Lights, camera, action!
The 19th annual Gulf Coast Film and Video Festival, which was voted Best Film Festival in Houston in 2016 by Houston Press, was held last weekend. There were almost 200 submissions narrowed down to 21 finalists, Hal Wixon, founding director, said.
Screenings of the finalists were open to the public Friday and Saturday. The festival closed out the weekend with a star-studded awards ceremony at Lakewood Yacht Club.
CNN-Radio film critic Nick Nicholson served as master of ceremonies, entertaining guests and introducing each of the presenters.
Some on the who’s-who list of award presenters included eight-time Emmy winner and host of the wildly popular PBS show “Manor of Speaking,” Ernie Manouse; director/producer/TV personality and Silver Telly award winner Nelly Gonzalez; the beautiful and community-involved Miss Kemah USA Stephanie Ludwig; and Miss Kemah Teen USA Bryn Carden.
“The range of films from all over the country was amazing,” Wixon said. “We were very excited to have films with so much humor, to ones that you needed to grab a box of tissues to watch.
“Some young filmmakers really stood out with three of the award-winning films coming out of Chapman University in Orange, Calif.”
Those films were the winners of Best of Festival, “Rocket;” Best Documentary, “Gardeners of the Forest;” and Best Mini Feature, “Icarus.”
Other winners were Best Feature, “The Neighborhood that Disappeared;” Best Webology, “If I Could Bark;” Best Screenplay, “Third Base;” and Best Drama, “The Lawn Boy.”
All of the award winners were gracious in their speeches but of particular note was the speech for “The Lawn Boy.”
Director Mark Baird brought Matthew Carter, one of the stars of the film, on stage with him. Matthew, who was born with Down syndrome, said he “does not use his extra chromosome to suffer from the condition but to thrive with it.”
The film focuses on the relationship of two young people with Down syndrome.
“I would like people to watch this and learn how to support their children with the disabilities and see what they can achieve,” Carter said.
Gary Chason was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his more than 50 years in the film industry. Gary has worked as an actor, director, dialect coach, writer and casting director with such greats as Robert Altman, Jeff Bridges, Ann Margaret, Brooke Shields, Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman, to name a few.
When asked how he felt about winning the award, the hysterically funny Chason said, “deep down in my heart of hearts ... I know I really deserve it!”
That got a great laugh from the crowd, which included Seabrook Mayor Glenn Royal; Rick Boyd, head of the Houston Community College Film School; Kelly Williams, owner of the Miss Kemah USA pageant, and her husband, Paul Wiliams; Lisa Ludwig; and Mike Harden.
Committee members and volunteers included Liz Chapman, Van Shotwell, Peggy “Domino” Taylor, Hector Luna, Karen Wixon, Rebecca Collins, J. Kargue, Thomas Dorsch, Mickey Matthews and Shaun Pettit, among many others.