Charlotteans take film from YouTube to Sundance
Two hundred different films will flicker on screens at Sundance by the time the festival's week-and-a-half run comes to an end this Sunday. Among them is Perfecto, the brainchild of two twenty-somethings from Charlotte who produced the five minute film on a budget of $250. But even before Perfecto got to Sundance this week tens of thousands of people throughout the world had already seen it. When you have one month and a couple hundred dollars to make a film you have to make due with what you got. And sometimes it works out, well, just perfect. "By the way the police have surrounded the house." "Vaden what did you do?" "Hernan we got to hide." And thus begins Perfecto, the story of how Vaden a small-time thief and Hernan an international spy fall in love and the complications that ensue. Blake Edwards-no not that Blake Edwards-directed the film and Erin Fede wrote the screenplay and portrayed Vaden. Together they found props and recruited a cast that are pure Charlotte, right down to the deviled eggs Fede's grandmother made and the wedding guests that show up at the start of the film. "Half of them were Mee-Maw's neighbors. And then the other three were another one of our co-workers with his two daughters. But everyone else was just people who lived on good old Collingwood Drive," explains Fede. And those folks have been seen by a whole lot of people around the world thanks to a filmmaking contest on YouTube called Project Direct. This is how it worked: Filmmakers had one month to make a five minute film incorporating three props. From the hundreds that were submitted, Sundance judges picked ten of their favorites. Those were then voted on by YouTube viewers. Perfecto took first place. "When you start throwing words like Sundance and You Tube. It's big, you know. It's big. This is definitely the most exposure that anything that I've had a hand in has gotten," says Perfecto's Director Blake Edwards. Big exposure breaks down to nearly 150-thousand views on You Tube, a screening at Sundance, a meeting with the festival's director, and DVDs of the film distributed to industry executives. "With validation comes a different level of confidence-not in a haughty way or anything, not in an arrogant way but realizing you do have the potential, you can do a good job," says Fede. Fede and Blake both grew up in Charlotte, but they met only a few months ago while working at Inspiration Ministries a Christian TV network in Fort Mill. Fede graduated from Appalachian State, spent a few years in Wilmington before returning home to Charlotte. Edward's path was a bit more circuitous. He graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, chased acting and directing opportunities in Los Angeles and Spain before giving Charlotte another chance. "It was really a creative community of people that I met when I got back to Charlotte and that just made all the difference," says Blake. "I was so impressed by one, how good I felt when I was hanging out with these people and two, just how they encouraged each other in their dreams and talents." It was this pool of talent Edwards and Fede enlisted to act in Perfecto, work filming equipment and help edit. Charlotte and Matthews served as the film's backdrop and the crew transformed the cities into a series of faraway places where Hernan worked. A warehouse in NODA became the Middle East, a loading dock off Central Avenue served as Russia, and the shops at Phillips Place stood in for the Mediterranean-that is, with a few tweaks. "We got a couple of friends to be a French couple. You can see them on the right hand side of the screen, they're making out, French kissing if you will," explains Edwards. "At some points I just needed some relief," says Edwards. "Actually that song at the beginning I just took out of this silly library of music and I put it at the very beginning. And I was like Erin you have to check this out. You're going to pee in your pants. And we played it and we both laughed hilariously and one thing led to another and we we're like, 'that's it that's the one." In addition to meeting industry insiders they won $2,500. You never know where you could see Perfecto next. Many sleeper hits began by a couple of dreamers making short films. Correction: Erin Fede attended Appalachian State, but did not graduate.