I admit that when I received the congratulatory notice, it had me fooled. I thought the well-worded email was the lead into a scam informing the recipient they’ve won an award but would have some sort of out-of-pocket expense to be paid in advance with a product I’d never see. As I read on, I found it was in fact authentic. My screenplay was a “Silver Ace Award” winner at the Las Vegas Film Festival being held July 18-21.
Flashback: In 2004, I wrote my first of two crime fiction novels, The Beach Club, which was published by a small independent publisher in the Chicago area. The plot of the story involved a shift of police officers, many of whom have been suspended (AKA ‘beach time’) for their maverick ways, that pursue a sexual predator in their town.
Some reviews of the book said it could easily be made into a movie, so I dabbled in my next writing project: adapting my novel to a screenplay. Last year I finished the script and periodically, I’ve been entering it into film festival competitions.
Fast forward to present day: Thursday night, July 18, arriving at the host venue, The Las Vegas Hotel right off the Las Vegas Strip.
As a festival award recipient or “filmmaker” – as the title on the lanyard pass stated – I had full access to all the movie showings and after parties. I had my itinerary set in advance, knowing which films I wanted to see, cocktail and after parties I wanted to attend (all of them) but not knowing whose elbows I’d be rubbing. I’d been to film festivals before, but none as big as this one and never as an award winner.
During the event I chose to watch feature length movies over the short films, mostly because my screenplay is feature length.
The first screening I saw on Friday was Mission Park and I highly recommend seeing it when it is released in September.
The movie is about four friends from a Hispanic neighborhood, two go into the drug trade and the other two become FBI agents. A well written, authentic and intense story with superb acting.
That evening, a crime drama called Down and Dangerous was screened. It stars Judd Nelson with stellar leads by John T. Woods and Ernest Curcio. Another must see in my opinion.
Afterwards I was able to meet with the cast, directors, and writers of both films to share my appreciation for their work.
Throughout the festival I found all of the attendees and “filmmakers” to be very approachable. I even ran into a former boss who was also there receiving an award for his sci-fi screenplay.
The actors may not have been A-list names, but are card-carrying SAG actors. Many have appeared in movies or had bit parts on television shows. They seemed genuine and would freely talk and later recognize me if our paths crossed in the casino or pool area.
My first after party was quite entertaining. Not because of the party itself, but because it was held at an establishment on Fremont Street and the area had some wild stuff going on that night. I’m not a stuffed shirt and have enjoyed my share of shocking moments, and wouldn’t mind more, but I’ll just leave it that there was a “Santa invasion” with some having only painted on Santa suits.
After going to a seminar on Saturday for the documentary about the Lufthansa Heist and the true story behind Jimmy ‘the Gent’ Burke from Goodfellas with writer Daniel Simone, the rest of the day was set aside for play – pool, dinner at the Prime in the Bellagio, and later going to ‘dueling pianos’ at the Paris with friends who were also in town.
The final day ended with the awards ceremony and a red carpet experience I wasn’t expecting. While dressed in semi-formal attire as the invite stated, waiting to enter the theatre, I found myself next to people being interviewed by my cohorts from the press and camera flashes all around.
After the ceremony, followed by another after party, good-byes were said, business cards and phone numbers were exchanged, and new friends were made.
I plan on attending more festivals after this experience, maybe even with another award or by entering a different screenplay. (Yes, I have an idea for another and it does include Oakdale as the setting).
More than 65,000 scripts are registered each year with the Writers Guild of America, while fewer than 700 films were released in theatres last year. With those odds, I’ll settle for The Beach Club even making it as a cable TV feature.
The Beach Club: These cops may not have the best behavior, but they do have solid principles and a strong sense of duty. A thrilling cinematic police ride-along into the pursuit of a sexual predator.
Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.