Curated by the staff of Omaha-based fashion boutique Hello Holiday.
For our eighth annual celebration of regional talent, our jurors sorted through more than 66 submissions (a new record) from Nebraska and Iowa, landing at a program of 12 shorts. Selections include an animated animal adventure; arty experimental shorts; a wealth of clever comedies; a futuristic sci-fi noir; a glam-trash music video; and documentaries on education, an Offutt Aviator in transition, and Nebraska history. Plus, for the second year in a year, space was reserved for a Student Spotlight for some of the region’s youngest filmmakers.
Jen, June, and a Fish Named Lou
Dir. Kristin Beal / Omaha NE / 11 min
Statement: Jen, June, and a Fish Named Lou is a dramedy that explores the unique bond between sisters, when love and hate are sometimes the same thing. I’m usually drawn to themes of identity, and like to write characters who are indecisive about their paths in life. I believe films have a responsibility to bring even just a pinch more goodness and brightness into the world, and I hope to contribute to that belief going forward in my career.
Bio: Kristin graduated with her Masters Degree in Directing from Columbia College Chicago this past May. Previously, she graduated from UNO’s College of Business with a degree in Marketing. She has a handful of short films that she wrote and directed under her belt, and is currently focusing on writing and developing independent projects here in Omaha.
Dir. Hannah Stephens / Bennington NE / 2 min
Statement: As my second year film, Familiar was a project that pushed my skills as a learning animator and allowed me to experiment with the very basics of the craft. Using the fairly new animation program, TV Paint, I managed to blend the techniques and aesthetics of both traditional and digital art with a charming little fox and her witchy master serving as perfect muses.
Bio: Hannah Stephens is a student at the School of Visual Arts in NYC currently entering her third year as an animation major. Her strongest inspiration resides in the roots lain in Nebraska with her family and in their chocolate shop, The Cordial Cherry. Her love to storybook fables, tales of mischief, and dark whimsy is evident in her work with every fox’s paw and goblin’s tooth.
Dir. Elias Ginsberg / Omaha NE / 4 min
Statement: The films shows how a young boy copes with the idea of cancer by imagining that the fight against the sickness takes place in a boxing ring. It is a film of tragedy, hope, love, and a formalistic take on a very real experience. STAGE IV shows how cancer and other illnesses affect everyone of all shapes and sizes.
Bio: Elias Ginsberg is a student filmmaker from Omaha, Neb. currently studying film at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Growing up in the Midwest has shaped not only who he is as a person, but as a filmmaker as well. He hopes to tell true, human stories that impact people around the world.
Seeds of Hope
Dir. Sally Nellson Barrett for Nebraska Loves Public Schools / Papillion NE / 35 min
Statement: Seeds of Hope explores how schools welcome and educate immigrant and refugee families as they start their lives over in America. Follow Nebraska’s newcomer students: the inconceivable trauma and tribulations of their past, the perseverance to succeed in the present, and their hopes for a brighter future through quality education.
Bio: Sally Nellson Barrett is Executive Producer for the Nebraska Loves Public Schools project. Since 2011, she has interviewed more than 500 people and directed more than 70 films to raise awareness about the high-quality public education available in Nebraska. She is passionate about telling stories that illuminate and encourage change in thought and behavior, in particular, those stories that help educate citizens about issues that they may have never considered or faced like the experiences of those living in poverty, of refugees, of immigrants. Prior to becoming a documentary filmmaker, Sally ran a successful consulting business as a Creative Director working with some of the largest banks and investment managers in the country.
Dir. Derek Davidson for Rad Radish / Omaha NE / 2 min
Statement: GPS confronts the toxic relationship we all have with our phones.
Bio: Derek graduated from UNL with a degree in film. He spends most of his time freelancing as production assistant and being the funniest person ever, but I guess you kind of had to be there…
Dir. Sarah Hoffman / Omaha NE / 6 min
Statement: In June 2016 a new Department of Defense policy was finalized that allowed transgender service members to serve openly. After the ban was lifted, Staff Sgt. Ashleigh Buch, an instructor with the 338th Combat Training Squadron, became first airman at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to transition under the new policy.
