Rosebud shows young directors' early film work

October 05, 1994|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,Special to The Sun

Gideon Brower describes his 13-minute film, "Valentine," as being about "a spring blood drive at a Baltimore boy's school where the kids are trying to figure out what women and romance are all about. When a French nurse arrives, they're lining up to give blood."

This is not a movie you'll likely see at the mall multiplex.

The unnamed school, by the way, is Gilman in north Baltimore, of which this 28-year-old filmmaker is an alumnus.

Mr. Brower's quirky little story is one of nine short films by Maryland filmmakers being shown in a Rosebud Awards Show case at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Baltimore Museum of Art. A question-and-answer period with the filmmakers and a post-show reception at Donna's are also part of the evening.

This local presentation was culled from the fourth annual Rosebud competition, a Washington-based event that earlier this year honored 22 films out of 150 entries from Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

"We had put our own Baltimore independent [film] competition on hold and were concerned we weren't doing enough for local filmmakers," says Victoria Westover, executive director of the Baltimore Film Forum (BFF), explaining her decision to bring a Rosebud sampler to Baltimore for the first time.

"We want independent filmmakers to get greater visibility for their efforts," says Rosebud co-director Natasha Reatig of this non-profit arts promotion effort. "We're looking for independent creative vision from filmmakers who take risks. They send us films ranging in length from 30 seconds to six hours."

Hence the name "Rosebud," evoking Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," which Ms. Reatig describes as "a first effort that hangs it all out there in terms of taking risks on a movie.

"A second reason we went with the name is to evoke a bud you want to nurture into growth," she says. "And a third reason is because it's a buzzword. It's a cool name."

Rosebud blooms each spring in Washington, with the award-winning films being shown at the Biograph theater in Georgetown and an awards ceremony at the downtown Nightclub Fifth Colvmn. Some of the films get further exposure in an American Film Institute program at the Kennedy Center, and on Washington-area cable and public television stations.

All that attention gives a promotional push to short films that otherwise might languish. Mr. Brower's "Valentine," for instance, received a Rosebud honorable mention award.

"Valentine" is short and sweet and cheap by filmmaking standards, with the director reporting a budget under $10,000. One way he used to keep down costs was by having 40 Gilman students play themselves in their classrooms.

In Mr. Brower's post-Gilman years, he studied theater at Yale University, then wrote for cable TV shows and performed stand-up comedy in New York City before moving back to Roland Park a few years ago. He is currently writing the movie script called "Beethoven's 3rd."

Another film being shown at the BMA, "Fast Game Fast Money: The Grifters of New York," won this year's Rosebud Best of Show award. Mostly shot in the streets of New York, this irreverent 30-minute documentary reveals how the three card monte and shell game con artists manage to beat every street corner customer.

"Our filming was completely observational," says co-producer Ed Bishop, 33, who has a video production company in Arnold. "They had no idea we were shooting, because everything on the street was shot with hidden cameras."

How does Mr. Bishop feel about the grifters?

"I have mixed feelings about them. I'm really appalled with what they're doing. It's a pure con. On the other hand, they're not breaking into houses and mugging people for their money. The people who play are half-responsible."

Another local filmmaker, Jonathan Sunshine, wrote and produced "The Cement Story," a seven-minute narrative about a girl who decides to guard a fresh block of sidewalk lest anything mar the wet cement.

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