Indie film festival bringing ‘spark of imagination’ to Washington

April 7, 2014
Joshua Hausman, left, won Best in Comedy for “Twinkie Task Force” at the 2013 Washington Film Festival. With Hausman are Fred Fleet of Highland-Ridge Community Development Corp., center, and co-chairman Pete Stefansky, manager of the Downtown Business District Authority. - Photo provided by Fred Fleet

The red carpet will be rolled out for numerous local independent filmmakers during this weekend’s third annual Washington Film Festival.

The Saturday afternoon film festival inside the George Washington Hotel is being organized by the Highland-Ridge Community Development Corp. to showcase 40 films – ranging from many that are just a few minutes long to a pair of full-length features. The offerings include documentaries, dramas and comedies.

Bill Cameron, professor of communication art at Washington & Jefferson College, is judging six entries in the festival and was impressed with the “spark of imagination and clever ideas at work” with each project he’s viewed.

“They’re obviously on a low budget, but you’re really drawn into the stories and what they’re doing,” Cameron said.

He especially enjoyed the two documentaries he judged and their diverse topics. One chronicled the history of the LeMoyne Center in Washington and the group’s mission, while the other examined renewable energy sources being utilized in Germany and how they could be brought to the United States.

“It’s really inspiring. I’ve seen a lot of short films, and I was pretty impressed with what I saw thus far,” he said. “I thought (the documentaries) were especially accomplished the way they were put together. A good documentary is tough to make.”

Attracting local filmmakers who bring a variety of films was key for the Highland-Ridge group that organized the show. Fred Fleet, the organization’s president, said they partnered with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers school to bring a young and fresh approach to the festival.

“This should be the largest presentation we’ve had in three years,” Fleet said. “We’re really happy with this.”

The film festival is free to the public and will last from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Fleet said the first two hours of the festival will be devoted to family friendly films, with the final four hours geared toward a mature audience.

The longest film, “The Art of Life” by Kyle Holerook, follows the lives of two wayward people who have no apparent direction. The 90-minute film tells their story as they negotiate their dismal situations and try to leave behind their lives of misery and suffering.

“You’ll see films you’ve never seen before,” Fleet said.

Cash prizes and other awards will be given to the filmmakers in various categories, Fleet said.

Light refreshments and snacks will be available for those attending the festival.

More information on the Washington Film Festival can be found on the organization’s website at

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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