Local themes, resort roots on display in four entries

(March 8, 2019) Local, regional and national filmmakers will be showing their work during the third annual Ocean City Film Festival from Friday through Sunday, along with scores of films in categories such as animation, documentaries and music videos.

Several local filmmakers will either debut or show their latest film during the largest film festival on the Eastern Shore.

Brett Hammond – Ocean City Beach Patrol

Salisbury resident Hammond debuted his first documentary of the Ocean City Beach Patrol last summer at the Ocean City Beach Patrol Headquarters.

“I started in film later in life than most filmmakers. I lost my job almost 10 years ago and while looking for work was open-minded about a possible career change,” Hammond said. “When I moved to the area in 2016, I tried to think of a subject for a documentary that was nearby, didn’t require travel, met my two objectives and the Ocean City Beach Patrol came to mind.

“Capt. Butch Arbin agreed to give me complete access and agreed to it being an independent film, meaning the Ocean City Beach Patrol would have no control over the film,” he continued. “With the exception of a few drone shots and the soundtrack, I financed and made the movie by myself and had complete control over all aspects of the film. But it is the men and women of the Ocean City Beach Patrol that made it a great film. I just organized it and tried to keep mistakes to a minimum.”

The hour and 40-minute film follow several surf rescue technicians in training from the morning of their first day on the job, through their qualifying run and swim, some failures and dramatic comebacks, and end-of-summer interviews that demonstrates how much they have grown over a summer.

The second part of the film covers the harrowing and heroic experiences of the more seasoned officers and crew chiefs.

The film ends with the testimony of three people whose lives were saved by the Ocean City Beach Patrol, including two swimmers who suffered neck fractures in the surf and are walking today because of the surf rescue techniques perfected by the Ocean City lifeguards.

“It is a non-political, non-PC, educational and very inspirational film that will leave you wiping away a tear and feeling good when you leave the theater,” Hammond said. “The people of the Ocean City Beach Patrol are great people that make you proud to know them.”

The film can be viewed at the Fox Gold Coast Theater on 115th Street at 4 p.m.

John Chester and Erica Messer – The Biggest Little Farm

Erica and John

Erica Messer and John Chester

Stephen Decatur graduates John Chester and producer Erica Messer collaborated to create an award-winning feature documentary describing the eight-year process of creating a 200-acre farm with a diverse ecosystem.

The film debuted in the Telluride Film Festival, and was featured in the Toronto International and Sundance Film Festivals. Chester is a five-time Emmy winner. Executive Producer Messer produces the television crime drama “Criminal Minds.”

“It’s unflinching honestly for both the hardships and beautiful surprise that nature forces us to acknowledge,” Chester said. “This is not some fantasy film about how easy it is to live in harmony with nature. It goes deeper than that.”

“The real inspiration came when I started to notice how the things that we thought were problems, like certain plants classified as weeds, were actually cycling critical nutrients back into our soil and feeding our fruit trees,” he continued. “The farm was taking what we had started and rebuilding its own complex immune system. I saw the return of critical wildlife as well as a variety of insect species that were now serving as predators helping to rebalance the pest infestations that we had been fighting.”

The film has already received critical acclaim, and the pair is proud to bring the film to their hometown.

“The fact that it’s getting an international theatrical release is just unbelievable as most documentaries don’t get that,” Chester said. “It’s releasing not only in North America but Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands … the list goes on. People are excited about this film and its potential not just as a piece of entertainment but as a whole new lens with which to view our existence and potential on this planet we call Earth.

 “Quite honestly if I could start a farm like we did here in Southern California all over again, I would do it in my hometown on the Eastern Shore,” Chester said. “There is immense opportunity on the Eastern shore for farming systems that collaborate with ecosystems. The benefits are deeper than we could ever imagine.”

The film will be shown in the Performing Arts Center in the convention center on 40th Street, Saturday, at 2 p.m.

Nick Szpara and Chelsea Thaler – It’s Mermaid Time

Baltimore native Nick Szpara and Chelsea Thaler, formerly of Ocean City, bring the story of Clem, a young Ocean City local who goes on an adventure to find out if mermaids are real, and endures a tidal wave of obstacles along the way.

“Nick and I have been making films together for about three years,” Thaler said. “We produce a short film every year for the 48-hour Film Project in Washington, D.C., which is a great event for both established and new filmmakers. Last spring, while we were shooting that project, Nick mentioned he always wanted to make a film about mermaids.

“Nick and I had many phone meetings where we talked about what it was like for me as a kid, growing up in Ocean City as a local,” she continued. “Nick ended up writing the script for “It’s Mermaid Time,” an original story that is very loosely based off of stories from my own childhood. We wanted to make a film that was fun, funny, and light-hearted … and we wanted to feature the many wonderful people and places that make up Ocean City, Maryland.”

The daughter of Rina Thaler, the executive director for the Art League of Ocean City, Thaler grew up with an appreciate for various forms of art, and always submits a film for the film festival to help promote her hometown.

“We created this film about the town of Ocean City, for the people of Ocean City,” Thaler said. “It’s a feel-good film that you can bring your family to. If you have any connection to Ocean City, we know you will enjoy the story of Clem, the 10-year-old local who is obsessed with mermaids. You’ll see some familiar Ocean City faces in the film, too — including Larry Layton, as himself. He and his wife Pam were very supportive of the film and allowed us to shoot a scene at Layton’s Restaurant.”

The film can be seen Saturday at the Francis Scott Key in West Ocean City at 4 p.m.

Sascha Mete - Swamp Monster

Sascha

Sascha Mete

One of the youngest film producers in the festival, 11-year-old Sascha Mete, of Berlin, designed a short horror film with a few of her friends, all through cell phone filming.

The story follows a couple of kids playing soccer and discover a swamp monster that threatens to kill and infect them all.

Mete discovered her love for filmmaking through her grandfather.

“My grandpa, when he was a kid, he made a movie called ‘The Mummy’ and he showed it to me,” Mete said. “It needed an old projector to wind it up, and I thought it was pretty cool. He said if it was alright with me, he wanted to help me do something that was even better, because he really liked it when he was a kid. I ended up loving it, so we found a couple of my friends who wanted to do it and made the movie.”

As the children had no advanced equipment to develop their movie, they used their imagination to create the props they needed, such as paint or old clothing.

“Our challenge is we want to see how good we can make it without special effects and stuff, because we don’t have access to anything like that,” Mete said. “I tried looking at other movies, I see how they did special effects and I think, ‘Oh that’s cool. I wonder if I could do that.’”

Mete is “super excited” be a part of the film festival, especially since she was not sure her film would be accepted.

“I’m super excited. We, and the kids that I did it with, we didn’t think we’d make it in, we just wanted to do it for fun,” Mete said. We like doing [films] and we wanted to see if we could. I called up my friend Devin and saying, ‘We actually made it!

“I think [people] should watch this movie because I think they should see what a kid can do,” she continued. “Adults [typically] make movies. Well, if a kid makes a movie, might as well see if it’s good.”

The film can be viewed at the Fox Gold Coast Theater on Sunday at 1 p.m.

For more information and a full list of films, visit www.ocmdfilmfestival.com.

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