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The Western Smartphone Film Festival (WSFF) had another successful festival on Saturday, Feb 2nd at the Western Film Theatre on the 2nd floor of University Community Centre on the Campus of Western University. The event was the showing of the top ten films of the 2019 festival. The theme was “Perception verse Reality” and the ten finalist filmmakers did not disappoint as there were five of the ten films that were contenders for the top prize.

Matthew Marshall, iFilmGroup co-founder was one of the WSFF judges of the event and he enjoyed the various entries and the creativity that went into the films by the various filmmakers. He was joined on the judging panel by Jordan Christopher Morris, an award-winning producer, and director of films like “Nintendo Quest” and multiple festival best documentary winner “Missing Mom”. He is the creator and host of Sighthound Studio. Jordon is also a committee member of the Forest City Film Festival.  The third judge on the WSFF panel was Allen Saulnier who is the award-winning author and director. He is the founder of E11even Entertainment Studios. He has been writing, directing and editing films since 1989.

All films entered into the festival had to be produced, directed and edited by students who are enrolled in a recognized Canadian post-secondary institution. All film submissions must be created during the period between theme release and film submission and must be filmed on a smartphone of any brand.

The Western Smartphone Film Festival is in its fourth year and is a student-run organization at Western that is focused on developing youth in the field of film and entertainment by means of an annual smartphone short film festival. With a focus on inclusivity and garnishing Canada's diverse and talented student population. The festival team uses a smartphone as a platform to allow a broad range of students to explore their creativity and further fuel their passion for the arts without the burden of expensive equipment. 

The top ten entries had a few familiar faces as part of the films. One of the stand out films “My Guardian Angel Only Wears Black” by Barry Tanner Bennett features lead actress Kelsea Crowe. Crowe is not directly connected with iFilmGroup but was part of the cast of Marshall’s award-winning 2014 feature film Daughter of the King. Crowe played the role Nadia.  Daughter of the King won 32 awards, had 16 Official Selections, 3 nominations, and 1 finalist award. Crowe’s performance in the film is quite moving as the wife in the film.

In the theme of Perception verse Reality, the story unfolds in a way that leaves it unclear till the end what has really gone on. Some very talented work went into the films editing that impressed Marshall very much.  Bennett has studied advance filmmaking at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario and was the Director of Photography on another of the top ten films “For the Absured” by Antonio Martinez. “For the Absorb” also included some familiar faces to Marshall and the iFilmGroup. Both Ryan Mason and Max Steinberg were in the film.  Ryan Mason played the abusive husband in “Blue Love” by Marshall and m & s Marshall Productions.  Max has had a number of appearance in various films associated with Marshall and iFilmgroup. He is also an active member of a number of iFilmgroup events and workshops.

Kydra Ryan who is a local London scriptwriter and was part of “Blue Love” in a small role as part of another top ten films “Antipsycho” by Liam Kuchta.  A couple of films included crew familiar to Marshall’s Production included Stephen LeGresley who was not only part of the crew in a couple films but also was part of the group of individuals who help organize WSFF. Brandon Heessels who has been a grip in some of Marshall’s Productions played the lead actor in two films which included “For the Absurd” and “Antipsycho”

The 2019 field had a lot of good films and some familiar faces were back with films that helped elevate the game and made for some tough competition for this year’s festival.

The director of last year’s second-place film at WSFF, Matthew Downs had a new entry for this year. His film “Fatal” created waves last year and was in consideration for best film in the festival before being edged out by “Man in A Box” which won the festival as well as the audience choice in the 2018 WSFF. This year Downs’ brought his newest film "LoVeliness” which feature Ciarra Thompson. Thompson was also the star of “Fatal” last year.  This year’s film brought an interesting take to the theme of perception verse reality. The film follows Thompson’s character after a recent break-up, @Abbaluvr58 (Thompson) has a new high-tech device installed in her eyes, which allows her to download an artificially intelligent new boyfriend (who just so happens to be a replica of her ex).

Since WSFF began, the Universe City Productions team has never failed to submit a film. Last year, their film, "Toronto", won 3rd place! This year’s entry kept up the tradition. With a few familiar faces from last year, the team brought a new and fresh entry to this year’s theme with “Our Father’s Sins” by Mis Afgan Talpur. It is a story of a young man whose father's company destroyed the environment. His guilt for his father's actions consumes him. We see how he perceives the world that his father ruined and how a girl enters his life and helps him see the reality of the situation.

Another outstanding entry to the festival came in a film from a group of Sheridan College students under the title of EMG Productions who came together to make a film called “Filtered” about two best friends walking home from a party only to be attacked by an unwanted follower. The entire film is told through the footage on a cell phone and when Marshall first saw the film he admits that he was not entirely in favour of it due to the film being presented in a vertical format verse tradition Horizontal. “The film broke the traditional rules of film, and as a filmmaker, it bothered me at first but then I started looking at it more closely. At its heart, the film embodied what the Western Smartphone Film Festival is all about. Because the films needed to be filmed on a smartphone this brilliant team thought outside the box and filmed their film in tradition smartphone format of perpendicular. The entire film is the viewer seeing the videos that are on the cell phone,” says Marshall.

And true to the theme of perception verse reality, what you see, to begin with, is not the full story. “We see footage that gives you one perception of these friends having fun together. But the truth is something different” says Marshall. As the film moves forward you start to see footage that starts to possibly explain why two friends have been attached. And as we move forward each one of the video clips that reveal the new information is deleted. In the end, through the telling of the story, a new story is revealed.

Cast and Crew of “Filtered” - winning First Place, standing with iFilmGroup co-founder Matthew Marshall at WSFF 2019, UWO

Cast and Crew of “Filtered” - winning First Place, standing with iFilmGroup co-founder Matthew Marshall at WSFF 2019, UWO

It was a story and style that spoke to all three of the judges for this year’s WSFF and it leads to “Filtered” being selected as the Best film overall at this year’s festival. The results were a surprise to the “Filtered” team as they felt they were up against a very tough field and they were happy to just be at the festival. The surprise of winning quickly lead to the happiness of the team. 

The film was produced by Scott Edward Morris and directed by Paula Ner Dormiendo. It features the cast of Taylor Jeanette Gaudon who played the role of Alanna and also has a connection to London Ontario. Karin Elyakim played the role of Cassie and Sabrina Solo played the role of Emily.

The line at the end of the film spoke to Marshall and summed up the entire concept of the WSFF. The team thanked WSFF “for showing us that everyone holds a potential story in their pockets”. It spoke to the entire concept of the festival. After the final results were announced the three judges along with Dorothy Downs from the Forest City Film Festival made up a panel which the filmmakers and audience members got a chance to ask questions about film making and the industry.

1st Place
“Filtered” by EMG

2nd Place – “My Guardian Angel Only Wears Black” by Barry Tanner Bennett

3rd Place – “Our Father’s Sins” by Mis Afgan Talpur / Universe City Productions

Audience Choice – Marco & Lil Glock – Zeshan Ahmed & Faraj Abushawish

 iFilmGroup congratulates all participants in this student run festival at UWO.
Until next year… keep creating!

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