Three Upstate filmmakers took home top prizes at the 15th annual Beaufort International Film Festival on Feb. 20.
“Invitation to the Dance” directed by Sarah Shoemaker, executive director at International Ballet, won best feature documentary; “ProDogTV” directed by Randall Owens won best short documentary; and Chris White won best director for the feature film “Electric Jesus.” All are from Greenville.
“This is a first for S.C. filmmakers,” said festival organizer Ron Tucker of the Beaufort Film Society.
Shoemaker’s documentary “Invitation to the Dance” introduces Lena Forster and her adult special needs ballet class, which meets weekly at International Ballet. Shoemaker followed five students through a year of dance and life, offering viewers a perspective often overlooked and an opportunity to witness the experiences of those who were most impacted by working with the dancers.
“The film seeks to explore questions about life, community and our ability to appreciate both the gifts and the limits of each of us,” Shoemaker has said.
“ProDogTV” is a docuseries about professional working dogs and professional sporting dogs.
The episode shown at the Beaufort Film Festival was a pilot episode that featured a Greenville County police dog, said John Gardner, president of ProDogTV and an executive producer for the show.
Gardner said he and the crew were “shocked and very pleased” to win in their category.
“These were filmmakers from all across the country and some actors, and the response after we showed it was tremendous,” Gardner said. “They just really connected with the story of it.”
The docuseries just produced its fourth episode and is looking for a distributor or network to pick it up.
“Electric Jesus,” which White wrote and directed, tells the story of a Christian hair-metal band in the summer of 1986 and is drawn from White’s Bible-camp days in Columbia, South Carolina.
The film stars Judd Nelson from the 1985 hit “The Breakfast Club” and Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin in “The Office.”
“Electric Jesus” has been recognized by film festivals across the country, “but it’s extra special to have your home state acknowledge your work,” White said.