Published on March 6th, 2014 | by Jeffrey Russel



Two more winning festivals. 

My daughter Hayley and I are back in Toronto after a wonderful week in the U.S.A. where we attended two festivals.

In Richmond, VA. we saw magnificent scenery, met charming people, stayed in the historic Jefferson Hotel and watched oodles of films. At our first opportunity, we met with Heather Waters, the festival director, who was and is amazing. It was a real treat for me to put a face on the name I have become so familiar with over the last year. True to form, Heather made sure that all of her guests visiting Richmond for the first time were looked after with Southern Hospitality. Heather hosted most of the week’s events personally and she showcased the festival, the city and its own robust writers’ community.

Hayley and I spent the first 2 days watching short films at the famous Byrd Theater in Richmond’s Carytown district where the crowd was entertained by Bob Gulledge who played the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. There aren’t many venues like that around any more. One evening, I attended a terrific discussion group that had 2 time Academy Award winner, Ron Judkins, on the panel. The panalists’ insight and candor were helpful and refreshing.

On Friday evening we flew to New York!

I’ve never experienced a more wonderful flight into LaGuardia Airport. It was approximately 7:30 in the evening and the sun had just set when Manhattan came into view. As we began our final approach, the pilot brought us so close to the Freedom Tower that it felt as though we could reach out and touch the glowing white ball on top of its mast as we passed over it. A moment later, the Empire State Building appeared followed closely by the brilliantly illuminated Chrysler Building. The captain began a gentle turn over Central Park and looking down, we swore that we just had to go there.

The electricity of New York energized us as soon as our feet hit the ground. We checked into our magnificent room, decided that we needed to eat steak and so hit the streets ready for a treat. We were not disappointed.

Thanks to our server, Jeff, at the Morton’s Steakhouse at 551 Fifth Ave., Hayley and I had the meal we were both hoping for. Sometimes you just have to eat meat.

My niece, Elana, a transplanted LA’er is now a lucky resident of New York City and we were fortunate to have her join us for a decadent dessert. Later, we took a delightful, but chilly walk back to our hotel along Fifth Avenue.

The “2014 Winter Film Awards” celebration was held on Saturday night in the Empire Room at 230 Fifth, a night club with one of the largest rooftop patios in the city. The event was attended by hundreds of film buffs, media personnel, nominees and their guests. Adam Bradley and Amelia Mathews, friends I met in Vancouver at the Canada International Film Festival, were able to attend to bolster our moral support.

The ceremony was peppered with spectacle as Djs, rappers and splendidly dressed dancers took to the stage between the MC’s announcements of award winners.

It may seem a bit anticlimactic after this tremendous buildup, but the best screenplay awards were next to last to be announced. “And the winner is…”

I have to admit that when GRACE was announced as the Best Screenplay, it was thrilling to be swarmed by camera wielding media types and fans alike. I ran out of Shared Imagination business cards in minutes.

Lynda and I now have a beautiful piece of crystal from The Winter Film Awards to add to our collection. We send our thanks to Steffani and to all of her volunteers for your hard work and dedication in organizing this terrific festival.

New York – Magnificent, glorious, splendiferous and I love it!

On the journey home, Hayley and I chose a route through the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania. We were surrounded by the naked Carolinian forest which, from the crest of some hills, stretched out beyond the horizon lit by the late winter sun which cast long shadows over the snowy ground allowing vistas that are only available during the depths of winter. It was an exquisite sight.

We stopped to have lunch in a small, one-industry town situated in a deep valley. We chose a small chain restaurant and hunkered down for a bite. Inside, I found it impossible to keep my eyes off the other patrons. I wondered aloud about the people who live there, how they are affected by the realities of life in a company town many miles from any major shopping or entertainment venues. Does tradition play any kind of role in the choices the townsfolk make as they grow up? Do they even see other opportunities outside of the community or is everything about the company and family or both?

There are stories in the hills of Pennsylvania…I think I have to return to the mountains.


Adam and Amelia have their own production company. Please click on the link

Festivals, Festivals, Festivals


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