The sunny skies and laid-back attitude of Surf City USA warmly welcomed Ray, Jim and Signs of the Time to the SoCal Independent Film Festival. Set in idyllic Huntington Beach California, this marathon movie event showed more than 100 official entries over 6 days. Named by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the “top 20 film festivals worth the entry fee”, SoCal is an edgy and enjoyable festival. We were excited and proud to be there.
The schedule offered a fantastic balance of both traditional films and some delightfully bizarre entries that would make Quentin Tarantino squirm in his seat. Our first session was a collection of short films called Off the Beaten Path. This was followed by – please enjoy the impending cinematic weirdness here – Way Off the Beaten Path. One of our favorites, Blood Shed, was shown during this deliriously weird session. The film is a charming tale of a Canadian Hillbilly who murders and mutilates his backwoods buddies. Encouraged by his psychotic mother, who is portrayed by a life-size talking muppet, he ecstatically dispenses buckets of blood via shotgun, shovel and chainsaw. I must admit, horror is my least favorite genre, but this movie was so quirky, so delightfully depraved that it was clearly created with tongue firmly in cheek. Other similar charmers included The Electric Chainsaw Massacre, The Family, and Sexual Tension – the Super Adventures of Steve and Stephen. For a laugh-out-loud experience, I encourage you to leave your delicate sensibilities behind and visit these worthy films on-line.
We also saw a terrific variety of more traditional entries that offered exceptional production value, inspired writing and great acting – all the elements that are so difficult to achieve in independent filmmaking. This consistently high level of movie-making skill made our final night at the awards party particularly gratifying. Every film, including ours, received a nomination in their category. With such superb competition, our expectations for winning Best Documentary were very low. With little shot at winning and having milked our $14 event cocktail for just so long, we yearned for the familiar conversations and $3 beers at the dated but wholly satisfying hotel bar. Thankfully, the admiration for our filmmaking colleagues prevailed.
We stayed for the ceremony and supported their exceptional efforts with another $28 round of vodka tonics. You may see it coming, but it was as surprising to us as a Hitchcock plot twist. When Best Documentary was announced, Signs of the Time got the nod! The overwhelming response to our win by many of the filmmakers in attendance was gratifying but not unexpected. With unrestrained generosity, they celebrated the honor with us just like it was their own. In fact, we didn’t make it back to the hotel for another four hours and I don’t recall spending another $14 the rest of the night.