Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The WEST KERR Current & Irene Van Winkle Made Me Smile!

Today has been great and it started out early, because sweet Irene Van Winkle sent me her fabulous copy/story that she wrote about Jay Pennington's and Gerry Olert's awesome movie Smile—for the WEST KERR Current's December 5th edition.

So I especially want to thank Irene Van Winkle and the WEST KERR Current for giving me permission to reprint Irene's fabulous story about our dear friend's fabulous movie. So Extra! Extra! Now You Can Read All About It!


'Smile' - The little Western that could  
By Irene Van Winkle
West Kerr Current

The accolades keep coming in for a new short Western film made on a shoestring and a prayer by two friends from Texas who have been finding that dreams sometimes do come true.

Actor/writer/co-director Jay Pennington and technical guru/filmographer and director Gerry Olert think they may be shaping up to become the next Coen brothers. 

They became friends through a mutual interest in film, and lately have been collecting kudos for their first short film, “Smile,” along the film festival circuit.

“I wrote it, played the lead, we co-directed, and, Gerry got on film what I saw in my head, so audiences would see how I visualized the story. We make a real good team,” Pennington said. “Gerry does the cinematography, sound, editing, and has a great feel for the music, and the technical side. He can create a visual masterpiece!”

“It looks like a higher budget film than it was,” said Olert. “Using different angles, I got to make it look like a multiplecamera shot. We shot 80 percent of it in one day.”

So far, “Smile” has received five Official Selection awards in various film festivals, eleven nominations and four awards (acting, writing Audience Choice and Best Western).

They were recognized at the Wild Bunch Film Festival in Tombstone, Ariz., with awards for writing and acting, including their young star, Daniel, who won Best Child Actor, in his first featured role. 

At the Billy the Kid Festival in Hico, Texas, they got the Audience Choice award. At the Indie Short Fest (L.A. International film festival), “Smile” was an official selection, nominated for best original story and for directing.

Most recently, they got more great news. On Monday, Olert learned that “Smile” had won the Best Western award at the Los Angeles Film Awards.

“What an original concept and great execution,” said the congratulatory letter from LAFA.

Another film festival will be coming up in Australia, and they hope to garner an invitation. And of course, they’re hoping to get that plum — an invitation from the Sundance Film Festival, the granddaddy of them all.

Pennington, a lifelong student of film, has had a gamut of small and large acting roles, but has aspirations to stretch his acting chops in writing screenplays and in filmmaking. He penned the script for “Smile,” which he and Gerry shot in just a few short days.  

Olert started out in radio, then progressed to outdoor TV fishing and hunting shows as well as private assignments.

He filmed “Smile” armed with a Sony HD camera, which presented some challenges, but, Pennington said, “With his great editing skills, Gerry made it look like we had a major budget.”

Pennington praised everyone else on a job well done. Jack Palance’s widow, Elaine Palance, is in the film along with Destiny Hallman and her son Daniel, musician K.R. Wood, and Sarah Pennington. Music provided by Chet O’Keefe, K.R. Wood and Steven Sellers.

Filmed at Knowlton’s Vista Verde Ranch near Hondo, where Kimberly Knowlton built a western town, “Smile” has been a journey for Olert and Pennington.

“Movies are expensive to make,” Pennington said. “Gerry and I were talking and he asked if he could just film me doing a monologue. Then we thought, ‘Why don’t we write something.’”

The short version of the plot is that a gunslinger finds gold while he’s watching over a town. It’s inspired by the classic film, “Rashomon,” where one person sees one thing, but others interpret it completely differently. 

“In this film, it’s a whole different story than the one you thought you saw. Daniel is part of the Rashomon surprise, but I don’t want to give it away,” Pennington said. “It’s been a great audience pleaser and Daniel did a great job. He just knew what to do.”

At the Wild Bunch Film Festival in Tombstone, held in a historic theater, Pennington said they were near the front row, gauging audience reactions.

