Words By Ambar Ramirez
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been to the movie theaters a fair amount, and I think we can all agree that something a bit magical happens every time we step into the dimly lit theater with a large popcorn and cherry (or whatever flavor preference) slushie. The ASMR-like rollercoaster introduction is playing, and before the movie even starts it’s like you are being transported to another world. But still, even after the mesmerizing experience of watching a film on the big screen, we tend to overlook the efforts that go into its making. The lengthy credits that roll by with countless names hardly catch our attention, let alone make us wonder about those individuals who worked behind the scenes to bring the film to life. But in Jacksonville, the LOL Jax Film Festival and the 48 Hour Film Project are bringing those names we see in the credits at the end of a movie to the forefront. Or should I say, taking those names internationally.
Adam and Monique Madrid, co-founders of LOL Jax Film Festival, met while they were in high school. For as long as Monique can remember, Adam always had a passion for film and filmmaking. He recalled his love for film began when his cousin took him to see “Jurassic Park.” He was “fascinated” by how the film portrayed the fabricated dinosaurs in such a realistic way. This moment opened up a door in Adam’s mind where he began to really think about how films were made, which ultimately led to thinking about how he could make films himself.
But it wasn’t until 2007 when Adam and his friends decided to participate in the 48 Hour Film Project, a nationwide film festival where contestants have to make a short film in just 48 hours, that their lives would change forever. After winning that contest, they were able to build valuable connections ultimately leading them both to not only becoming 48 Hour Film Project city producers but also creating LOL Jax Film Festival.
“He’s always wanted to be a filmmaker since I’ve ever known him,” Monique shared. “He’s such a dreamer in the clouds, but he makes them a reality. Anything he says, he makes happen, and, you know, it’s very infectious, and it has helped me to be able to dream too. And that’s kind of how ‘LOL’ was born. LOL Jacksonville was born because I asked the dreamer, ‘Could it be a reality? If we did a comedy film festival …’ and he said ‘yes,’ and the rest is history.”
LOL Jax Film Festival is an annual event that highlights Jacksonville’s local talents, specifically filmmakers, actors/actresses and comedians. It was born out of the shared love and respect for the filmmaking process, but more importantly for the locals. Funnily enough, “LOL” has a double meaning: the obvious “Laugh Out Loud” as well as as “Love Our Locals.” Like any film festival, there has to be a theme and submission rules, LOL Jax Film Festival’s only rule is that films have to be funny … laugh out loud funny.
“So we kind of created this ecosystem of a festival to where all, all artists can be celebrated and hopefully allow them to not only celebrate each other but [also] network with each other and realize the power of collaborating to build a bigger project, a better project by listening and working with one another,” Monique said. “So it’s kind of more than just a festival now, which is really cool.”
As much as it is about creating a hub for local talents and their fans to connect, it’s just as much about putting them in the spotlight and giving them a platform to do what they love. And just maybe, being in the spotlight at a local Jacksonville film event can take you across state borders or even across the country.
Jaron Wallace, a Jacksonville native, has always been an actor and filmmaker at heart.
“I remember when I was a kid I would, with whatever famous actor was around in the ’90s, I would cast my own movies with like actors,” Wallace recalled. “I’d write it out on paper, and I’d go in the backyard and act the whole thing out.”
Following in Adam’s footsteps from 2007, Wallace and his team, along with director and writer Thomas Siedle, produced and submitted a short film to the 48 Hour Film Project. Their film “Threshold” was chosen to be showcased at this year’s Filmapalooza in Los Angeles, where they were thrilled to learn that not only did their film win, but it would also be screened at the Short Film Corner during the Cannes Film Festival.
“Being invited to showcase our film at the Short Film Corner in Cannes while the festival’s going on is a big honor to us,” Siedle shared. “A lot of eyeballs will see it and a lot of eyeballs of people who understand the film industry that can help us grow and take the next step in our creativity is a real opportunity. So this is hopefully going to open up some doors for us that we won’t burn down at the end of the movie.”
While this is a huge accomplishment for Wallace, Siedle and their team, it’s an accomplishment for all of Jacksonville and our local talents. Just as Adam and Monique bring local talent’s names to the forefront through their comedy film festival, the team behind “Threshold” are putting Jacksonville on the map across the nation and the world.
To watch the full interview, click here.