Bio: Sarah Hoffman has been a Staff Photographer at the Omaha World-Herald since 2014. Previously, she was a year-long photo intern at The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from the University of Missouri where she majored in photojournalism and minored in political science. Her work has been recognized by the Edward R. Murrow Awards, NPPA Best of Photojournalism Awards, Hearst Journalism Awards, and College Photographer of the Year awards.
Nebraska Stories: Dewitty Settlement
Kay Hall, Kelly Rush, Justin Cheney for NET / Lincoln NE / 9 min
Statement: DeWitty was the longest lasting, most successful black settlement in Nebraska. In April 2016, the black descendants of DeWitty and the white descendants of Brownlee gathered to celebrate their shared history when the new state historical marker commemorating the settlement was dedicated. “The DeWitty Settlement” story was produced for the popular NET television series “Nebraska Stories” which explores who we are as Nebraskans and features topics on art, nature, food, science and history.
Bio: Nebraska Stories Series Producer Kay Hall is a multi-Emmy Award-winning producer whose body of work encompasses stories of the Northern Great Plains. In her years at NET, Hall’s produced and directed a variety of content for television and the web including; documentaries, studio programs, and story segments. Producer Kelly Rush has been part of NET Television for over 32 years. She has been recognized locally and nationally for her promotional work and honored at several film festivals for her short films. She produced the NET documentary “Emery Blagdon & His Healing Machine” about a self-taught artist from Nebraska. Videographer and Editor Justin Cheney has been with NET for two years shooting, editing and producing segments for the Nebraska Stories Series in addition to other documentaries, including “After Ebola: Nebraska and the Next Pandemic.” Before NET, he was an AP award-winning videographer for the NBC affiliate in Omaha.
The Adventures of Tina
FilmScene Youth Animation Camp / Iowa City IA / 8 min
Student Spotlight Selection!
Statement: The animation camp at FilmScene is designed to be a hands-on experience with stop-motion and collaboration among peers, with the goal of community outreach towards elementary and junior high students. Emphasis is placed on 100% student-made work. Teachers demonstrate skills and provide assistance, but the sets, characters, and stories are created entirely by the campers. Campers spend half the week creating short animations with different media and techniques, as well as learning group improv storytelling practices. The second half of the week is spent working as a team to create a story that works for the whole group. The week culminates with a community showing of the final movie in Filmscene’s main theater, as well as continuing to showcase it throughout the year. Throughout the summer, 86 students from grades 3 to 8 participated in the Youth Animation Camp. THE ADVENTURES OF TINA is the debut film for the group, composed of Iowa Cityarea filmmakers ages 11 to 13.
Dir. Lee Murray / Omaha NE / 12 min
Statement: The world is the totality of the conditions of the possibility of experience. What is and what can be known are the same. Actions that expand or limit the possibilities of experience build the world. Only the act of building is real. The world is an anthology of stories told, retold, revised, redacted, restored, deleted and reinvented forever in sound, gesture and touch. A story gathers excerpts from the world’s anthology by resemblance and implication. Persistence transforms it into sign, symbol, ritual and myth.
Bio: Lee Murray has been a writer and director of experimental fiction produced in video, film, and animation since the ancient days of 16mm and ¾ inch video. He teaches animation and media arts at Metropolitan Community College in Elkhorn, Nebraska.
Dir. Daniel Grzeskowiak / Council Bluffs IA / 25 min
Statement: Films have always pulled me into their worlds. It’s because of this that, I find myself trapped in trying to make more of them to be dragged into. It’s the creativity, imagination, and challenge that I can’t help wanting to be a part of. It’s what makes me me, and I would not exist without it.
