As promised, this is the story about our accepting the First Place Award for College Feature/Short Movies at the performing arts center on the Lynn University Campus, 15 March 2013. Yes, it is a jubilant moment when they announce the second place winner, and it’s still not your title. Moments later, it’s the beginning of your 15 minutes of fame in front of 700 attendees and next to a television celebrity from one of your favorite shows.
Moments Like These has been a great opportunity to show my editing, negotiations, post-production development, and promotional skills. Also having helped with the title’s name, I appreciate how appropriate it is to my life now. It’s moments like these that we want to capture and remember forever. That is why I’m writing this story.
Jeremy Hicks and I hit the road around 5:30AM and drove quickly to Boca Raton, arriving at the Lynn University checkpoint gate around 8AM. Having sufficient time, we treated ourselves to eggs benedict at the First Watch restaurant, dressed for the show, and arrived on time to register at the Keith C. & Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center in Lynn University. Then we waited in the VIP Salon along with about 30 people.
I had forgotten my coffee cup, tripod, and some paperwork in the car. I brought a picture of the Camp Keystone boathouse and canoe (photo further below) in Odessa, Florida, that a friend had given me to share with Burt Reynolds and a prototype poster for our short with all the festivals we had screened and won (see below) over the past year. I showed Jeremy the artwork where I printed us as 1st place winners and told him this would not jinx us, as I can easily change it. He smiled.
I decided to step outside to smoke my first cigarette and met a local high school teacher who reminisced about the old-school methods of developing film and linear editing. I told him that was exactly the reason I did not enter into this industry, not until it was going all the way digital. I also told him that I had avoided VHS and Beta formats because of the poor quality and generational loss. Then Jeremy stuck his head out the door to tell me they wanted us next.
They ushered us through the salon and out the back side to a convertible with an elderly but energetic front seat couple. They drove us around to the front of the center where we walked the red carpet back into the lobby. Once inside, several photographers took photos of us and video taped an interview with Jeremy, then me.
I told them that I had screened at the Delray Beach Film Festival a few years ago and I receive the Palm Beach County newsletter on a regular basis and read it. The newsletter has shown me how active the area is over the years and that they should branch out to schools in Central Florida to encourage others to participate, like we had. She liked that.
Then we went back to the VIP Salon and waited some more. I smoked another one and returned to see the room had cleared all but for Jeremy who sat next to the silent grand piano. After another 15 minutes, we were ushered into the main theatre where we found our names taped to the seats, stage left about 5 rows back from the stage. My seat was closest to the exit door which is always my favorite.
Once the show started, the large red velvet curtains folded away to the sides to reveal large black panels with 5 video screens. The footage was vintage television and advertisements that included flash bulb cameras, soaps, and cigarettes. In addition to the TV shows, like the Flintstones where Fred and Barney are smoking and appear to be talking about cigarettes (without audio feed), they had a fog machine pumping the air with smoke every few minutes across the stage.
They showed an introductory video clip called Citizen Licari that featured an old performer nearing the end of his career, not unlike that of Citizen Kane, from which they showed clips. Frank Licari, the show’s MC, introduced us to his stage wife, Susanne Niedland, and eventually Burt Reynolds came on stage to a thunderous audience applause.
The skit ended shortly after Burt’s appearance then the award announcements commenced. You can click HERE to see the show’s program or for a shortlist, the following winners were announced:
- Next Year’s SSOF Poster
- Sara Fuller Scholarship
- Burt Reynolds Scholarship
- Commercial/PSA Award
- Music Video Award
- Documentary Award
- Animation Award
Then came the College Feature/Short Movie Award presentation. First up was third place Jason Whitmore, Florida State University, At The End. We learned during this announcement that they had extracted a clip from the movie to show the audience a little about the winning selection. Jeremy had asked me if they had requested a clip and I said no but was curious what they might select for our clip.
Then came the second winner announcement and after Bruce Campbell said “James Feeney, Florida State University, Killer Kart,” we knew we had won First Place. I patted Jeremy on the shoulder and he shook my hand. As we watched the winner’s clip, I thought about what I should say but lost focus in all the visual stimuli. They showed a clip of our short showing the younger boy learning to hit a plastic ball then transitions to him older hitting the ball in a large baseball field. Although I’ve seen this clip probably a thousand time, even watched it recently, it is still a thrill to see it on a big screen in front of a large group of interested-like people, and this was the biggest audience of all. Then they requested us on stage.
