By Josette Keelor
Local stage and film actor Nick Nerangis hasn't forgotten his wife's reaction to watching his big screen role as a barbershop serial killer in the horror-comedy "A Little Off the Top."
"She looked at me and said 'I don't like you. 'And I said, 'Thank you honey, that's exactly what you're supposed to say.'"
Others have told him that too.
"So I'm not a likeable character," Nerangis said. But he's okay with that.
His portrayal of a barber who confesses to killing several people because they annoyed him earned him a best actor award at last month's World Music and Independent Film Festival.
"A Little Off the Top" stars local actors and premiered last November at the Alamo Draftshouse Cinema in Kernstown. This weekend it will be part of the Skyline Indie Film Fest in Winchester, along with 22 other films submitted from around the world, some of which have already been to high-profile festivals like Cannes and Sundance, said festival director Brian Patrick.
"The quality of the submissions is really high," Patrick said. But that was his intention.
"Any yo-yo with a cell phone can call themselves a filmmaker," he said. To make the festival, "you have to have some element that promoted the art of cinema."
There were no submission categories, he said, so in theory he might have ended up with 23 films of the same speed, but he said the festival will offer a good mix of genres -- and of production level.
"Every film went head to head with every other film," he said.
Films have already been judged in all but one award category, he said. For Fan Favorite, filmgoers can vote for their top choices until 11 p.m. Saturday, and the winning film will be announced at a free event at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Alamo.
Films include "Rock Jocks," a 2012 science fiction/action/comedy about a team of misfit government employees who have to save the world from an asteroid shower while saving their jobs from downsizing, showing at Dharma Studio in downtown Winchester at 4:30 p.m. Saturday; "The Kings of Summer," a teen dramedy about three boys who run away from home to build a house in the woods, showing at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Alamo; and "I Declare War," an action/comedy/drama about a group of neighborhood kids playing at war, at 10 p.m. Friday at the Alamo.
The Oscar Award-winning short film "Curfew" will show in a block of films beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday at Posh Pets Boutique; and local documentary "Where Do They All Go?" follows the life of entomologist and naturalist Jerry A. Payne, who remarks in the film, "There was one time in my life where I tried to devote about an hour every day to collecting insects. You know I just tried to collect them all. I figured I could collect them all. I didn't know how many was out there."
"Animals die all the time," he says in the film. "So where do they all go?"
Patrick, who co-owns Winchester Book Gallery with his wife Christine, said he wanted to bring a film festival to Winchester because he's a lover of culture and community.
Film festivals showcase the many local and regional filmmakers whose efforts might otherwise go unnoticed for their work, and he said Virginia is teeming with unrecognized talent.
Last March when he began accepting submissions, he received his first within a week. As of the July 31 deadline, he had 56 entries from as close as Winchester and as far away as India and Spain. He emailed everyone whose film was showing at the Cannes Film Festival in France, and it worked.
Sci-fi film short "Breathe Me" was at Cannes in May, and Friday it will be at Skyline in a block of shorts starting at 9 p.m. at the Espresso Bar and Café on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall; and the drama "Curfew," showing in a block of shorts at noon Saturday at Posh Pets, won a 2013 Oscar for live action short film.
Patrick appointed a team of judges to whittle down the applicants so no one could blame him for their film not making the cut. Two out of three votes and a film was in; two votes against and it was out.
In the end, 23 films made it.
"Yeah, it turned out great," Patrick said.
For Nerangis, film festivals are "sort of are a dream come true."
An actor for most of his life so far, he said a few years ago he was cast in a big budget movie that came of nothing for lack of funding. Now, because of "A Little Off the Top," he has another chance -- in an L.A. film with a major budget trying to get funding.
"And that's the role of the dice," he said.
The film takes place about 10 years into the future when the American government is taking over the First Amendment to the Constitution. Nerangis' character is part of the media trying to stop the government.
Later this month he'll take on a role in a film about Alzheimer's disease, being filmed on the Eastern Shore.
"A Little Off the Top" will show at 2:30 p.m Saturday at the Alamo, along with the 2012 comedy "Route 30, Too!"
"I call it a nice-guy-goes-nuts role," Nerangis said. "I wipe out nearly every other speaking character in that movie."
But it isn't all dark comedy, he said, and several situations hit close to home. In a scene in which his sick wife dies, he easily drew from his experience following his mother's death.
The film's director Joseph Durbin offered him direction, but Nerangis asked to perform the scene his own way first.
"When we were supposed to call cut, there was no call," Nerangis said. Then he looked up at the director and cinematographer, and that's when Durbin called cut.
"And they were both crying," Nerangis said, and Durbin told him "You have just raised the movie to a new level."
The Skyline Indie Film Fest will take place this weekend in venues around Frederick County. A $50 festival pass allows admission to all films, from noon Friday to the 11 p.m. on showing Saturday. Tickets are available for individual film showings, but seating is limited in some venues. Order online until 30 minutes before each showing, or pay cash at the door. For ticket prices and times, visit skylineindiefilmfest.org.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org