Avon Filmmaker wins Hollywood award

Photo courtesy Conrad Faraj

Filmmaker Conrad Faraj of Avon (far right) at the premier of “1917” at the TCL Theater in Hollywood on Dec. 18. From left, Faraj’s guest, screenwriter and photographer Hannah Lane of Lexington, Ky., and Sam Mendes, director of “1917.”

AVON - A two-minute film shot in Avon captured the attention of NBCUniversal executives in Hollywood and resulted in what the filmmaker described as the highlight of his career.

It also could lead to his big break.

Avon resident Conrad Faraj and his producing team won the 1917 One-Shot Challenge. Their film was selected from about 150 worldwide that had to tell a story in a single, continuous shot. Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes selected Faraj's film. The competition’s name comes from the title of a Mendes film.

Faraj's film, "Wedding Runner," was filmed outside and inside Faith Lutheran Church & Preschool on Garden Drive in Avon. It involves a man outside the church mulling over what to do. The man, played by John Hughes of Parma, runs and skateboards inside the church to interrupt a wedding involving the person of his dreams.

In late November, Faraj of Conrad Studios posted on the Avon in the Know Facebook page that he was looking to film a short movie in an Avon church. Avon resident Tonya Miller suggested Faith Lutheran, where she is a member, Faraj said. Faraj said he is grateful to Miller for helping make the church available in such a short time.

Faraj’s friend, Michael O’Donnell of Avon, worked on the crew and briefly appeared in the film. The bride was played by Morgan Page, a Cleveland and Pittsburgh-based actress.

“Wedding Runner” and other entries can be viewed on YouTube at #1917OneShotChallenge.

Faraj and his guest were flown on Dec. 17 to Hollywood, where they stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel. While there, they met with high-profile film producers and directors. They also saw the premiere of "1917,” a film about World War I that Mendes directed. The premiere was at the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theatre).

While in Hollywood, Faraj was swamped by entertainment reporters who interviewed him on the red carpet at the premiere of “1917.” Before Faraj went inside the theater, Mendes told him, “I saw your movie, now you get to see mine,” Faraj said.

“It was unreal,” said Faraj, 29, who returned from Hollywood on Dec. 19. “It was just an incredible experience. It all happened so quick. It was like being in a dream.”

Faraj said he met a lot of Hollywood “brass.” including Academy Award-winning composer Thomas Newman and Academy Award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, who both worked on “1917.”

Mendes’s film is about two soldiers during World War I who have to deliver an urgent message to a group of other soldiers before they get ambushed. It premiered in U.S. movie theaters on Christmas Day.

Faraj also met Pippa Harris, the chairperson of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

Harris told Faraj she would put him in touch with the head of development at her filmmaking company, Neal Street Productions, which is in the United Kingdom.

On top of all that, Faraj and his guest were invited to the premiere’s “after party” at the Sunset Tower Hotel.

“When we got to the hotel, the people at the door said, ‘It’s OK to let them in, they’re guests of Sam,’ Faraj said. “We couldn’t believe it.”

Faraj’s two days in Hollywood were a long way from his childhood, when he filmed movies with his stepfather’s video camera. Faraj’s family moved to Ohio from Honduras in 2002, when he was 12. While the family lived in Cincinnati, Faraj started making movies with people in the neighborhood and later local actors.

“The trip to Hollywood definitely was the highlight of my career,” Faraj said. “Meeting Pippa Harris definitely was a big highlight of it.

“You always hope that something like this leads to your big break or a big project. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

 Contact this reporter at msakal@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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