I wouldn’t say things started moving in slow motion or experienced any special effects as we climbed the stairs to the presenter microphone; but with stage lights blaring and exiting the pitch-black audience into the bright lights, it was magical. I went on auto-pilot.
Jeremy started with a thanks to God, family, and parents, the latter for letting him use their min-van in his driving scene. Right as I was about the say something, he interrupted, pointed to the teleprompter, and said, “the teleprompter is telling Gould, Hicks, and Campbell to exit the stage.” The audience chucked, as did I. Then I said I appreciated the opportunity to help Jeremy make his dream project come true and it turned out pretty good. He added that he could not have done this without me and we departed.
That’s about all the details I remember. I know that after the volunteer handed Jeremy a check and the usher took us to the door leading back into the theatre, I asked if I could go outside, of course, to burn one. When I sat on the curb just outside the back stage entrance, I looked at my hands and they were shaking like a scared child’s hands, nervous after being on stage. That didn’t last long because shortly after lighting my cigarette, I heard the back door open and some guys talking as they walked outside.
It was Burt Reynolds, Bruce Campbell, and Burt’s driver. I said, “great, I wanted to show Burt a picture a friend gave me” and reached under my pants leg into my sock where I had put the picture for safe keeping. In the corner of my eye, I could see the driver starting to tackle me but Bruce indicated that he knew me and stopped a possible assault. I showed the picture to Burt and he recognized it and smiled as he looked it over. I explained where it was and that the sister of a friend of mine had attended camp with him when he was a counselor there before his entertainment career began. Then Bruce said, “He probably did her back then.” Of course I was abashed by what he said but I thought it was funny, especially since I’m a fan of his show.
All literature that mentions Burt Reynolds also points out that he’s a native Floridian and proud of his past here. That’s why my friend and I wanted to share this history with him.
Unfortunately, Mr. Reynolds shows awkward signs of his historic stunt-work body damage, like Jerry Lewis has shared with us about his past. These guys are hard workers and gave a lot of their life for their audiences. Like Clint Eastwood at the RNC 2012 Convention, these guys are getting slower and cautious, but they try to visit their live audiences, and for that we can be thankful.
After the concluding performance, Jeremy and I exited the backstage door and went around the 700 people exiting through the lobby doors. We were first in line for the final group photo and spoke to people as the winners made it through the exits. Our group photo was exciting with all the future artists and blooming talent. After a few shots together, Bruce hollered out requesting to be included with us and we all welcomed him. After a few more shots, he shook each of our hands and asked us our names. It was a very honorable and awesome gathering, even for this age-old student.
With that, Jeremy and I decided to skip the learning sessions because the show had run late and we needed to eat and return the car. On our walk to the car, he explained how great this funding is for him to expand his equipment inventory. He could now get a green screen and lights kit, as well as a set of lenses; however, he would need to pay $100 for prime lenses out-of-pocket. I offered to help him out with some of my award money but he said I deserved the full half of the award money for all I had done. For that I was appreciative.
When we returned to our parked car, Jeremy asked to see the envelope, since we hadn’t opened it yet, he was curious if there was anything else to see. He opened the envelope and asked me how much we were supposed to get and I said $800. He chuckled and said that was not the amount on the check and that it was for more. I said, “yet another example of poor communications” but a delightful opportunity ensued as he informed me it was for $1,200. Jeremy could now afford all the equipment he needed.
So, I pulled out the poster and pointed to the 1st place winner symbol and confirmed I had not jinxed us. It was a wonderful moment.
After lunch at Chili’s, we booked for home. Arriving at 4:30 in Orlando, I4 was a parking lot, as well as our alternative ways home. We made it in time to return the car, I pitched my movie to him (since I totally forgot the whole trip), and bid farewell from an enjoyable and rewarding trip in the movie making business.
Our movie will screen at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, 6 April 2013, 11:45AM, Muvico Parisian City Place, Boca Raton.
PS: I hope to update this page with pictures as they become available from the event photographers. There’s got to be a way for you to Like me to see future posts I add. That way, you can see progress and more details of our trip, should you be interested.