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Creativity finds a new home

The LA Film Prize team awards the $50,000 grand prize to the creators of "The Bespoke Tailoring of Mister Bellamy."

The LA Film Prize team awards the $50,000 grand prize to the creators of “The Bespoke Tailoring of Mister Bellamy.”

The headlines from Hollywood these days sound like a broken record.

It’s not a recent phenomenon, either. Hollywood has been recycling ideas for years. Remember the theatrical reboots of “The Dukes of Hazard” and “The A-Team”? They weren’t even all that good the first time around, when I was 10. What’s next, a “Gilligan’s Island” movie based entirely on that episode where the Professor figured out a way to rescue the castaways and Gilligan screwed it up?

In fact, it has become so prevalent that even the sportswriters at Sporting News have taken notice. Here’s an excerpt from Sean Gentille’s column about J.J. Watt calling Andy Dalton a “Red Rider B.B. gun” (Dalton’s nickname is “Red Rifle”).

Watt: “Our goal was to come out here and (pulls notecard out of shoe) make ’Red Dawn’ look like the 2012 remake. Why mess with perfection, bro? Hollywood continues to pass off unnecessary reboots as original ideas!”

Dalton: “I think J.J. is a good player, but for him to be one of the best in this league and to show that integrity, and to show that type of … It’s just disrespectful to the people who worked on that movie. The first one was ludicrously plotted, yes, but it was also fun and worth trying to introduce to a second generation. Sure, it didn’t work, but the cast was talented. Chris Hemsworth was in it, and he’s Thor, for god’s sake. I’m just disappointed.”

So, where has all of the creativity gone? It turns out that a lot of it has started showing up right here in northwest Louisiana.

This year marked the fourth annual LA Film Prize. Filmmakers from across the country landed here to shoot their short films and vie for the $50,000 grand prize. Each year the competition has grown bigger and better. Every year there are dark dramas, madcap comedies, and just about everything in between. I am struck each year by the depth and power of the storytelling in these 15-minute shorts. And there has never once been a sequel, a prequel, or a reboot.

Take this year’s winning film, for example. “The Bespoke Tailoring of Mister Bellamy” is the tale of a man seeking a better life who gets more than he expected through humility and hard work. There were no flashy special effects, no Aaron Sorkin-esque monologues, nothing to stand in the way of some beautiful storytelling. In the theater where I saw the film, you could feel a wave of hope and joy overtaking the entire audience.

In fact, hope was a common theme for me as I took in this year’s festival. Hope that there is still an audience for smart, creative, and original storytelling. Many of the films from this year’s Film Prize are moving on to other festivals. I hope those audiences enjoy the films as much as I did. And I hope the filmmakers keep coming back. I know I will.

I have a confession to make. I almost fell into the Hollywood trap myself. My original headline for the post was “LA Film Prize Episode IV: A New Hope.” You see what I did there? I latched onto a wildly popular franchise to draw attention to my own story. Kind of like the Rock’s version of “Walking Tall.” The only similarity to the original was a big stick. And I never understood why. You could have called that film “Another movie starring The Rock” and it probably would have done even better at the box office.

If you are anywhere close to Shreveport, make plans to be part of next year’s LA Film Prize. Whether you are a filmmaker, an actor, or a fan, it will be worth your while. Otherwise, find a festival where you are and support these independent, creative storytellers. What’s your alternative, watching “Jaws 19?”

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