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PIFF’s Gatsby Gala

Feb 15, 2015

Gwen_DouglasD: Gwen writes, drops that hat and acts, then drops that hat and edits—she’s a triple threat.

G: Minus the singing and dancing.

D: We’re working on that.

“D” and “G” are Douglas Elford-Argent and Gwendolyn Garver who were enjoying the success hot hors d’oeuvres offered to them by white-gloved waiters at the Pasadena International Film Festival’s Gatsby Gala last Thursday evening, which was held at the Westin Pasadena. Their film Fragmented (30 Something Productions) follows a twisted path when a woman’s husband disappears while they are traveling abroad. Nothing is what it seems; no one is who they seem.

Gwen was enrolled at the N.Y. Film Academy when accepted into the director’s program at London Film Academy, which, Gwen says, was a crash course in everything (though she returned to the states with a particular love for editing). Since then, Gwen and Douglas have wed, and Fragmented is the six film they’ve made together. He comes up with the ideas, she writes the screenplay. She acts, he directs. She edits.

 

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Past movies include a psychological thriller, a paranormal scenario, and a horror flick. Douglas enjoys creating characters who “begin here and end there.” He’s interested in the journey, the evolution of a character or the lack of, as may be the case. He develops endings that fit the story but are not expected, they’re “kick-ass” endings, he says, leaving the audience pleasantly surprised.

Many of their films have been sold via a sales agent, which places them in Target and similar stores. It’s easier to sell films, they tell us, when “a name” is attached, such as The Brazen Bull starring Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs). This time, though, with Fragmented, Gwen and Douglas decided to work the film festivals.

Fragmented has won Best Narrative Feature at the Los Angeles New Wave International Film Festival and won a Best Director award for Elford-Argent. It also won Best Narrative Feature at the Monarch Film Festival and the Borrego Springs Film Festival.

 

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Editor’s Note: At Sunday’s awards ceremony, Fragmented won for Best Feature Film and Douglas Elford-Argent won Best Director.

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The venue, Westin Pasadena’s Plaza Las Fuentes, was a well-chosen setting—gently lovely, quietly sophisticated—golden light from strings of bulbs and lamps, stone walls and warm wood, textures and colorful tile work, flames and water.

 

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As we strolled, we were drawn to people who had embraced the ode to Gatsby theme of the gala. One of the more beautiful outfits was worn by Tegan Ashton Cohan, star of Odd Brodsky, “a quirky comedy about following your dreams.”

Odd Brodsky was directed by actress Cindy Baer. She portrayed Essie in the Pasadena Shakespeare Company’s production of You Can’t Take It With You and made her film directing/producing debut with Purgatory House (2004), “which was written by a 14-year-old at-risk teen (who) Baer mentored in the Big Sisters of Los Angeles Program.”

Watch the entertaining trailer here.

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Judith Jerome of Roll Call Pictures considers her greatest strength her eye as a DP (Director of Photography). But, Steve A. Hartman wanted a women’s perspective for his screenplay and Jerome fit the bill. A director who isn’t always comfortable in that role—dealing with people, “you have to talk a lot,” subtle manipulation, “it’s an emotional process”—Jerome rose to the challenge. Before It’s Too Late stars character actor Robert Loggia and Eric Roberts and confronts one of life’s most loaded, life-altering decisions: When is it time to hand over one’s car keys and leave driving behind?

 

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Rena Strober felt it was meant to be when she was chosen to play Rita in Waiting in the Wings: The Musical with Shirley Jones, Lee Meriwether, and Sally Struthers. “Rita is Dolly Levi meets Glynda,” she told us, and the production was her dream come true.

Waiting In The Wings: The Musical is a feature film where two entertainers, destined for the big time, are mismatched in a casting office from two very different online contests. Tony, a stripper from New York, is cast in an Off-Broadway musical and needs to trade in his tear-away trunks for tap shoes and tights. Anthony, a naive musical theater enthusiast from Montana, needs to decide if he can strip all the way down just to stay in town. Hilarity ensues as they realize that “to make it” they’re gonna have to learn some new tricks.

Shirley Jones, Sally Struthers, and Lee Meriwether round out this heartwarming homage to Broadway with some delightful cameos. (Jeffrey A. Johns, writer)

Meriwether plays Edith, while Shirley Jones is cast as “Broadway Diva” and Struthers character is listed as “Sperm Bank Receptionist.” That’s a helluva start.

 

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We were leaving the evening gala just as Michael Gross was entering (and we think making a beeline for the front of the red carpet), but we did get to speak with Rowan Morrigan, one of the associate producers on Our Father, directed by Linda Palmer and starring Michael Gross (of Family Ties fame). Gross’ performance of a father in the late throes of dementia is masterful, Morrigan says. He met Palmer in a class on film production at UCLA more than a decade ago and has just finished working with her again on Last Call at Murray’s, which is currently in post-production and stars, once again, Michael Gross, as well as John Savage (best known for his role in The Deer Hunter).

Morrigan’s wife, Shirl, commented on the “cohesion” of the blocks of films featured, congratulating PIFF on successfully grouping the films in an effective and a logical manner. She mentioned specifically the block called “Into that Good Night,” which included Our Father, Before It’s Too Late, as well as The Walk starring Peter Riegert (Animal House) and Stanford and Son written by, directed by, and starring Moe Irvin (Grey’s Anatomy, 2005-14). This series of shorts reflect the “difficulties with aging,” she said, and have “a dark side,” leaving folks laughing and crying.

 

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Talking with the individual actors, writers, and directors throughout the evening, we were instilled with the importance of these film festivals. People whose worlds are filled with creating for the screen, willing to scrimp, save, and hustle; to work endless hours for little or no financial compensation, in order to fulfill the creative itch, an innate necessity, neither rational or practical, but impossible to ignore, impossible to not act upon. This evening of costume, being photographed, being seen, with questions asked and being heard—this evening of “gala,” of celebration, is for them….

 

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Films that are award recipients will be screened Monday, February 16th, starting at 1 p.m.

At 6 p.m., “Our Last Hurrah” will be the festival’s last party, held at D’Bar at DusitD2 Constance Hotel, 928 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91106.

For complete info, visit PasadenaFilmFestival.org.




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