The 2019 Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival
I had no idea what to expect as the director of a film chosen to screen at a film festival. I really had no idea what to expect of anything as director of a film. Murder Creek is my first film so every step along the way on this journey has been a surprise.
In fact, calling Murder Creek “my” film seems horribly wrong every time I say or speak it. I wrote the thing, and I directed it, but so many beautiful people put their time and talent into the making of this film. Keep reading for more on them!
I was nervous all day as we waited for showtime to roll around on opening night. Throughout the day, Greg Lamberson, festival co-founder, was posting updates on the ticket situation for our local shorts block, and as we moved progressively closer to being sold out, my nerves started getting awfully rowdy.
By 6:00, sale of tickets for our block was stopped to ensure the theater wasn't oversold and it was called an effective sell out.
By 7:30, it was announced that, due to so much interest in the film, they would hold an encore showing of Murder Creek before the final feature of the festival.
By 8:30, every seat was sold and it was a genuine sell out.
By 9:00, people were being turned (regretfully) away at the door.
This was it. It was real. We made a movie and people were actually coming to see it. They were spending their money to come see it. They were spending their money to come see it at 9:15PM on a school night!
Yep. Oh boy.
By showtime, my nerves had become full-blown anxiety and my armpits were starting to sweat. Yay, anxiety!
But then I received a much-welcomed and adorable distraction when two (very tall) young men approached me and excitedly asked for my autograph.
They explained they were from Rochester but had run cross-country tournaments along Murder Creek when they were in school and had been following the progress of the film on Facebook from our start, and how they were so excited to see the film. And you could see the excitement in them. They were genuinely giddy. I could have cried. Having been on the other side of the fangirl thing for so many years, experiencing it from this perspective was really special. Thanks so much, you two!
Once I was inside the packed theater, I couldn't decide if I wanted to stand or sit as the first film started, so I sat AND stood over and over again and probably drove the people around me nuts.
We were the fourth in the lineup up of nine short films in the block. Nine of the best short films in Western New York. Nine of the BEST. US.
I have absolutely no perspective on the film after editing it for so many months. I suspected we had something special but I honestly couldn't tell anymore. Of course, the first three films were really good and I started to feel intimidated. My blood pressure dropped and I was seeing those damn twinkly stars in my eyes. Will she pass out or will she not? Stay tuned!
My legs went numb next which made standing an interesting thing to do but I kept doing it anyway. My fingertips were tingling. The sweat that had started in my armpits was now pretty much everywhere only it had turned cold suddenly and so I started shivering. What an absolute mess.
As the third film ended, my rubber legs got me to the back of the theater to stand with Ty. I stood between him and the back wall figuring that if I passed out one of them would catch me before I smacked the ground.
Then Murder Creek started, and something incredible happened. It dawned on me that this thing I'd spent so many months nurturing, over a year really, had found life outside my computer screen. Our film was up on the big screen. A genuine big screen in a real movie theater, and every seat in the house was taken. Holy shit!
The 17 minutes that is Murder Creek passed quickly and, as the end credits started rolling on our film and I heard the applause and cheers, my anxiety vanished. The twinkly stars went away. The feeling returned to my legs and fingertips and I no longer felt like I needed Ty and/or the wall to stay upright.
It goes without saying but I'm saying it anyway, thank you so, so much to everybody who came out for the premiere and/or came to see the encore showing. Frankly put, you showing up for us was validation of our hard work and it means everything.
The films in our block were incredible. Kudos to the filmmakers behind 500+ Ride of Lifetime, Eyes Like Mine, I Saw Red, Mindflip, Last Trip, Re-Rehab, Cravings, and Malign. It was an honor to be among you.
One of the most special moments to come out of the night was when it was pointed out to me that I was the only female director in our block of short films, and how strong an impact that had on one of the young girls in our cast, and also my own nieces. How cool is that?
Okay, now, I realize this isn’t the Academy Awards, but bear with me as I run through some thank yous here…
Anita Harmon, you kept me sane each and every time the stress started getting to me. You even shifted my car into “park” for me once when the exhaustion and cold meds combined to make me a driving dummy and I tried to turn my car off while it was still in “drive”. I couldn’t have asked for a better AD and co-producer. I hope you'll come back for the next one!
