: SHUFFLE
Cox Audience Award: HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG
Best Documentary: WE RUN SH*T
Best Director: Kurt Kuenne, SHUFFLE
Best Screenwriting: Andrew Disney, SEARCHING FOR SONNY
Best Ensemble Cast: SEARCHING FOR SONNY
Dan Harkins Breakthrough Filmmaker Award: Gary King, HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG
Best Live Action Short Film: PLAY BY PLAY
Best Animated Short Film: MASKS
Best Documentary Short Film: SACRED POISON
Best Arizona Short Film: PARALLAX
Best College Short Film: THE LIFE SMUGGLERS
Best Grade/HS Short Film: TROLLEY
World Cinema Best Picture: APARTMENT IN ATHENS
World Cinema Audience Award: LIDICE
World Cinema Documentary: WOLVES UNLEASHED
World Cinema Short Film: LA MEDIA PENA
World Cinema Director: Ruggero Dipaola, APARTMENT IN ATHENS
Sci-Fi Feature Film: PIG
Sci-Fi Short Film: SECRET IDENTITY
Horror Feature Film: IT’S IN THE BLOOD
Horror Short Film: BRUTAL RELAX
Arizona Filmmaker of the Year: Diane Dresback
Volunteer of the Year: Tiffany Hutson
Board Member of the Year: Lori Alderfer
Paul Osborne is the director of film festival documentary OFFICIAL REJECTION & screenwriter of cult thriller TEN ‘TIL NOON. His latest movie, FAVOR, is in post-production. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulMakesMovies.