Brynn Elliot Watkins and husband Aaron Craig took a chance.
They wrote a script, filmed at on her parents’ Freeburg farm in March, then entered the 7-minute movie that resulted in Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner. They rounded up friends to take part.
Their film, “Speak of the Lights,” was not in competition, but was shown as part of the event. The renowned annual event in Cannes, France, previews new films of all genres, including documentaries, from around the world. The Cannes Short Film category was created in 2011 to allow young talents show their work. More than 1,000 short films are accepted.
Brynn and Aaron, a filmmaker (www.wearefilms.com) collaborated on the film which is about strange lights and the disappearance of a kid.
“A couple brothers sleep outside to see if they can figure out what is causing the lights to appear,” said Brynn, “and while doing so, one of the kids disappears. The rest of the film is about the town banding together to find out what happened to the kid.”
Actors were friends and neighbors.
“We called and said we are going to come to Illinois,” said Brynn, 25, who was home visiting for Memorial Day weekend. “We asked, “’Do you want to be in a video? Here’s the script. Let us know if you are available. Everyone was super game to do it. It was a lot of fun.”
So was their adventure in Cannes. They described it as fun and extremely busy.
“We got to see a bunch of movies premiering,” said Aaron, 28, originally from Dallas. “We were looking at other short films as well. Along with just showing films, people try to network, sell scripts. It is cool to see how the film industry functions.”
“We got to go to red carpet premieres,” said Brynn. “Ladies have to wear really nice evening gowns. He packed a tuxedo. I packed a few evening gowns as well.”
They rubbed shoulders with actors Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver, who stars in “Star Wars: Episode VII” movie.
“A moment I will never forget,” she wrote on her Facebook page, “Cannes Film Festival was absolutely unforgettable.”
They also watched their own film.
“It’s on-demand, basically,” said Aaron. “There’s a place where you can go, a screening room, and watch short films. You walk in and pull up yours or others and watch. It’s not like the red carpet, but it’s still a cool thing. It’s a pretty good competition. There are a lot of fantastic movies that are playing from all around the world. I think ours did pretty well.”
“We went and had a fun time,” said Brynn. “We watched ours and a couple others.”
What does Aaron like about making films? “I really like being able to share something that you worked on with a wide range of people pretty quickly. ... Making a film, directing, you are in charge and make something that’s completely your visiion that hou show to hopefully thousands when you are finsihedl I like the collaborative project. It’s like a big bonding process.”
“It’s the first project we worked on exculsively together,” said Brynn. “I liked writing the script, and seeing it go from imagination to completion.”
Aaron has liked filmmaking ever since he can remember.
“It was kind of a hobby,” he said. “I never knew you could do it as a real job.”
Aaron majored in politics and economics at King’s College in New York City, did an internship at “Saturday Night Live” and now has a film producton company, We Are Films. Brynn is a 2013 graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville where she majored in journalism and new media and minored in studio art.
Brynn and Aaron’s film is not yet available, but you can watch the trailer: https://vimeo.com/163644709.
“We’re working on the final cut,” she said. “It will probably take a month, then we will have a link online (at www.beingelliott.com).
We asked Brynn a few questions.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of filming on your family farm?
A: “I absolutely love my family’s farm. So any time I get a chance to visit from NYC, I take it! It wasn’t a tough decision at all to film there. I’ve always been wildly inspired by the farm. For this, we knew we wanted something with lots of open land and great scenery. It just made perfect sense for the storyline and we knew it would be lots of fun to film in a small town that means so much to me!”
Q: How long is the film and how long were you filming?
A: “We filmed for two days in Freeburg and the total run time of the film is 9 minutes.”
Q. Who are some of the locals in it and how did you go about recruiting them? Did they get a chance to see it?
A: “It was a very small cast and crew, but we all had an awesome time working together. We used the local postmaster (Joe Todoroff) as well as the Nahass family, Margie, Sam and Georgie. Other than that, it was just Aaron, myself, and Brad and Laurie Watkins (my parents) helping out with whatever else needed to be done. It was lots of fun! So far, none of the cast has seen it, but we’ll release it very soon.”
Q. How did you and your husband collaborate on the movie?
A: “We both did a little bit of everything, but he was the only one that used the camera/did the cinematography. Both of us wrote the script and directed together. Weve always wanted to collaborate together as a couple.”
Q. How did the two of you meet and where did you get married?
A: “We met at a friend’s rooftop in Brooklyn during a cookout. It initially wasn’t anything crazy, but we hung out one-on-one a few weeks after we met and ended up really liking each other. After a couple years of dating, we got engaged in France and then got married a few months later in Iceland in front of a huge waterfall. It was such a beautiful experience. We actually made a quick stopover back to Iceland and the waterfall on our way home from Cannes. It felt great to return.”
Q. How is your career going?
A: “Everything is going great. I’m a wardrobe stylist and full-time blogger. I love discovering new trends and styling photo and video shoots. It’s exciting how each day is different from the rest. I also am excited to be working on creative projects such as this short film with my husband. We love just setting random goals that seem almost unattainable and just making them happen no matter what. This year, we knew we wanted to make a short film and get into Cannes. Who knows what's next year!”