“They laughed at the right times, and then were either laughing or gasping at the appropriate times. And we got a big applause with a little added hollering at the end, then a second round of boisterous applause after the credits. To be able to write something and have the audience react like that was great,” he added. “It is an extreme thrill to author a story, make it a reality, and then have an audience enjoy it and heartily respond to it.”

There is a desire for more Westerns across the U.S., Pennington said. The TV series Yellowstone is a huge hit and he is working hard to get a role in that show. Some of his friends have recurring roles in it and he thinks he would be a great fit.  

So for now, there will be even more reason to celebrate -- a local party premiere -- on Saturday, Dec. 14, starting at  6 p.m. at the location where “Smile” was shot, Knowlton's Vista Verde Ranch between Bandera and Hondo, Texas. 

“It will be more of a party that just happens to show ‘Smile’ every 30 minutes. There will be food and drinks ... the Bandera Cattle Company Gunfighters doing skits ... music ... all within the Western town movie set,” he said.

As there will be food,  drinks, music and entertainment, it will be $20 per person to be paid for before Dec. 14 so they know how much food to prepare. Email for details on purchasing tickets.

And Olert said he has “definitely caught the bug” for films.

“We will continue to make more Westerns and use local talent. One friend said if we did well with ‘Smile,’ and the next one, Netflix is always looking for new content,” Pennington added.

They are already working on a second film together, “Vinegar to Honey,” a tongue-in-cheek Western that will be filmed at the Pine Moore Old West Studio in Blanco. Amanda Smith will be in the spotlight on this film and the characters in “Smile” will be in the second Western playing their same roles.  

Pennington said he wrote “Vinegar to Honey”  so that if it were picked up nationally it could be a Western series. 
With the success of “Smile,” they are confident that with lessons learned, their next film is sure to be another award winner.

Here is the IMDb TV link to see photos, etc. about  the movie Smile. And here are a few pictures that Tony and I took Saturday night at Knowlton's Vista Verde Ranch, located between Bandera and Hondo.

The Carriage House was so awesome. It is where we watched the premier showing of Smile.

The super cool Western set near dark-thirty.

Jay Pennington and me posing before the premier showing of Smile.

Jay's wife, the beautiful Sarah Pennington posing and me. (In the movie Smile, Sarah played the town's you know what.)

Saturday evening was so much fun, because we got to meet the entire cast members following the movie premiere. And while we sat down and enjoyed eating a fabulous BBQ dinner, we watched the famous Bandera Cattle Company Gunfighters do one of their great shoot-em-up skits.

And are you ready for this? I am going to be playing a crazy old lady character in Gerry's & Jay's next Western movie —Vinegar to Honey! And I am so thrilled about it.

FYI: During the party when we were talking to Gerry and Jay about the character that I will be playing, Tony joked, "It will be a piece of cake for Nancy to play the character, because she is already old and she is definitely crazy." And after we had quit laughing, I did admit it would be an easy part for me to play. : )

Y'all have a great day and keep on laughing! 


Irene Van Winkle said...

Dear Cousin Nancy,

You are too kind and precious! I've read the blog starting from the newest going back in time.
Boy, did my head get big and fat, like a marshmallow on the campfire ready to blow!
Thanks for your generous praise ... talk about a great Christmas gift. It was so much fun to
write about Jay and Gerry's film, because knowing them personally and how hard they have
worked to get to this point made it very easy. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR, Y'ALL!!!

Irene Van Winkle

cousin nancy said...

Hi Irene! Let's do coffee soon, so maybe you can teach me a few things about writing. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, too! And once again, thank you for sending me the copy.

Mari of the NoMads said...

Reading about your upcoming stardom, I am proud to say that......I knew you when. :)

And yes, Irene Van Winkle is awesome - she once wrote a story about David and he just ranted and raved on what a nice person she is! She is the MAJOR reason I am a subscriber to the West Kerr Current!

Stay warm, girlfriend - don't want you 'catching your death' before that red carpet moment when your film debuts!

cousin nancy said...

Hi Mari!I agree with you that Irene Van Winkle is such a great writer. I am sure David loved her story about him, because unlike so many reporters—she gets the facts right. Irene Van Winkle ROCKS!