Such slips, say some, are indicative of a basic unfamiliarity with local indie production. "There's a seeming lack of knowledge of what's going on in the film community," says one director. "If they're going to do these, they should have some grasp of what's going on. What it all boils down to is that if they're not willing to do what it takes to facilitate the award properly, maybe the task should be given to someone more committed to honoring local filmmakers."
Rolf Belgum, whose documentary The Atlas Moth is nominated in the feature category this year, has been slighted by Maberys past: His Driver 23 was somehow left off the ballot in 1999, even after garnering rave reviews at the previous year's film festival. "It's a tough thing because you don't want to sound ungrateful," says Belgum, noting that Driver 23 eventually received a special prize from the critics on the Mabery jury. "Personally, I try to just concentrate on my work and let the chips fall where they may."
Even Dean Lincoln Hyers, whose Bill's Gun Shop is probably the most high-profile of the nominated features, agrees that the film board could do a better job of spotlighting worthy indies. "I won't feel bad if I don't win," Hyers says. "Every creative expression is a risk. Sometimes you get picked, sometimes you don't. That's okay. But being passed over, or forgotten, or missed--that's not okay."
Hyers points out, though, that the measure of recognition afforded by a Mabery is better than none at all. "An analogy is if you're in a boat that's flipped over and you may be about to drown, someone may or may not rescue you. But you can't hate them for their effort. You can't hate them if they don't help you in the way you want them to."
And certainly, not every local filmmaker is equally exercised. For one, Matt Ehling, co-creator of the documentary-cum-satire "An Idiot's Guide to Running for President"--nominated as a short despite the fact that its feature incarnation, Run Some Idiot, premiered this past year--adopts a laissez-faire attitude toward the whole messy business. "I guess it's nice to get nominated and get the attention," says Ehling. "But the main thing for me is, if you get nominated, you get a free chicken dinner. The only thing filmmakers want more than a screening is a free meal."
The D.L. Mabery Award winners will be announced during the Minnesota AIDS Project's Hollywood 2002 benefit at the Orpheum Theatre Sunday, March 24. For information call 612.373.2407.