From the heart: Film Festival contributors pour their talents, energy into offerings

Locally made films are among festival screenings

PORT ORCHARD — For independent filmmakers like Eric Monteiro, creating, directing and shooting a film is a psychic meal that feeds their inner creative soul.

Just as long-distance marathon runners are compelled to hit the road in order to keep their competitive juices flowing, filmmakers feel a little unfulfilled without having a screenplay in work and a camera ready to capture actors putting scripted words to life and into motion.

That was the case for Monteiro, a Bay Area native and Los Angeles resident who spends much of his work hours shooting and directing commercial and industrial films. A significant chunk of his time is spent shooting and editing for Disney’s consumer product division in Glendale, Calif.

A graduate from San Francisco State University’s film production program, the filmmaker nevertheless carves out time from his busy work schedule to create his own films.

“I usually write and direct my own feature-length films, but it had been a while since I had shot one because I was busy writing my next one,” Monteiro said.

“I was really missing being on set and shooting something. ‘Fish Hook’ is the result of me really wanting to shoot something really fast over one weekend for no money and to get it out there really quickly.”

“Fish Hook” will be part of the Port Orchard Film Festival’s “Fantasy” shorts block, to be shown at 1:20 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, at the festival’s home, the Dragonfly Cinema on Bay Street.

It’s a short film that not only got the filmmaker’s creative juices going but, in the end, offered a reflection of his cultural background.

“My family is Portuguese from Portugal, so it’s kind of a love letter from me to my own Portuguese-American heritage,” Monteiro said by telephone from Los Angeles earlier this week.

“It’s a love story about two fishermen — one’s a man, the other a woman. It’s something simple, romantic and for all ages.”

The film starts out with a down-on-his-luck fisherman at a coastal dock in Portugal, not catching anything until he pulls up what Monteiro labeled a “magical fish hook.” It’s old, antique-looking and wooden, with a mystical glint to it. When the fisherman ties it onto his line and tosses it into the water, suddenly his luck changes — he begins pulling out large, fat fish from the ocean.

That’s when the Portuguese angler realizes this fish hook is something special. Not only does he pull out oversized fish, the man also reels in Portuguese beer and wine — the very things he had been wishing for. Soon after, the fisherman meets up with a fisherwoman, who admires his special lure — and he begins to admire her.

Monteiro was able to make the film with just $500 budgeted for the project — far less than the cost of most similar independent efforts. A significant chunk of that money — $200 — was for a permit to shoot on the beach from a pier at Avila Beach in central California.

The lead actors, James Trenton and Stephanie Pessoa, lent their talents for the project free of charge, he siad, because they loved the story. So much so, that both traveled gratis to the Avila Beach location, about 200 miles north of their home base in Los Angeles.

The sweet fantasy story stars Trenton, who is a University of Puget Sound alumnus and is otherwise a successful, well-known radio personality and creator of “Love Line” on KROQ radio in Los Angeles. His female co-lead, Pessoa, ventured into acting after managing the acting career of her son, Andy, who started appearing at age 9 on shows for CBS, NBC, Disney, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

The filmmaker said Pessoa, who isn’t Portuguese, is married to a man who is. In fact, she lived there in the picturesque country for a short time and is attuned to the Portuguese culture.

At the time “Fish Hooks” was shot, Monteiro said, Trenton had just begun branching out with the goal of becoming a film and television actor. His availability was also motivated by a desire to get some acting credits under his belt before taking on paid gigs. This film short was his first lead role, Monteiro said.

“Since casting him in this movie, he’s been very successful having small parts in major movie and television shows,” the filmmaker said.

Monteiro and Trenton will be at the film festival to attend the short’s premiere theatrical showing.

The Port Orchard Film Festival is the only traditional event — shown in a theater in front of an audience — that “Fish Hook” is to appear in, Monteiro said, although it has been in television and webcast festivals in Tampa and Detroit.

“I tend to romanticize film, so the Dragonfly Cinema offers not only the perfect setting but also the love and care by the passionate people driving this event,” Monteiro said in a previous interview.

The filmmaker said he’s busy conceptualizing his next project: an intriguing father-daughter adventure story about a man who has the ability to breathe underwater. It will be shot primarily in the Bay Area, he said, with some scenes filmed in Olympic National Park.

Amber Rainey, Port Orchard filmmaker and actor

Amber Rainey, a five-year Port Orchard resident and a Texas native, started out as an actor before venturing into new roles behind the scenes as a film scriptwriter, producer and director. She has two shorts that were selected for the film festival: “Captain’s Fairy” will appear in the “Fantasy” block, and then on Sunday, her short “Never Gone” will be part of the “Life After Death” block of films.

