Father & Daughter Film Report

Yes, yes, we know.  Someone mentions South Bend and you immediately think of Notre Dame. Well…actually...we did too.  We learned that has been going on since 1842 when Father Edward Sorin founded the university just north of the Singer Sewing and Oliver Chilled Plow Companies in the center of town.  But just so you know, the 2016 River Bend Film Festival will be in Goshen, Indiana – about 20 minutes to the southeast of South Bend – so you still can visit the hallowed halls of the Fighting Irish while visiting the festival, if you wanted to.  We’d certainly do it again.

Both dad and I were not only amazed at all the innovative and mind-twisting films we were able to take in at River Bend, but with the chance everyone had to learn from some of the best in the business.  

For example, the featured star, and also one of the workshop leaders, was the delightful Kiran Shah, whose 35+ years as actor & stunt person has given us performances in such films asStar Wars, The Chronicles of Naria, The Hobbit, Superman, Aliens, Indiana Jones, Titanic, etc, etc, etc, etc.  What a treat to meet and learn from this great actor…and poet.

Shall we get to the films?  We have a bit more than usual, since River Bend had so many unique and unusual films: 


 - Dewayne & Lawayne Bontrager (Bontrager Twins Productions) - Short (17 min.)

The clues are everywhere in this 17 minute short over a mother dealing with a tragic loss of her own doing – but both Amanda and I bet you won’t get half of them.  We didn’t the first time, nor the second...or third…   Not only are ‘the clues’ important to the story, but deep down your subconscious (which since cavemen times has been psychologically wired to solve puzzles to begin with) already knows the clues are important, and that this film is important.

You’ll see clues, sure.  Subconsciously you’ll know they are there. But your conscious mind probably won't know they’re clues, you may just go: “Wow, that’s weird”.  But something deep, deep inside of you will scream out you need to remember what you just saw, because every little detail is important.   And it will be important, for the story, and your mind. Click on the image below and see for yourself what happens just by looking at the trailer: 

Besides the trailer, we're going to also let you get a sneak peek at how the film was made.  We've never done this before in any of our reviews, but we had to here. Why? Because this is one of the most innovative films special effects-wise for an independent film, and in some respects has some ground-breaking, never seen before FX  we seen, some even rival the The Matrix.  You think we're exaggerating? Check out this short on how they made the film: 

 See?  We weren't kidding, were we?  The film techniques never seen before are just the half of it....the story telling is just as innovative. You're mind is going to be totally captivated for 17 minutes...and then totally blown. 


- Written, Directed, Produced, and Starring Shawn Ryan - Short (22 min.)

Amanda and I absolutely adored this film!  Director Shawn Ryan (Bones, Nate & Margaret, The Mentalist) not only did it all in this film, but did it all very smart, very subtle, very charming.  Amanda thought it was cute.  Totally cute....and amazing.  Not only the story, but the story behind the story.  You instinctively know while this is developing  something BIG had to inspire such a story, and you'll wonder about that throughout the entire film.  Then at the end of the film you will wonder too.  Wonder what's Charlie going to....no, we're not to give anything away... we will, however, use the logline that the talented Writer/Director/Actor Shawn Ryan  uses to describe the film: “No one ever listened to Charlie, until he stopped talking.

See what we mean? Profound.  Simply profound.  So is the movie. Check out the trailer: 

See it now, later they’ll be showing this in film schools across the country as what is an excellent example for comedy, drama, and all kinds of film techniques… just you wait and see. 

Welcome to Forever 

– Written & Directed by Laddie Ervin – Short (13 min.)

It’s 2067. A service truck stops in front of a neglected old house. A government technician gets out and walks to the back where he severs a “Life-Link Cable.” His name is Cal Jenner and he’s here to terminate Mr. Cooper, a digitized person whose been malfunctioning for years…we don’t think we need to add anything more to describe this film, for if you are any type of science fiction fan, you probably already want to see this just on what was mentioned already.  

