The Northwest Florida crew behind “The Verso Verdict” doesn’t mind a cliffhanger.
They ended the short film with a big one. It won the “Best Film” out of 75 participants internationally in the 100 Hour Film Race of 2018.
Cast members Ricky Jordan II won “Best Lead Actor” and Teance Blackburn won “Best Supporting Actress” at the same awards show hosted March 14 at The Strand Theater in Marietta, Georgia.
Blackburn, a DeFuniak Springs resident and executive producer, said they filmed “The Verso Verdict” in December at a Fort Walton Beach church — completing it with only two minutes to spare in the 100-hour time constraint. Many of her friends composed the cast and crew.
“I enjoy it so much, I want to make sure that I’m surrounded with other people who enjoy it,” Blackburn said. “That way nothing is ever taken from this thing we love so much. We all have a great experience.”
“We had done the 48 and the 72, so it was just time.”
The film follows a plot that puts the fate of someone’s life in the hands of another person. Watch “The Verso Verdict” at FilmRacing.com/100hourfilmrace.
Blackburn sat down for an interview with the Daily News, and Kevin Almodovar, the director of photography and producer, answered questions by email about “The Verso Verdict.”
How did you feel about winning?
Almodovar: I have done so many of these films that you get to the point where you truly have no idea, because film is so subjective. You have human judges, and they will all connect with a film differently based on their life experience.
The technical details are black and white. Did it look good? Was the sound good? Were the performances believable? These are the easy things to judge, but when you start talking about the most important element, the story, this is where it can go a million different directions.
“The Verso Verdict” … no matter how many times I watched it, it grabbed me and moved me. That’s when I knew we had a chance with this one … When I heard we won, it was incredibly satisfying and rewarding. It was nice to get validation for a project that we put so many hours into.
Blackburn: They mean more when you’re not expecting them. I didn’t know I was up for that (award). There’s my name on the big screen, "Wow." It was kind of a wow moment. I had just put down my phone, too.
Southeast region passed, and then all the other awards passed, and we weren’t getting anything. I looked at Ricky (Jones II) and just laid my phone down. Then they were like, ‘Teance Blackburn,’ and I was like, "Why are they saying my name?"
Then I sat down and they called Ricky’s name. Then when he sat down, they started the 3-2-1 count. I was surprised we won, because every film that made it to that point had great qualities about them. I found them very entertaining. I admire anyone who gets their film done.
What do you think gave it the qualities of a winning film?
Almodovar: Story is always king. We wanted something that would create a moral dilemma for the audience and then let them make their own decision. Also, to create a discussion of, “What if it was me in those shoes?”
Joseph Klingman gave us an incredible concept and wrote a fantastic script. Once you have the solid foundation set, you can build on the other elements starting with performances. Everyone did a fantastic job, and I was sold on what Teance and Ricky brought to this film emotionally.
Were there any acting moments that really impressed you?
Blackburn: I really thought when Elesia (Marie) got pretend shot, that her body really looked like it had an impact. I was very impressed with that, her death scene. Of course, Ricky. Then the opening scene I thought was really important. Greg (Vestal) played a good creepy dude.
How did you first meet (Almodovar)?
Blackburn: Through AMC (Talent Agency). I took a class. It’s so funny because I don’t even think Kevin knows this. When I was sitting in class, that became a goal to get to know Kevin and work with Kevin.
Now I can just call Kevin. Everything he does is great. I would be scared to do a race with anyone else. There were several teams that didn’t make their deadline.
Kevin brought the director, the writer. He deserves the trophy and my award, but he’s very humble. He will do anything for this community and the actors in it. If he can help, he will certainly give you his time.
What made you want to participate in this film?
Almodovar: Teance had contacted me to let me know about the contest. We had worked together on some other projects before where we had success, so it was a no-brainer for me. I love creating and being involved in passion projects because it’s a different pace than commercial projects for pay. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere, and you really can enjoy your time with talent and crew.
Teance brings amazing energy to the set. She likes to cut up, but she also knows that when it is time to deliver, we put our game faces on and get the job done … There has to be good chemistry in any collaborative environment. You want to have people you get along with and understand that there are many moving pieces and when things go wrong not to panic.
It is so subjective and truly no right or wrong way to do them. Films essentially live or die with the director, so we do our best to be inclusive, but at the end of the day the director makes the decision, and you have to have alligator skin when your ideas are not used.
Why do you think it’s important to do competitions like these?
Blackburn: Several reasons. Just for the competition aspect. It’s an adrenaline pumper. For actors, it’s a great way to get professional footage in your hands in a very short time … and also add to IMDB, the actor’s database, to show you are continuously working.
What was it like being the executive producer?
Blackburn: This was my first time. I didn’t even know I was an executive producer until somebody told me. It means that if something’s wrong, they come to you. If we needed fake blood, I Googled how to make fake blood.
What was your biggest challenge?
Almodovar: I believe it was Leonardo DaVinci who said “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” This applies to making films. There is always something you think you could have done better or wish you could change. Having the 100-hour limit to complete an entire project, from concept to delivery, is really the most challenging part. We have some incredibly talented individuals on the Emerald Coast and they make the process easier.