By Jim Macak
In 2016, newly married alumni Griffin and Alyssa (Radmand) Devine (’10) were attending yet another short film festival with yet another film short they wrote, directed, and produced.
“We went to a number of great festivals where our films were screened, but this one proved to be disappointing,” Griffin said.
The screenings were poorly attended, he said. There wasn’t much opportunity to network with other filmmakers. And there weren’t any meet-and-greets with managers, agents, or industry executives who might actually help advance their careers.
The festival proved to be a catalyst. Flash forward four years later and Griffin and Alyssa have launched the Picture’s Up! Film Festival, which debuts the first weekend in April in West Hollywood.
“After playing the festival circuit for years, we decided to create the festival that we always wanted to go to,” he said.
Picture’s Up! will be held April 3-5, and feature screenings, Q&As, networking events and parties at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre’s new 100-seat screening room at the Lee Strasberg Creative Center. Awards will be given to shorts (under 35 minutes) in the following genres: comedy, drama, scifi/horror, and animation. There’s also a category for filmed TV pilots, which need to be under an hour.
All five winners will be up for the Best of the Fest Award, which comes with a $500 prize. There’s a category for student film shorts too, with a discounted submission fee and separate award.
There will be awards for best director, screenplay, actor, actress, and cinematographer, with winners receiving one-on-one consultations with industry professionals.
Screenings at the festival are free to attend.
The festival boasts some judges of note: Film/TV actor Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Men in Black, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) will serve as this year’s celebrity guest judge. D’Onofrio will review many of the films in competition, hold a Q&A, and present the Grand Prize on closing night.
Other judges and guests who’ve been invited specifically to meet with the filmmakers include executives from Echo Lake Entertainment, Hulu, Amazon, and Universal Studios.
“Our goal is to get filmmakers’ work in front of industry people who can actually help push their careers forward,” Griffin said.
Emersonians Amanda Richard ’11, director of talent and casting at Sony Pictures Television, and film and TV writer Jordan VanDina ’10 are also helping out.
VanDina’s comedy feature The Binge is set for release on Hulu this summer. He’s also a staff writer on Animaniacs, Steven Spielberg’s updated version of the 1990s animated series that’s expected to air on Hulu this fall.
VanDina said when Griffin and Alyssa explained what they hoped to accomplish with the festival, he readily signed on as one of the judges.
“I thought it would be a great chance to give up-and-coming writers and directors a shot at getting seen … I know how important that was when I first moved to Los Angeles,” he said.
Griffin Devine and Alyssa Radmand met as high school seniors when they both toured Emerson over 15 years ago, so they already knew each other when returned to Boston in 2006 and started classes at Emerson.
After graduating, they moved to LA, where Alyssa worked in development at Double Feature Films. Griffin took a position with a data company that tracked TV and film credits, along with studio production slates. In 2016, the couple married and left their jobs to freelance for a number of producers.
“We wanted more time to pursue our own creative sides,” Griffin said.
The pair produced a number of features, including Portals, a genre-bending anthology feature that had a 10-city theatrical run in 2019, and a comedy and another horror film, which are now streaming on Amazon Prime and iTunes.
This year, they have scaled back on producing and are focusing on writing features and TV pilots. They’ve landed representation with Echo Lake Entertainment, and they’ve been pitching to a number of production companies, networks, and studios, including Blumhouse, AMC, Apple, and Amazon.
And they’re organizing their first film festival. With their 10 years of entertainment industry experience, Griffin said, “we’re drawing on a lot of people that could help young filmmakers.”
While their idea of producing a film festival initially took root in 2016, their ambition became much more feasible a year later. That’s when Griffin and Alyssa produced and directed a theatre production of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s A Behanding in Spokane at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre in West Hollywood.
Griffin said that the theatre just opened a film screening room, and the theatre staff were interested in promoting this new venue and putting it to good use. Over the next year, he and Alyssa were able to work out an agreement with the theatre to cosponsor the festival by providing the screening space and other rooms at no cost.
“We now had the infrastructure in place to put on an event like this,” he said. And they’re using the contest submission fees to hire support staff for the actual festival.
Griffin said they’re already thinking about building on the Picture’s Up! premiere weekend, perhaps by starting a screenwriting competition in a year or two, and by screening features in addition to shorts and TV pilots.
All that, of course, depends on whether the first festival proves to be a success. Griffin is pretty confident it will be.
“When you do something like this, you’re scared, wondering if the films you’re screening will be any good. But we’ve seen a lot of good stuff already…”
There’s a lot of talent out there, he said, and he and Alyssa are excited to help out the next wave of filmmakers.
The submission deadline for the Picture’s Up! Film Festival is March 1; the fee is $35, or $30 for students. But all Emerson alumni and students can receive a 30 percent discount by using the discount code MACAK30 (seriously).
Jim Macak is an affiliated faculty member in Emerson’s Visual and Media Arts Department.