Portland filmmakers’ Cannes Film Festival trip canceled by virus

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Locally-produced 'Waiting Game' made it to top 12 in international film contest Filmapalooza

‘Waiting Game’ is a Portland-produced film that fared well in an international film contest called Filmapalooza in Rotterdam, Netherlands. From left: 48 Hour Film Project Executive Producer Mark Ruppert, Co-Director/Co-Writer Zach Feiner, Co-Director/Co-Writer Will Cuddy, Assistant Director Jeffrey Janoff, Co-Writer/Production Designer Hannah Stoddard, Producer Tabitha Coen and Editor Michael Coen. March, 2019 (photo courtesy Expert Friends).

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This week should have been the culmination of a perfect Cinderella tale for a pair of Portland filmmakers whose short film was set to be screened at the world’s most prestigious film showcase: the Cannes Film Festival.

However, that dream was cut short when the festival was officially canceled last week due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

“As much as it is a bummer that Cannes isn’t happening, the fact that we made it there, or would’ve made it there, is such a huge honor,” Will Cuddy, the film’s co-creator, told KOIN 6 News.

‘Waiting Game’ is a 2019 Portland-produced film that was slated to screen at Cannes Film Festival in France before coronavirus concerns canceled the festival. May 2020 (photo courtesy Expert Friends).

Cuddy and his creative partner, Zach Feiner, have been making films together since 2013. The duo operates under the moniker Expert Friends and they make a living doing commercial film projects for businesses and non-profits. They co-directed and co-wrote “Waiting Game,” which was created in two days.

Feiner explained that the pair won the top prize of the 48 Film Project of Portland, a contest in which participants are tasked with making the best short film within a 48 hour period. The contest also entails certain genre, character, prop, and line of dialogue requirements. (In the case of their film, the genre was set as a period piece, the character a dishwasher, the prop a banana, and the line of dialogue needed to be included in the film was: “There must be a better way.”).

Their film, “Waiting Game,” takes place in the 1980s during closing time at a diner and revolves around the relationship of a brother and sister who share a vulnerable moment together contemplating their respective futures.

There were over 5,000 submissions from branches of the same 48-hour-style contest all over the world, but only one representative from each of the 135 cities made it to the international contest, called Filmapalooza in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The top 12 films from Filmapalooza were given the opportunity to have their short films showcased at Cannes.

At first, the pair was not sure if their film made it into the top 12 at Filmapalooza, as it was the very last thing announced at the festival.

“We were certainly the loudest two people in the theater when we got it and it was pretty awesome,” Feiner said.

‘Waiting Game’ stars Jessica Barr (left) and Samuel Summer and won a prestigious screening at Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner, though the 2020 festival was ultimately canceled due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic (courtesy Expert Friends).

On March 12, which happened to be Cuddy’s birthday, the cast and crew of the film enjoyed festivities in Europe in the afterglow of the news their film would screen at Cannes. The mood was soon dampened by a sobering bit of news related to COVID-19.

“We had just arrived in Paris to meet my significant other, went out for drinks at midnight to celebrate my birthday, came back to our Airbnb, and just as our heads hit our pillows, all of our phones started going off,” Cuddy recalled. “President Trump had just announced that all travel into the U.S. from Europe was going to be cut off due to COVID, and all of our friends back home were messaging us to ask us if we were going to get home safe.”

Luckily, the filmmakers and cast and crew were able to arrive back safely, though Cuddy had to spend his birthday on a red eye flight back to the U.S.

“I ended up what will likely be my only 35-hour birthday,” he said.

The experience has reinvigorated the pair’s desire to branch into more narrative-driven projects.

You can view the entire film, “Waiting Game,” below:

‘The Waiting Game’ stars Jessica Barr and Samuel Summer and one a prestigious screening at Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner, though the 2020 festival was ultimately canceled due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic (courtesy Expert Friends).

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