News Column

Making movies

September 1, 2013




The Johnstown Film Festival will feature innovative works by up and coming ?lmmakers.

The 2013 edition will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Johnstown Flood Museum, 304 Washington St. in downtown Johnstown, and at 8 p.m. Saturday at Heritage Discovery Center, 201 Sixth Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

Presented by Johnstown Area Heritage Association, the festival is a mix of film shorts made up of selections of documentaries, experimental films, narratives and comedies.

Originally known as the Johnstown Film & Wine Festival, the 2013 festival will return to its roots by featuring wine tastings by B&L Wine Cellars.

"This year, we have more entries from local filmmakers than usual, which always drives interest," said JAHA Marketing Director Shelley Johansson, who coordinates the event.

"We're also excited to feature B&L Wine Cellars, a fabulous new addition to the cultural district of Cambria City."

The first offering will be held at the Johnstown Flood Museum, and on Saturday evening, the best of the films will be shown in the courtyard at the Heritage Discovery Center. In case of rain, the festivities will move indoors.

Cash awards are given to the makers of the top three films and the best youth entry. The festival also includes the Viewers' Choice Award, which is selected by attendees on the festival's final evening.

Any original short film of 30 minutes or less was eligible for the competition.

Selecting the winners was no easy task and voting was close.

"We have a panel of six judges who rated each film,"?Johansson said.

"Once the scores were compiled and the high and low scores were tossed out, it gave us the median score.

"When the scores were added up, the judges were in total agreement with each award."

The winning film in 2013 is "Invincible Pep," a documentary by Ryan Quinn of Pittsburgh.

The film's producer, Erica Sperber of Pittsburgh, said this is her third collaboration with Quinn to bring a film to the Johnstown festival.

The team won a second place and Viewer's Choice Award in 2011 for "Iowa Is Closed Today," and in 2012, the team earned a third-place award for "Following Chase."

"We love the Johnstown festival because it is unique and offers an opportunity to showcase a lineup of great independent films," Sperber said.

"The festival is well-run."

"Invincible Pep" is a documentary that tells how Pittsburgh has become one of America's premiere cities for art, culture, recreation and business following an era of being a murky steel town built by the ironworkers of Local Union No. 3. The film follows the story of one Pittsburgh ironworker, Bill Quinn.

Friday's lineup will feature seven films ranging in times from five to 30 minutes.

"The Great Scooter Robbery," a comedy by Baylee Wojcik, is a silent film about an evil villain who struggles to steal a little girl's scooter. Wojcik is a sixth-grader at Windber.

"Found Objects," a narrative by Dawn Westlake of Los Angeles, is a fairy tale about finding one's place in the sun.

Westlake is a regular at the Johnstown Film Festival, having screened a film on the final night of each year since 2007, notably "68 Degrees & Clear," "A Life of Death" and "Covariance."

"Wingmaker," a narrative by Nick Miller of State College, is a film about a middle-aged orderly at a psychiatric hospital who struggles to protect a fallen angel while decoding his wife's message from beyond the grave.

"Letter Die: A Gamut Sibling Mystery" is a narrative by Mike Rubino and Andy Kelemen of Pittsburgh. The Gamut siblings are the city's best brother/sister detective team, but they may have met their match in the hunt for a missing letter die.

"One Last Time" is a narrative by Dhimitiri Ismailaj of New York. Diagnosed with breast cancer, Angela's illness is not her only problem. Her boyfriend recently returned from Iraq, and has become cold and distant.

"The Defining Hour," a video by Bo Whittle of Johns-town, is a metal video created to promote the band's new album.

"Writer's Jail," a documentary by Blair Murphy of Johnstown, is about a fun, interactive, reality-show-like experiment at the Grand Midway Hotel of Windber to force two writers to complete their writing projects.

On Saturday, the doors open at 7:15 p.m. at the Discovery Center and will feature wine tastings from B&L Wine Cellars for all over-21 attendees. Cheese and crackers will be available.

The program will begin at 7:45 with "Painted," a narrative by Max Fedore of Johnstown. It's about a young man who paints a portrait of his girlfriend just before she dies in a violent car crash. He learns that he was not the only man in her life.

"Downstream," a psychological thriller by John D. Marshall of Cabot, Butler County, focuses on Chris, a traumatized college student who becomes obsessed with using lucid dreaming to uncover a repressed memory.

"Not Like the Commercials" is a narrative and third-place winner by Wyatt Gagle of Cleveland, Texas, and is about how a couple's relationship is tested as they weigh the positives and negatives of a life-altering situation.

The Student Award winner is "Lego Spy Mission" by Mark Elston, a sixth-grader at Westmont Middle School. He made a film about a Lego secret agent who rescues a girl held captive by Lego villains.

"A Separate Life" is a romantic drama by Jillian O'Neil, who tells how a family tragedy forces Lily to revisit her past; a family reunion is filled with anger, forgiveness, lost love and farewells. O'Neil won best new director at the 2011 Action on Film (AOF) International Film Festival of Pasadena, Calif., for her work on this film.

The comedy "Loud and Deep" by Adam Kargman of Los Angeles is a story about how down-and-out Wilbur Tuttle's luck changes when he intercepts a remote control that gives him an extraordinary opportunity to exact revenge on his enemies. Kargman's "Reunion" won second place at the 2010 festival, and his horror film "Anesthesia" screened in 2007.

Following intermission, the program continues with Johns-town resident David Sadvari's "7th Street Showdown: A Story About Saving a Skate Park," a documentary about a group of college students who organized a rail jam to help save their skate park.

"Chester" is an animation by Alyssa Timoteo of State College. This prequel to "Alice in Wonderland" tells the story of a corrupt magician who becomes cursed by a black cat.

The second-place-winning film, "Give Me A Sign," is a narrative by Greg Koorhan of Wynnewood, Montgomery County. It's a story of a young man who struggles to find a way to say how he feels at the end of a date.

"Forgotten," an action film by Mitch Stivason of Glenshaw, Allegheny County, tells how Evan is being blackmailed by a local crime boss.

"Invincible Pep" will conclude the festival.

"I think this is a film that will resonate here given the subject matter of the film," Johansson said. "It has a lot to do with steelworkers."

B&L Wine Cellars, which is owned by Gerard Brill and Rich Lamm, winemakers originally from Pittsburgh, will be on-hand before the program begins to offer tastings.

Wine will be available by the glass and attendees also may purchase bottles of wine.

"Any city would be proud to have this winery as a neighbor in an emerging artistic district like Cambria City, which is fast becoming a cultural destination," Johansson said.

Cost of Friday's event is $5 at the door. Admission to Saturday's film fest is $8 for association members and $10 for nonmembers.


Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.


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