Amber Rainey (IMDb image)

Amber Rainey (IMDb image)

Always a fan of films but with a nascent talent for writing and producing, she spent 20 years as a software analyst before entering the world of “show biz.” Setting aside her master’s degree in information technology and a software career, Rainey made her initial foray into scriptwriting in between early acting jobs.

That led her to new experiences as a producer and director, which she had initially taken on at the suggestion of a friend who had a pilot project in mind.

“I’ve written all my life,” she said, “but I really haven’t let anybody read what I wrote until the last couple of years.”

Her writing talents have also led to a career as a book author. Rainey’s book, a fantasy romance novel named “Eternal Willow,” was published last year. She also has written two novelizations, with a third one underway.

One of her shorts to be shown this weekend — “Captain’s Fairy” — stars a friend’s daughter, who wanted to try acting. Rainey also will act in the short as a magical fairy. The film was shot in the Seattle area.

“I wrote it with [her friend’s daughter] in mind. It’s about a girl who is blackmailing the fairy into doing all of her chores and homework.”

Rainey directed her other film appearing at the festival — the 22-minute short “Never Gone.” It was shot at locations in Seattle and Bothell. She put “a little more money into it and paid my actors,” she said. From start to finish, the film short took six months to make.

The filmmaker is, predictably, a big fan of fantasy “and obviously I am a big ‘Game of Thrones’ watcher.”

And she is, of course, a lifelong fan of movies.

“I’ve always liked movies because it allows you to suspend belief for a while,” Rainey said. “I’m not one to nit-pick and say, ‘Oh, that couldn’t happen.’ I relax and enjoy what I’m watching.”

Rainey moved to this region when her husband took a job at Amazon in Seattle.

Shelby Smout, Seattle-area screenwriter and filmmaker

Smout was working on her master’s degree in film production at the Seattle Film Institute when she took a class in screenwriting. From that experience, she developed a screenplay from the heart: about the relationship between a dying grandfather and his grieving grandson.

Shelby Smout (Next Door Entertainment image)

Shelby Smout (Next Door Entertainment image)

“Old Blue Eyes Ain’t Nothing” is a brief 5-minute short that is to appear in the “Life After Death” short block at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The film, Smout said, is based partly on her own relationship with her grandfather, but it’s also a tale she believes that many people can relate to, whether it’s about their own grandfather or just about any loved one dealing with a similar situation.

“I showed the script to my producer and he said, ‘Yeah, you should make this.’ It was a good jumping-off point for me from being a film student to an actual filmmaker.”

While it’s just five minutes long, the film was in pre-production for about six months due to Smout’s other freelance filmmaking obligations. She said her actors were onboard the project about three months before shooting began. After acting locations and a date in January to start shooting were chosen, the film team completed their filming in just a single day. Three months of post-production followed.

Smout said she’s excited to have her film as part of the festival this year. It has appeared a couple of film festivals, including one in the Tacoma area. The film has received plaudits for its acting, which she says is what makes the film as emotional as it is.

“I love Port Orchard,” she said. “My producer has entered his films here before and he encouraged me to do the same. I really like how Port Orchard treats its filmmakers. Not every film festival is as appreciative of its filmmakers.”

Smout and her crew are currently in post-production on a horror film that she produced, called “A Purple Vision.” The film is almost finished being edited and will be “sweetened” with music and sound design in the next few weeks, she added.

Like many of her fellow independent filmmakers, the horror and fantasy genre has become a tantalizing lure.

“I think horror is the most successful film genre because everyone can be scared, no matter what country they live in,” Smout said. “It translates well throughout the world. It’s also one of the most popular in general because you can make it for cheap and the turnaround is amazing.

“The genre is great because you can take social issues and bend them in some sort of way to make it horrific or send a message, good or bad. It’s something that people can easily connect with. They’re drawn to it for some reason.

“Lately, a lot of [filmmakers] have been doing some amazing, innovative storytelling through horror.”

And this storytelling filmmaker said she has lots more to tell on screen.

“I’ve been writing a lot and hopefully I’ll be directing again soon,” she said.

Filmmaker Eric Monteiro’s production “Fish Hook” will be screened in the “Fantasy” shorts block on Saturday, May 4, at the Port Orchard Film Festival. (Courtesy of Eric Monteiro)

Filmmaker Eric Monteiro’s production “Fish Hook” will be screened in the “Fantasy” shorts block on Saturday, May 4, at the Port Orchard Film Festival. (Courtesy of Eric Monteiro)