Bio: Daniel Grzeskowiak grew up as a farm boy in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He obtained a BA in Theatre Arts from the University of Wisconsin Parkside. Attending stage and film stunt workshops, Daniel moved to Los Angeles to pursue film, acting, and stunts. He worked on several productions and then co-wrote and produced the feature film “Misfit Heights”, a puppet zombie musical. He decided to move back to his wife’s home town Council Bluffs, Iowa where he started to blow glass at the Hot Shops Art Center. Years later, he is still blowing glass and is currently producing his own web series “Space Ale” while working as a photographer for KETV.
Conny Franko, “Love Your Life”
Dir. Harrison Martin / Omaha NE / 2 min
Statement: “Love your life…. a song for the people getting shit on and hit by trucks while commuting. This song is also for the people countlessly being shitted on by friends, family, and foes. At the end of the day, find a second to smile because you’re not done yet, you’re not dead yet.” — Conny Franko
Bio: Harrison Martin was born in Omaha in 1992. He studied cinematography and directing at Columbia College Chicago, and graduated with a BA in Film & Video in 2014. He continues to work on photography and film projects. He has directed music videos for The Faint, M34N STR33TS, Capgun Coup, Plack Blague, and UUVVWWZ.
Jennifer Gerber and Samuel Brett Williams / Omaha NE / 8 min
Statement: A teenager finds out she is pregnant on the day she is to portray the Virgin Mary in her church Nativity play.
Bio Director/Co-Writer: Jennifer Gerber Jen Gerber holds a MFA in writing and directing from Columbia University. As a 1st assistant director, Jen worked with James Franco on The Sound and the Fury and Black Dog Red Dog starring Whoopi Goldberg, Olivia Wilde and Chloe Sevigny. She currently teaches at the University of Central Arkansas and serves as a creative mentor for the Sundance Native Lab. Jen recently completed her debut feature film shot entirely in Arkansas. Jen’s short films have played in major festivals worldwide such as Outfest LA, Palm Springs Short Film Festival, Champs-Elysees Film Festival, VGIK Moscow, Boston International Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, New Filmmakers Los Angeles, Tropfest NY and Tropscore Australia, Love Your Shorts, DGA-LA, Women in the Director’s Chair. Her directing awards include Regional Finalist for Student Academy Awards, Princess Grace Award, Arkansas Arts Council Screenwriting Fellowship, Arkansas Shorts 2017 “Best Film Award”, 2 Telly awards, VGIK Best Student Program Award, Tropfest NY 2013 Finalist as well as receiving the “Indie Soul” award at the Boston International Film Festival. Her script Pretty Near Perfect was selected for the Blue List as one of the top alumni scripts from Columbia University and is slated for production in in Arkansas.
Bio Co-Writer: Samuel Brett Williams Samuel Brett Williams is an award winning playwright, screenwriter, and director. His plays have been developed/produced at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Cherry Lane Theatre, Ars Nova, New York Theatre Workshop, Naked Angels, Partial Comfort, the Lark, the Kennedy Center, Yale University, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Boise Contemporary Theater, WordBRIDGE, Arkansas Rep, the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, 59E59, Elephant Theatre Company, Project Y Theatre Company, the Joseph Beuys Theater (Moscow, Russia), the Gilded Balloon (Edinburgh, Scotland), and other theaters across the United States and Canada. Brett has received residencies/commissions from P73, the National Theater Institute, the National New Play Network, Theatre Squared, and Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey. He is a past winner of the Helen Merrill Emerging Playwright Award (other winners include: Sarah Ruhl, Adam Rapp, and Annie Baker). For television, Brett has developed an original pilot (with Ryan O’Nan) for 26 Keys Productions (Fargo), and he has worked on various shows for Hot Snakes Media. In film, Brett has written screenplays for Aeroplano, Naked Faith Entertainment, and Character Brigade Productions. Recently, Brett adapted his play, The Revival, into a feature film, which will premiere at Outfest in Los Angeles this summer and New York City in the fall. Brett’s original screenplay PRETTY NEAR PERFECT (co-written with Jennifer Gerber) is currently in pre-production with Margo Martindale (three time Emmy winner; The Americans) and Elena Kampouris (My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2) attached to star.