story and photos by Rhonda Crone, special to The City Wire
Cassie Self studied theater at the University of Arkansas, and then promptly began a family.
A few years ago, she got a new breath of inspiration, started acting again, and founded the Seedling Film Association. One of the non-profit’s big annual events is the Offshoot Film Festival, which takes submissions of short and full-length films from around the country — some even out of the country.
The 2012 Festival, held in Fayetteville, Oct. 4-7, had more quality submissions than ever.
“There were over 40 hours of submissions, and we’re showing 23 hours this weekend,” Executive Director Jason Suel said.
To the four days of film screenings at the University of Arkansas Global Campus, organizers added on Friday an educational component: the Seedling Festival, for students K through 12th grade. Along with screenings of short films created by youth from Northwest Arkansas, Los Angeles, Texas, Connecticut, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and even the United Kingdom, there were workshops in various mediums.
The films are organized daily by theme.
“After all the films are received, we find a common theme among them, and label the day accordingly,” said Suel. “Granted, it may be a stretch to fit them all into just four themes, but it works.”
The Like Rockstar theme featured “Hated,” which won the award for best narrative film, followed by 80 minutes of short films related to the rock ‘n roll lifestyle.
Like a Winner theme showcased 70 minutes of short films and two feature-length films, “Steve Phoenix: The Untold Story” and “Tuckerman.”
Like a Boss on Saturday featured shorts about prejudice in the south, then a block of shorts and a full-length feature, “Redneck Roots,” which were all “created by Arkansas folks on Arkansas turf.” The short film “Carlisle’s Secret” won for best Short.
Like a Hipster on Sunday featured full-length drama “Surviving Family,” written and produced by Mara Lesemann of New Jersey and directed by Laura Thies. Lesemann won the Courage Award for her film’s personal subject matter about a dysfunctional family.
The big winner of the night was Sarah Moore Chyrchel, who took away the audience choice award for “Witch Hazel Advent, the story of an Ozark Poet,” and two others for her Ozarks-related films.
The Seedling’s mission to bring film to be made in Northwest Arkansas came true with Gordon Family Tree, an independent film that just completed shooting here Oct. 6.
Filmmakers Ryan and wife Jennica Schwartzmann of Los Angeles partnered with Seedling to make the movie in the Ozarks, where Schwartzmann was raised. The movie, starring writer Ryan, also stars Corbin Bernson of L.A. Law and Richard Karn of Home Improvement fame, as well as talented local actors from Northwest Arkansas.
“Gordon Family Tree is a direct result of the festival last year,” said Suel. “It’s a celebration for us.”
The movie is expected to premiere spring 2013.