Fire Lily Wins Top Awards at International Film Festival



Sept. 29, 2009 – The film adaptation of an award-winning play by a Southeast Missouri State University faculty member has earned top awards at the American Artist Film Festival (AAFF).

The film, “Fire Lily,” written by Dr. Kenneth Stilson, professor of theatre and dance, premiered at the festival, held in Hannibal, Mo., Sept. 24-26.  “Fire Lily” fared very well at the festival as it received awards for Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Feature Film. 

“There were 290 plus entries from around the world, and 18 were invited to screen,” said Stilson.  “I had no expectation of winning anything; I was really just happy to be there.  Eleven judges from Los Angeles, New York City and Kansas City judged the submissions.  There were some really great films there, but we walked away with some of the top prizes.  This qualifies us for a good International Movie Database (IMDB) page and gives us a tremendous boost for other international festivals and marketing for distribution.” 

This year’s finalists consisted of films from France, Australia, The United Kingdom, Japan, China, Russia, Iran and others from across the United States.

The AAFF was organized to allow independent filmmakers an opportunity to gain regional, national and international recognition and awards. Films may be showcased through AAFF affiliations in Los Angeles, New York and Kansas City.  AAFF is an international film festival and applications are accepted from all over the world and in all genres of films. A judging panel of film industry professionals, business professionals and AAFF executives selects winners. AAFF’s vision is to be the premiere venue in North America for filmmakers from all over the world to present their independent film work in all categories and genre, and to provide aspiring filmmakers with excellent opportunities for networking and promotion of their work and talent.

Independent filmmaker Victor Kantchev of Victory Film Productions produced Stilson’s screenplay in summer 2007. Stilson says the film is a pulsating story of a young woman who endures turbulent times but emerges ready to leave the confines of her lonely world.

“’Fire Lily’ is the tale of a sparkling person trapped in a putrid existence,” he said. “It’s partly inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s great 19th-century drama, ‘A Doll’s House.’ It is a ‘coming-of-age’ film about the maturation of a 22-year-old girl living in a small Midwestern town who emerges from the drama of love, sex and relationships.”

Fred Jones, Southeast associate professor of mass media, said he and his wife Shirlee Wilson assisted Stilson in adapting the play into a feature-length screenplay. Together, Jones and Wilson served as creative consultants to Stilson.

Several Southeast students were heavily involved in the production of the film. Bart Elfrink of Jackson, Mo., first assistant director, said his primary job was to help Stilson realize his vision.

“I’ve worked on films before, but nothing like this one,” Elfrink said. “This was a whole new experience for everyone involved.”

Ryan Maurer, director of photography, said his responsibilities included taking control of lighting, shot framing, focal points, shot selection and the movement of the camera.

“Basically, I was responsible for how the film looks,” Maurer said. “In post-production, I worked with the editors to ensure the vision of the film was preserved or adjusted according to Kenn’s direction. Color correction and shot selection was essential in post-production.”

The film was shot at around 20 locations, from Eclipse Hair Studio in Cape Girardeau to Amidon Conservation Area near Fredericktown, Mo., to southern Illinois.

Stilson’s original play, titled “Where the Lilies Grow,” won the critics award at the Edward Albee Theatre Conference and was performed in Hollywood at the Hudson Theatre by the American Academy of Dramatic Art. From there, it was re-written with the title “Independence Day” and selected by Victory Film for production However, in light of the blockbuster flick of the same title, Stilson re-named it “Fire Lily.”