Sherry McCutcheon, who knew ours would turn into such an incredible friendship. From accidentally stalking Alan Rickman on the streets of NYC to making a film together. Your crafty services are unparalleled. Here’s to many more projects together!
Ty Cheman, your cinematography is why Murder Creek looks so beautiful on screen. How you managed to translate my stick figure storyboard into exactly what my mind was seeing for every single scene, I’ll never know. You’ve got an incredible eye for shots and can’t wait to collaborate with you again. Thank you.
Adam Bloch, thank you for your infinite patience with us, particularly on that first day when I didn’t even know what “room tone” meant when you asked if you could grab some. As it turns out, that's pretty important. Heh. Thank you so much.
Heather Adamczak, thank you for taking time out of your horrendously busy schedule (how do you do it??) to be at our beck and call throughout filming. Everyone’s hair and makeup looks incredible on screen. As anyone who has seen the state of my hair on any given day can attest, I should never, ever be in charge of anything hair-related, except for finding the right person to do it for us. You were that person. I'm so grateful to you!
Laura Taylor, the one thing I know less about than hair is fashion. You worked your ass off as our Costume Designer and handled my pain in the ass nitpicking beautifully. You ran around making last minute wardrobe changes and fittings and purchases throughout the entire four days of shooting, and your hard work shows on screen. The flashback scenes in particular are so beautiful. I'm so grateful!
Molly Farber! What can I say? No, really. What can I say? I had no idea what talent and humor we were getting when you agreed to be our script supervisor. It felt like I've known you my whole life after our very first meeting and that's something pretty special. Thank you for your notes and typing them up for me!
David Caya, thank you for manning b camera on day one. I wish you would have been able to finish the filming out, but I’m grateful for the hard work you put in for us!
Alexis Abramo, thank you for stepping up to run b camera when Dave had to leave us, and for running lights simultaneously. You really helped us out in a pinch and I'm grateful!
To our cast: Rachael Klein, Kevin Gay, Gary Sundown, DonnaMarie Vaughn, Josh Dolph, Ted Winkle, Dorothy Gerhart, Nancy Eckerson, Mira Steuer, Ava Zellner, River Rowsell, Tedee Jonathan, Davida Tolbert, Maya Griffin. Thank you for showing up and lending your talents to this film. I couldn't have asked for a better, more talented cast for my first film. You brought this story from my brain to life so beautifully, and I'm so glad it found life on the big screen. Special thanks to Kristine Zellner and Ryan Rowsell, Ava’s and Ryan’s moms, who drove their daughters around from Akron to Orchard Park and back, and waited with them throughout shooting.
To our production assistants: Simon Sage, Sebastian Kumro, Blake Kumro, Peyton Palizay, and Katy Geiger. Your roles were more important than you might realize and your efforts did not go unnoticed. You all have wonderful futures ahead of you as filmmakers. I look forward to seeing what you guys do next!
To our extras: Molly Ohar, Brooke Ohar, Katie Mitten, Alexis Mitten, Paige Weisenheimer, Frank Pieber, Denise Reeb, Karlie Reeb, Taylor Salisbury, James Dolph, Mary Scarpello, Ashley Szczerbacki (who has since appeared in an HBO show with Sarah Jessica Parker!), Debra Hilton, Christopher Fortin, Laura Taylor, Christopher Taylor, The Kumro Family (Darren, Fallon, Blake, Teagan, Willow, and Zane), Jill Mack, Tiffany Greiner, Abby Masternak, Myra Hegmann, Richard Hegmann, Theresa Asmus Roth, Maddison Kelly, Robin Toepher, Bill Smith. The park scenes, Candy Apple scene, and book signing scene would have been incredibly boring and senseless if you guys hadn't shown up for us. Not only did you show up, but you did an incredible job. I've received many compliments on how great the background looks in these scenes and that's all you guys. Thank you!
To our security team: Roger Skeet, Doug Skeet, Jim Cius, Tim Walker. You guys have protected me my whole life so it was no surprise you agreed to step up and protect us all and our trail during shooting. Thank you so much!
