Arts and Entertainment

Island-made film vies for spot at Seattle film festival

Anthony O’Brien, right, wrote the script of “Perfect Sport” and plays Lee, a high school wrestler who finds a father figure in the school’s assistant wrestling coach.  - Courtesy photo
Anthony O’Brien, right, wrote the script of “Perfect Sport” and plays Lee, a high school wrestler who finds a father figure in the school’s assistant wrestling coach.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

tWatch it online and vote from home to help the film succeed.

In the world of independent filmmaking, three young, Vashon-grown men are getting close to realizing a dream.

Their film — an edgy, coming-of-age flick shot entirely on Vashon last spring — won a prestigious award at a Houston film festival in April. Now, it’s competing for an even more coveted spot: It’s one of 10 independent movies in a new online event called MyFestival, a viewer-judged contest that will land the winner a screening on the last night of the Seattle International Film Festival.

Between May 23 and June 8, viewers can go to myfestival.siff.net, stream the movies for free and vote for their favorite.

The three men — Anthony O’Brien, Zach Mann and Mark Sayre — are hoping their film, “Perfect Sport,” will win first place and make it into the Seattle International Film Festival, considered one of the best film festivals in the world. But even if it doesn’t, they said they feel as though they’ve already achieved something that eludes many budding filmmakers.

“Even if we don’t win, we’ll still be associated with the Seattle International Film Festival, and that’s still a great honor,” said Mann. “No victory or loss will take that away from us.”

The film, written by O’Brien and another young man, Mark Harley, is about the relationship between a high school assistant wrestling coach, one of his star wrestlers and the wrestler’s sister. It’s a dark, R-rated movie that touches upon steroid use and sexual violence. According to O’Brien, “It’s the antithesis of your average teen film.”

O’Brien, a graduate of the New York Film Academy, said Harley came up with the idea of the film, and the two wrote it together over the course of a year. O’Brien was 21 at the time.

In 2006, after he made a trailer of the film in an effort to sell it to a studio, O’Brien approached Sayre and Mann; though both of them are two years older than he is, the three knew each other from their days on Vashon. Mann was good friends with O’Brien’s older brother.

Many milestones marked their path as they worked towards completing the film. Mann recalled one — when the three, over Thai food at a restaurant in Los Angeles, decided to form their own small company, Building Block Films, and produce O’Brien’s movie independently.

O’Brien was the director and lead actor. Mann took on the job of finding the capital for the film; and Sayre handled the business and legal ends. All three were executive producers, as was Mann’s father, Islander Chai Mann.

Last year, after securing funding and support, the three young men brought their cast and crew to Vashon — a team of 45 that included Hollywood professionals — and shot the film over the course of 18 long, exhausting days.

It was an amazing three weeks in their lives, they said, filled with camaraderie, hard work and encouragement from a network of Islanders.

“We were able to convince some talented people that this was a great project,” Mann said. “We were living in people’s houses. Guys who were used to working on big studio sets were sleeping on the floor. They loved it.”

Islanders who watch the movie will see familiar scenes: the high school, Bishops (now called Red Bicycle Bistro & Sushi), the north-end ferry terminal and stretches of Vashon Highway.

“It’s going to be a wonderful thing for anyone on Vashon to see the film,” O’Brien said. “It’s the first big film to come out of Vashon.”

O’Brien, who’s since finished his second script and is writing his third, said his ultimate goal with “Perfect Sport” is to get a distribution deal and see his film released into movie theaters across the country. He knows that’s a tall order: Some 10,000 movies get made each year, and only 300 are released, he said.

But film festivals — especially one as prestigious as Seattle’s — are a way to make it to the next level, he said.

“These festivals are a great chance to showcase to distributors and make your film more marketable,” O’Brien said. “This is the first step to fulfilling that last step, getting into a theater.”

Chai Mann, warmly admitting to some bias, said he thinks the movie is an exceptional achievement that many people — particularly Islanders — will enjoy. Not only is the screenplay original, so too is the film’s score, he said. What’s more, it was shot with a 35 millimeter camera, a more traditional approach and one that few do anymore, now that digital’s available.

“This is like old-school filmmaking,” Chai Mann said. “It’s just remarkable.”

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