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Monday, March 11, 2013

'Sparks' Fly at Annual Omaha Film Festival

W. Somerset Maugham once wrote: "Good characters are so actual, so individual, so human that it is impossible not to feel that if one of them were pricked, real warm blood would flow." In film, who is responsible for this outcome the actor, director or screenwriter? Recently my husband and I attended the 8th Annual Omaha Film Festival to find out. At the film festival, we viewed the Omaha premiere of "Sparks."

Tickets for the Omaha premiere.
"Sparks" is based on a graphic novel (comic-strip) series, which has been adapted for the big screen by the co-creator and director, Christopher Folino. Earlier in the day on March 9 both my cousin and I attended a graphic novel signing at Krypton Comics, where we met Folino as well as co-creator and actor William Katt. Folino told us about the premiere, which happened to coincide with the Omaha Film Festival.

Both my husband (Brian) and I grew up reading comic books and like many are gaga over the recent Avenger series being brought to life on the big screen. With that said this movie was definitely up our alley. The cost was $8 a piece to attend the premiere only. A description from the film's website said: "A superhero noir thriller about a masked vigilante Ian Sparks who discovers the dark side to heroism. Going after the nation's most notorious super criminal leaves Sparks' life and reputation in ruins." Before the movie rolled Folino said: "We love it enough for you!"

"Sparks" had a "Sin City" feel with less than PG-13 sex appeal. Folino mentioned "Casablanca" is a favorite of his. I could see glimpses of Casablanca scattered throughout the film; especially, when it came to kissing scenes. However, it is based off a graphic novel, so there are some "Silence of Lambs" moments. I say moments, because they cut away and don't show the actual heinous acts; however, that leaves the viewer to speculate. This film is also for the ladies; since, there's a love triangle that plays throughout the film. For an independent film with a shoe string budget they managed to pull together a familiar cast (Clancy Brown, Jake Busey, Katt, Clint Howard). However, there were moments where it was campy -- I'll let you decide where. I truly appreciated Ashley Bell's portrayal of Lady Heavenly. Seeing a strong -- in every sense of the word -- woman on the screen was refreshing. It is overall entertaining! Chase Williamson delivers a believable role as Ian Sparks. Movie goers get a front and center seat to see how an up-and-coming superhero finds his tortured self and true love at the same time.

Seated with Dr. San Guinary.
For Brian and I what really brought the film to life was the Q&A session held directly after the premiere. A mainstay at most film festivals. Established in 2005, the Omaha Film Festival gives independent film artists a platform for sharing their work and creating a dialogue with the community. We got to hear from Folino and Katt first hand. According to Folino, they shot the movie in 12 days and mostly at night. Only two film editors were on staff to cut the film, too. It doesn't get any more independent than that. There were a bevy of questions asked by the movie goers. Time and time again, Folino reminded those in attendance -- it was not easy. "We almost went broke a couple times!" I asked Folino: "How he came to be a screenwriter/director?" He credited his Dungeon and Dragon days for his creative side. He also enthusiastically told us his journey from working at a public television station, a Home Depot video taping wood and stint video taping gamers' play video games.

At the premiere we also sat with Dr. San Guinary, Omaha's original and favorite horror host since 1971. He reported that the Superhero Blood Drive in Omaha was well attended. Krypton Comics and Dr. San Guinary teamed up for a mobile American Red Cross Blood Drive during the graphic novel signing. They told donors: "You can meet the Greatest American Hero (William Katt) and BE a great American hero at the same time!"

In short, for this film it is a marriage of all three (actor, director and screenwriter) which successfully makes each character come to life on the big screen. That question would not have been answered if we did not witness it firsthand through the eyes of the director (Folino) and actor (Katt) at a film festival. So, remember you don't have to travel to Sundance or Cannes to see independent films, attend a film festival in your own backyard. We plan to attend Omaha's Film Festival again next year!

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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