story by Danielle McBride | photos courtesy of David Merrill
Many filmmakers have entered their reels into competition, but only one will win the $10,000 Memphis Film Prize this weekend at Malco’s Studio on the Square. The competition began with online judging of more than 78 short films. Ten films were selected as finalists, and this weekend, these 10 will be screened and voted on by audience members in real time. The winning filmmaker will be granted the cash prize.
Friends David Merrill and Gregory Kallenberg’s, the Memphis Film Prize founders, host a similar event in Louisiana, and have worked with sponsors and professionals in the film industry to help bring exposure through this competition to filmmakers in the Memphis area. Anyone in the world can compete, but each entry must have had principle filming in Shelby County. Films must be between 5 and 15 minutes.
With its $10,000 cash prize, the Memphis Film Prize competition has grown substantially since its first event in 2016. The first year, 40 films competed in the online portion; last year there were 50. The audience has also grown from about 600 in 2016 to 1,400 last year. “I was hoping for a 10-20% increase (last year), but to see the audience double, it showed that people really wanted to see this,” Merrill said. He hopes that this event will not only bring together people in the film industry, but people all over Memphis. Merrill feels that films are a great way of telling people’s stories, and that the Memphis Film Prize allows people to share those stories with others.
The 2016 winning film was an LGBTQ family drama written by McGhee Monteith titled, ‘He Could’ve Gone Pro.’ The drama opens with a southern family’s contentious Christmas dinner where the mother and her adult daughter trade barbs over painful family memories. When it’s revealed that their gay son/brother had taken his own life, the heartbreaking admission from the mother is revealed. “He would have lost everything – scholarships, babies, a normal life. He could’ve gone pro! What was I supposed to do?” to which the daughter replied, “You were supposed to love him.”
While the first year’s winner was a drama, the Memphis Film Prize competitors range from light comedies to horrors to musicals. This year has some promising films, according to Merrill. He feels that every year the films get better and better but that this year, they are exceptional.
The winners are determined by a voting system with half of the votes coming from the audience members and the other half from the celebrity judges. The judges, or as Merrill calls them the “super jury,” are comprised of academy award winners, film journalists, producers, directors and more. This year will also include awards for best performance for actors/actresses.
Merrill encourages event goers to attend at least one filmmaker panels saying that they really showcase all the hard work put into these films and the passion each person has for their work.
Kyle Taubken is back for his second year of competition with his film ‘Soul Man.’ “I’m thrilled to be back for my second year at the MFP,” Taubken said. Last year was a truly memorable experience, and I knew I had to give it another shot! Having the opportunity to connect with other filmmakers, greet audiences after screenings, and sit in on panels with seasoned professionals provided me with a wealth of new knowledge and connections that are still reaping rewards today.”
Tickets to the event can be purchased online at memphisfilmprize.com/tickets/
For info on the organization, visit them at memphisfilmprize.com/contact/
THE 2019 MEMPHIS FILM PRIZE FINALISTS – in competition for our $10,000 Grand Prize!
Director: Kyle Taubken
Running Time: 12:56 min
A formerly successful soul artist struggles to find work while seeing some familiar faces.
INTERVIEW WITH A DEAD MAN
Director: Garrett Atkinson
Running Time: 11:33 min
A convicted murderer is interviewed one last time before his execution.
Director: Arnold Edwards II
Running Time: 13:57 min
Two suicidal people find company with one another.
Director: Jason S. Lockridge
Running Time: 14:58 min
Two men go on a drive during which one of them is dead set on completing a series of bizarre tasks.
A NIGHT OUT
Director: Kevin Brooks
Running Time: 12:30 min
A woman goes for a night out following a difficult breakup.
Director: Clint Till
Running Time: 7:35 min
The mediocre retirement home food is not satisfying for a very hungry Reverend.
Director: Will Robbins
Running Time: 9:25 min
In a world where the descendants of slave-owners have to pay more than money for reparations, a friendship is torn.
WITHOUT A ROOF
Director: Lauren Cox
Running Time: 6:48 min
A pregnant woman resorts to living on the streets in order to escape an abusive household.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Director: Noah Glenn
Running Time: 14:41 min
It becomes apparent that not all dead people are actually dead.
TRUTH LIES UPSTREAM
Director: Robb Rokk
Running Time: 15:00 min
Two men search for justice through a brutal interrogation.