Mark Buell at Nickel City Arts, thank you for allowing us to shoot at your venue. It was absolutely perfect for what we needed. You’ve been so supportive from the first day we announced production. I’m thankful to have you as a friend.
Cheryl Johannes at Candy Apple Cafe, a movie set in Akron wouldn’t be complete without a scene in our very own Candy Apple Cafe. Your staff was so sweet and accommodating to us and provided us with everything we needed. Thank you so much!
To our fundraising contributors, without your generous support this film would not have happened. Thank you sincerely to: Debbie Skeet, Roger Skeet, Barron & Associates, P.C., Richard Hegmann, Akron Chamber of Commerce, Tracy Lendyok, Nancy O’Hara, James Pixley, Stephanie Masternak, Tom Vohwinkle, Mandy Denaux, Joshua Kohl Hegmann, Connie Hill, Sandra McHale, Cathy Colicchia, Anne Genovese, Lisa Hite, Fiona Hutchings, Ryan Rowsell, Sarah Klehn Harvey, Lorrie Lucht, Betty Earhardt, Todd Miller, Katie Zaharkin, James Klein, Greg Bell, Raymond Harvey, Corine Hull, Katrina Bernard, Joe Bernard, Joe Bernard, Darlene Russell, Doug Skeet, Mary Jo Skeet, Donnette Cius, Jim Cius, Sheila Paolini, Hilary Elizabeth Black, Theresa Asmus Roth, Joni Caplan, Mara Edwards, Debra Schafer, Cindy Martinez, Brandon Davis, Lisa Davis.
To everybody who liked, commented on, and/or shared our social media posts. I tried to get to and comment on each one but I’m sure there were many that I missed. None of them went unnoticed and I thank you so much for your support.
Stephen Nichols, that Tucker McCall’s voice is one of our newscaster voiceovers in Murder Creek is something incredibly special and surreal to me. I wouldn’t know Sherry or Anita if it weren’t for you and so none of this would be happening. Thank you for lending us your voice and support without hesitation.
Tony Read, you created and offered me this incredible film score without me even asking for it, before I ever knew you were a musician, and you nailed it. The music sets the perfect mood for the film. How we met is a story in and of itself and just further solidifies for me that everything happens for a reason. Thank you so much for your friendship and music.
Neil Finn and Liam Finn, thank you for allowing us to use your beautiful song “Ghosts” in our film. It had to be this song. I had a very specific vibe in my mind for our last scene, and I had searched for months for the right song to help accomplish that. I was coming up empty time and again and becoming increasingly discouraged that my mental vibe would never make it to the screen. Then I heard “Ghosts” for the first time last summer. I knew straight away this was the song to close Murder Creek, and I’m so grateful to you both for letting me do that. Thank you.
To my family: They made sure their smiling mugs were the first ones I saw leaving the theatre and walking into the lobby after our block finished up. They were there, right where they always are, supporting me no matter what the thing is I’ve decided to do this time. Abby Masternak, Niece: Thank you for being the corpse hand on our poster (heh), and for coming out to the park with me whenever I needed help during pre-production. You helped me out SO much and I'll always be grateful! Emma Masternak, Niece also: Thank you for agreeing to be our poor, perished Sara on poster and smartphone in the film. It worked out perfectly and of course you’re beautiful so bonus points for us! Budd, thanks for accompanying Emma! I know you were exhausted and I really appreciate you being there. Steph, I hope you’ll someday forgive me for killing off both your children for the sake of art. Thank you for always being there for me. Mom and dad, you guys allowed my imagination to flourish from the moment I was old enough to crawl out of their arms and out into the world to explore. Because of that, because of you, I am able to create. I'm so grateful you are my parents.
And finally, Greg Lamberson, you made my first film festival experience as a filmmaker something truly special. I will never forget it. Not only did you and Chris put together an incredible line-up of films for all of us to enjoy, but your acknowledgement and support of Murder Creek meant the world to us. Being given the Filmmaker to Watch Award was incredibly awesome. Also, your questions and comments to the filmmakers during the Q&A sessions were so thoughtful. We’re never really sure when we start creating something if anybody will ever care or even know about it, so to be given the chance to stand up and talk about our work a little bit was really appreciated. Even if it does give some of us the anxiety sweats.