But wait. There's more, one of the best trailers ever made.  Really.  You get the perfect amount of information to let you know what's the movie about - the premise - but without giving the story away.  Click the image below and see for yourself: 

Now you really want to see it, don’t you?  But wait, there’s more!  Here’s another inside look as to how some of these super cool, very futurist special effects were done (maybe we should make this a regular feature).  Thoughtfully created by Laddie Ervin as an educational guide for all you future film makers see how the VFX process is broken down to make these utterly fantastic virtual persons, now we all can see what’s involved to put together FX that looks like it took $600 million to do: 

Now is that not just simply amazing….???  We were blown away, and we both loved the colors and ‘look’ of the virtual people too...so familiar, yet so different.  Plus, as you can easily see from the trailer, the story is pretty intense too…maybe because it could really happen!  Maybe because it could happen sooner than any of us think.  Either way, Laddie Ervin has shown us he is definitely ahead of his time, in both his story and his special effects...!

The Listing Agent 

- Directed by Matthew Helfgott & Jared Hillman – Short (13 min.)

We never thought a film could do an Alfred Hitchcock’ish build up and twist ending in just 13 minutes.  This one did just that....and with the subtle-type of humor we enjoy.  Again, as with the rest of the festival, there was star power in this film, with Joel Murray (Mad Men, Two and a Half Men, Shameless, etc), so first impressions might be: "Wait a minute, I thought I'm at an Independent Film Festival....this looks like an HBO movie!"  What's going on here...?

And you won't have time to answer that question since you will already be caught into the story that develops like an movie on HBO, or TCM, or Netflix.  From the very start you know this story is going somewhere "strange" just by its quirkiness.  But there is something very familiar with this quirkiness...something you had happen in your own life but could not put your finger on.  

Perhaps one of the reasons for this familiarity is that Matt Helfgott (Boards, & distinctions at Cannes, the London International Awards, Getty Images & named the "Director-to-Watch" by the European Federation for Commercial Film Producers) and Jared Hillman (The Social Network, Castle, Psych, House, iCarly, to name a few) actually took a "real estate agent story" of how sometimes people in this profession are asked to go beyond their normal prescribed duties to satisfy a customer and turned it into a film idea.  

Imagine that. Getting an idea from audience member who wanted to tell their story, and all this while Matt & Jared were touring their previous short Tandem (available on iTunes).  No, this is not a plug for their other films, dad and I just feel guilty we couldn't get a trailer in here for this review, and wanted you to see something else then by these two talented film makers.

OK, that's all the hints you're getting from us, we don't want to ruin the story, or the build-up, or the “Oh no!” which you will say,  just like we did, and just like the rest of the audience - any audience - will do when this movie ends.

For you film makers, this is an important film to see from a business aspect. In some of the films above we gave you a glimpse on "how-they-were-made", but that isn't necessary here.  Just seeing this film is an 'ah-ha' experience over how we started this conversation - this is an independent film that has the "look & feel" of a top notch HBO or classic MGM movie.  

Isn't that something every emerging film maker wants to achieve?  When you see this film, sure, you'll see some tricks and tips that Hillman/Helfgott Films did to pull off a great story;  but also you will see how you, too, can take a story on a small (or non-existent) budget, and make it look...well, BIG TIME. 

So there is more than just a great film here, it is a 'city-on-a-hill' (Winthrop, 1630), a model, as well as an example for all film makers to use what they have and turn their film into something that looks like it will be opening in theaters, or premiering on AMC next week.


This also is a short film that is just plain...well,  fun  Sure the end is a hit, but you’ll enjoy every step of the way getting there. And heaven help you if you have to go through this much of an ordeal to sell your house. 


In conclusion:

We both agree RIVER BEND FILM FESTIVAL has it all - big stars, worthwhile work-shops of all sorts, fantastic & innovative films - plus all this takes place in a setting of some wonderful museums, conservatories, performing arts centers, college eateries & pubs... and of course…Notre Dame!