The Big Prize, a short film I wrote and directed (with the help of some amazingly talented folks) screened last week as an official selection at the 2013 SOHO International Film Festival. I’ve been home for several days now and the best word I can come up to describe the experience is “surreal.”
The inspiration for my film came from a folk tale I found in a Caldecott Honor book “The Treasure” by Uri Shulevitz. It is about an old peasant man named Isaac who keeps having a dream about finding a treasure at the city bridge. He travels a long distance to get to the city and when he does… there is no treasure to be found. Isaac tells a guard who laughs him off as a foolish old man. The guard then proceeds to tell Isaac about own his dream – which tells the guard to go to a small town and find the house of a peasant named Isaac and there he will find a treasure.
When I first started thinking about making this short film, I researched and found many areas of the world have some version of this tale. Sometimes the treasure was under a tree or near a fountain, or the hearth – but always there was a poor man and a dream. I knew my hero had to be female. I started plotting out the retelling and making notes. I also listened to Jon Stewart,my Director of Photography, who reminded me to add some conflict to the journey. That’s when I knew that the beginning and end would be inspired by the folk tale, but the journey would be a mix of synchronicity and learning that ‘saying yes’ to a journey is the way to move toward your dreams. You just have to be willing to go without knowing the outcome.
My 18-minute short film is about the adventure of a woman named Clara (Kelly Shipe) who keeps having a dream telling her to go to the city. Even though the “city” scenes in the film were shot in Knoxville, I always envisioned she would be traveling to New York City. One year after completing principal photography, that’s exactly where we were- The Big Apple!
It was an honor (and a real kick) to screen at the SOHO film festival in front of a nearly full house and take part in the Q & A session afterwards. My film got a lot of love! The energy of the festival was nothing short of electric. Kelly Shipe, Susannah Devereux, Matt, and I soaked up as much of the experience as possible. The organizers held a “red carpet” before each screening block and hosted after parties every night at local venues that created an atmosphere where people could meet, network, share their love of film and filmmaking…and dance. Yes, dance!
The whole experience was like a dream. A dream that came true because we said “yes” to the journey. The word I would use to describe it? Surreal.
by Leigh Ann Jernigan – Director/Writer of The Big Prize and proud Flying Anvil Theatre Board Member
The Big Prize
Screenplay, Directed, Produced by Leigh Ann Jernigan
Executive Producer – Matt Jernigan
Edited by Luke Dye
Music by John Thomas Oaks
Cinematography by Jon Stewart
Sound/Field Audio by Pete Carty
Field Audio – Paul Izbicki
Post Audio – Dylen Terflinger
Makeup by Kimberley Thomas
Set Decoration Assistance by Amy Williams
Lighting Assistance by Kristen Tunstall
Cast (in order of appearance)
Clara – Kelly Shipe
Marnie – Susannah Devereux
Vin – Jeff Delaney
Clint – Mitch Moore
Vera – Amy Williams
Bud – Luke Dye
Celeste – Erika Baldonado
Bartender – Matt Jernigan
Lyle – Keith McDaniel
Taxi Driver – Jerry Shipe