By SCARLET SIMS
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
The short film that stars a 10-year-old Woodrow Cummins Elementary student won a popular-vote contest this week, after racking up several awards during last year’s Little Rock 48-Hour Film Festival, according to a news release Wednesday.
Aidan Billy stars as Tommy Shuttles in “Fire Engine Red,” which won Audience Favorite, Best Story and First Runner-Up at the festival in August.
The film, a 7-minute Christmas film made in Little Rock and dedicated to the Little Rock Fire Department, now has won the Second Chance competition, an international contest, and is headed to Hollywood this March, according to a news release.
“Fire Engine Red” is created by co-directors Michael Armstrong of Little Rock and Jim Patterson of El Dorado, both first-time directors. In Little Rock, it originally won three awards: an Audience Choice award, Best Story and First Runner Up. The film’s themes are about growing up, the power of the imagination and second chances, according to a news release.
The film tells the story of a toy fire engine at Christmas and through the years after via a rhyming poem told from the toy’s perspective. The Whiffle Powder team conceived, wrote, cast, shot, edited, scored and rendered the film in fewer than two days.
The team drew the genre, “holiday film” and three required elements: a singer character named Tommy Shuttles, a melon as a prop and the line “What do we have here?” Those elements had to be in the movie. The contest started Friday night and ended Sunday.
“Fire Engine Red” did well in the festival, and in early December, Patterson and Armstrong received an invitation from the producers of the international 48-Hour Film Project to compete against 114 other runner-up films from local 48-Hour Film Projects around the world in an online Second Chance competition. The contest, which ran 48 days from Dec. 2 to Jan. 19, was an open, popular-vote contest among all the second place finalists in 2012.
On Tuesday, the 48-Hour Film Project officially announced “Fire Engine Red” had won the worldwide Second Chance Contest. The winner will be screened at the 48-Hour Film Project’s main event, Filmapalooza, in Hollywood, Calif., March 7-10. The “Fire Engine Red” team said the film would not have won without support from Arkansans, Patterson said in the release.
“We never thought this film would lead us to Hollywood when we made it this summer,” Armstrong said. “That was a weekend well-spent.”
The second-chance win means a lot to Aidan, said his mother Rebecca Billy in a previous news release.
“Aidan has wanted to be a movie director since he was 7 years old,” Billy said.
She said the film’s success makes Little Rock one of only two cities in the world to have multiple entries screened at the festival. “La Petite Mort,” a film by BrickHut Productions, and “Fire Engine Red,” by Wiffle Powder Productions, will both be at Filmapalooza, Armstrong said.
“Hollywood is bound to notice that some cool things are happening in Arkansas in the world of film,” Billy said. “When you couple that with the recent legislation offering tax breaks to filmmakers who come to the state, it could well bring business to the area. And more opportunities for kids like Aidan who want to make movies. This is big.”
Whiffle Powder Productions has several other film projects planned for 2013. Another short film they made this fall won an award in a different international competition, and they have scripts in development for several more, including a companion film to “Fire Engine Red.”
The most immediate need Anderson sees is securing funding to send the directors and other key crew members to Hollywood to champion “Fire Engine Red” at Filmapalooza, attend workshops and network with filmmakers from around the world. Armstrong said Aiden and his mother are among those who want to attend.
The team plans to begin fund raising activities soon to send as many people as possible to Filmapalooza, Armstrong said..
“We are seeking donations and sponsors for our team to go to Hollywood and for future film projects,” he said.
To donate or invest in a future film, visit Whiffle Powder Productions at the “Fire Engine Red” Facebook page. The film is available on YouTube.