One week and 15 minutes of fame

Back for its second year, No Film Film Festival showcases talent near and far

BELLOWS FALLS — If the seven films that the press was invited to preview last Friday are any indication, FACT TV's second No Film Film Festival will be at the least entertaining and, at the most, offer a peek at some budding filmmakers to keep an eye on.

Teams were given the task of recreating a 1980s popular film into a 15-minute remake in a specific genre in one week's time, starting at 8 p.m. on May 31.

Poltergeist as an action-adventure film. Amadeus as a romance film. Back to the Future as role reversal. The Karate Kid as a documentary.

Those are but a few of the combinations.

Station director Jacob Stradling said the 18 teams entering the contest were winnowed to 16 when two did not make the deadline.

The completed shorts will be viewed and voted on by the audience and judges, this Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Bellows Falls Opera House. Winners will be announced and shown July 13 in the same venue.

The teams that garner the most love from the audience this coming Saturday will win a screening of the “best of the best” of the No Film Film Festival films on July 13, starting at 5 p.m., with the announcement of the Best Picture and awarding of the grand prize: a Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

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One four-person team, the Bratt Macs - all co-workers at Brown Computing in Brattleboro - were given the classic drama film Driving Miss Daisy to remake as a talk-show short.

In an amusing film full of salty language that is appropriately and humorously bleeped out - my personal favorite - Paul M. Mekdeci, the writer, director, actor, and hair, makeup, and wardrobe guy, cast the role of Miss Daisy with Bradshaw, his bulldog.

“I just wanted my bulldog in the movie,” Mekdeci explained.

Bradshaw appears briefly before the movie rolls on to its theme.

In naming their characters, the Bratt Macs give a tip of the hat to the actors who played in the original film: Mekdeci plays Freeman Pansy, and Amanda Matt plays Freeman's mother, Tandy Pansy.

The two Pansys are filmed for an imaginary “dysfunctional family” talk show while driving in and around the hills of southern Windham County. As they are driving, Freeman Pansy in the front, Tandy Pansy in the back (she refuses to be filmed in the front with her son), we get a sense of the real reasons behind their respective inabilities to see and talk with the other.

This edgy little film, The Pettifog of the Pansies, is a subtle homage to director John Waters, who famously directed Pink Flamingos and Hairspray in the 1970s and 1980s. Mekdeci also described it as an attempt to get the feel of the gritty outsider documentary Grey Gardens.

According to the Internet Movie Database, that 1975 film chronicles the lives of two reclusive socialites, “the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, [who] live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton.”

“I wanted to get the look and feel of Grey Gardens, which I've watched at least a dozen times,” Mekdeci said.

Without spoiling the storyline for you, Mekdeci said the dialogue intentionally “pushes the envelope.”

“I kept asking, 'WWJWD?'” Mekdeci said.

(That's “What would John Waters do?”)

“We were just having fun pushing that envelope,” he said.

“Pettifog” means “to quibble over trivia,” and the surname “Pansy” winks at the gay themes in the film. (Freeman Pansy is hung up on how his mother views him as her gay son; she couldn't care less, but he doesn't know that.) Taken as a whole, the film's title pretty much describes this hilarious little film, their first collaboration together.

Amanda Matt, besides playing the mother, was also in charge of the film score. Patrick Brown, Mekdeci's husband, was the producer, cameraman, sound man, and provided the voice of the interviewer. Eric Matt was in charge of technical setup, editing, camera, and sound, and he played the talk show host.

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Stradling's choice of the 1980s-remake theme was inspired, as the decade is full of rich fodder for satire. Once the film was chosen, the genre was assigned.

Unique personal flavors graced each remake.

One local team, Teenage Mutant Movie Ninja Bellows Falls, wanted to participate last year, but team leader Andrew Adams had been out of the country, performing bagpipes in Japan for 3{1/2} months.

This year, Adams said, he jumped right on it, putting it out among his Facebook friends that he was looking for people interested in collaborating in the contest.

With each post, social media connected him with resources for presenting The Karate Kid as a documentary. He got participants, ideas for approaching the challenge, and even a replacement karate instructor when his first actor had to bail out.

But for the seven-person team, he said, it was never about winning. “It was all about having fun.”

And perhaps that allowed the seven people, only one of whom he previously knew (his wife Jessie Adams, who helped with the script, props and costumes), to complete the project, Wax On, Wax Off, in just one day.

Andrew Adams said only one person on the team had ever made films before: Keene State senior Melissa Jellie, who studies film, plays Sally.

The two Adamses and Jason Grey, who plays Mr. M, “sat down and came up with the shots” starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, the first morning of the contest.

“We didn't want it to be too scripted because documentaries aren't,” he said.

So they just laid out talking points to be covered.

They were done filming by 1 p.m. and had only the karate school scenes to shoot. And these were shot that Tuesday by Jellie at the National Institute of Modern Martial Arts in Claremont, N.H.

The result is a gritty little film that explores, years later, just what caused Johnathan (played by Daniel Kornguth) and Danny (played by Andrew Adams) to fight. Of course, it is a girl, Sally (Jessica Adams).

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With 16 films to go through, come ready to grab your popcorn and a drink and settle in for a few hours of fun and an evening of laughs and surprises.

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