Wednesday, October 7, 2009

West Virginia Filmmakers Festival

I was able to attend the West Virginia Filmmakers Festival last weekend In Sutton, WV with fellow Brainwrap crew and friends Mike and Seth. We entered two movies: our two minute horror movie Morning Blood (click to watch) and Seth Martin and Friends which was basically a repackaging of my Gremlin short film only as a segment on a children's show parody that we're working on.

I'm happy to say that Morning Blood won in its category! Gremlin seems to have been shafted again, though it was apparently the only movie in its category to get any laughs, so go figure.

Last year was my first time attending the festival and I knew I had to go back this time around. I could have sworn I made a post about it, but a quick look back through the blog archives says otherwise. I think I may have just told the story photographically on Facebook.

Especially now that I've been getting more visitors to the site and becoming part of online art communities I've been trying to keep personal blog posts to a minimum, saving that stuff for Facebook and using this as more of a place for info about my art. Visiting Sutton, however, is always a story I can't help but tell.

Sutton is a very, very weird place. It's also full of very weird people. Going there is kind of like stepping into an episode of the Twilight Zone, for several reasons. One is that it's so small; basically just one street with very few functioning businesses. Where do these people buy food? Go to school? Get medical services? I have no idea. The buildings that line both sides of Main street are all dilapidated. One side has the Elk Hotel and Elk Theater, both of which are enterable buildings that house operating businesses, to an extent. The other side of the street has several side by side store fronts...but none of them ever seem to be open. There are displays in the windows, but the doors are all padlocked shut. Mike joked that this entire side of the street was just a painted set, which seemed funny until we peeked through a crack in one of the locked doors to see only sky and rubble on the other side! We tried for a while to get behind the buildings to see just how fake they were, but the brush and trees were too thick.

You also see the same people there over and over. From year to year even, it's the same characters hanging out in the same spots. You get the feeling that maybe 40 people live there, tops. Between this and the small set-like nature of the town's geography, it truly is like being in a TV show. The reason I say it's like the Twilight Zone in particular is because all the people seem to have something wrong with them. They all have little ticks that range from being "a little off" to not being able to hold a coherent conversation. I'm very tempted to list specific examples, but I don't think I can do so without making it quite obvious who I'm referring to. I'm not trying to bad-mouth specific people or even the town as a whole really, just trying to describe how strikingly eerie this place is.

There is one person from this years visit, however, who I can't help but mention. After Mike, Seth and I spent the night in the Elk Hotel (which is part of why we go in the first place, as it's this extra creepy dilapidated old hotel with common bathrooms, doors that don't lock, and rooms that look like a horror movie set, as you can see in the photo above) we awoke and decided to attend a pancake breakfast at a local church. I knew that there was a pancake breakfast because I had heard a woman yelling about it in the room next to us the night before as I was trying hopelessly to fall asleep. (She also accused whoever she was yelling at of being "an uptight Jew.") We headed to the church and sat down at a table in the basement. A guy came over and asked to join us. He seemed relatively normal compared to the rest of the folks, and we soon found out it was because he was from out of town. We talked for a while about film making and festivals, and once he felt comfortable enough he started asking if we had, like many other budding filmmakers according to him, ever made a porno. We said no, but he then started to give us tips and pointers for if we ever did decided to make one. His advice suggested that not only had he filmed pornos, but that he had used hidden cameras for that purpose and even stared in them too. At one point he even told us that he had known a guy who died from having sex with a horse. Now keep in mind we've known this guy for all of ten minutes and we're at a church pancake breakfast. Having been to Sutton before, though, we very much expected this level of creepy and crazy and mostly just laughed it off.

After the breakfast we went to a meeting of the Filmmakers guild, where typically not much gets accomplished. They have pretty good ideas sometimes, but always decide to tackle them "later." There was definitely a sense in this meeting that some of the guild members were trying to distance themselves from their elected offices. It was decided that a new president needed to be elected, and the porno guy spoke up. He made a short speech about his experience in running film festivals and whatnot, and did it with a level of enthusiasm and normalcy that is just unheard of to these people. So of course...they elect him president of the guild. They don't know anything about him, have only known him for five minutes tops, and they elect him president. The guy who just an hour ago was telling us about his friend being killed by a horse penis. It reminded me so much of the episode of the Simpsons where the fast-talking salesman rolls into town and tricks all the rubes of Springfield into buying a monorail from him.


There are so many stories I can tell about this place just from the short time I've spent there, and I'm sure there will be plenty more in the future, but this was the main event from this year's festival so I'll stop here for now. Needless to say it was a fun and creepy experience for the Halloween season; more authentic than any set-up haunted house can ever be.

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