OKWU Digital Cinema Film Selected for Film Festivals

Written By: Blythe Freshwater

The OKWU Digital Cinema short film Desolate has been officially selected for the International Christian Film & Music Festival (ICFF) and the James Bond III Film Festival Christian Edition (JBFF) for 2019.

The ICFF will be held May 1-4, 2019, in Orlando, Florida. Desolate is one of 88 short films that will be in competition for the grand prize of $100,000, alongside 55 feature films, 61 unproduced scripts, 80 documentaries, and numerous music videos, animations, student films, and TV shows. Content, story, quality, acting, composition, sound, lighting, and continuity are what the judges will look at to determine to best videos. Last year, Rich Peluso from Sony Pictures Entertainment said, “It was wonderful meeting a new group of emerging Christian filmmakers at the International Christian Film Festival, and even better seeing them networking, learning and encouraging each other in improving their craft.”

The JBFF was held  December 7-9, 2018, in Springfield, Kentucky. Desolate is one of 18 short films, and the festival will also feature 9 full-length films. Desolate was an Official Selection and both the lead actress, Isabella Goulden, and the lead actor, Jonathan Drake, were nominated for the Best Actor in a Short Film category.

Evan Hewitt, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts, says, “Desolate is inspired by Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan, which can be found in Luke 10:25-37. Our goal was to recreate the story in a current context and make it relatable to modern audiences.” He says that it is easy for us to dismiss Bible stories in the twenty-first century because “they can feel like fairy tales that happened in some faraway place long, long ago. Creating the story in a modern setting helps us see ourselves in relation to the stranger on the side of the road. Are we Good Samaritans or do we turn our head and pass by the stranger in need?”

The story is this: Scotty, a single dad (Jonathan Drake), and his son, Ethan (Eli Swanson), are going on a road trip to start a new life. On their way, the truck breaks down and Scotty and Ethan are stranded far from any town. Before Scotty can repair the truck, thieves rob and attack them. Without a vehicle, their journey has come to a very desolate end.

Desperately searching for a town or for help, Scotty and Ethan meet a number of decidedly unhelpful characters along their path, much like the story in Luke. As night falls, they meet Jessie (Isabella Goulden), a seemingly intimidating motorcycle rider with a mysterious back story. She reveals herself to be kind and compassionate, however, when she takes the injured Ethan to a nearby town, she leaves Scotty to face the night alone. The night is long, and Scotty must face his own demons. As the sun rises, Jessie comes back to rescue Scotty.

Desolate was filmed in the spring semester of 2018, and the cast and crew were comprised of mostly OKWU students in the Digital Cinema program. Student director Andrea Drake was thrilled to work on the project as part of her senior year. McKenna Deck thought it was a “worthwhile experience because I got to do things I never done before. I was in charge of the  sound recording and boom microphone, so I was always on set and on the go. Doing that was an adventure and I felt really important.” The crew enjoyed the chance to work together and create a complex project, and they are thrilled that their work is being featured in these two festivals.