Decatur Celebration crowds turned out Friday for the fourth annual Land of Lincoln Credit Union 21 Film Project, held for the first time on Celebration grounds at the Avon Theatre.
At 6 p.m., the 20 filmmakers who made the final round were paraded into the theater down a red carpet to join the public for the premiere of their under-four-minute films. A special opening song from Celebration headliner Tiffany kicked off the fest, and Star Wars stormtroopers from the Central Illinois chapter of "Vader's Fist," the 501st Legion of Star Wars re-enactors, were also present to enhance the experience.
"At the end, we'll have an awards ceremony that will be kind of like a mini-Academy Awards and give out prizes for things like best picture, best screenplay, best effects, etc., and the people's choice award," said Becky Stubblefield, marketing coordinator for Land of Lincoln Credit Union. "Best picture will win $1,500, and the other awards win a trophy and a little digital flip-camera."
Ultimately, the best picture award and $1,500 prize was won by Dustin Tylman for his film "Bellifax: A not-so Standard Oil Company," but Tylman was not able to attend the festival to collect the prize. The equally prestigious, audience-determined people's choice award, however, was given to four local female students: Katie Brosamer-Senger, 18, Grace McCormack, 17, Gretchen Vandercar, 17, and Clare McCormack, 11. The four girls also took home best screenplay honors for their comedic heist movie parody "Rivers 3."
"We were not expecting to win the audience award at all; I am totally shocked," director Brosamer-Senger said. "I thought there was no way, because there were so many other good movies."
This is only the second film that Brosamer-Senger and her friends have shot, the previous one having been an entry into last year's contest that won them the best director award. The group has no training whatsoever in filmmaking, but according to the director, things just happen organically when they shoot.
"Last year, my brother and his friends entered the contest, and we just followed because I wanted to beat them," she said. "We just picked it up as we went along and have had a great time making these movies. We'll definitely make another one next year; we love doing it."
EMPANADAS: One of the foodstuffs new to Celebration this year and familiar to most of the Champaign residents in attendance are empanadas from Manolos, on the campus of the University of Illinois.
The small empanadas are essentially "miniature calzones, but with flaky puff pastry dough," according to employee Ben Deppe, and are a popular late-night snack for university students craving something either savory or sweet, as they can be ordered with either meat or dessert fillings.
A variety are available, from the popular "Chicken Inferno" to a "Cheese and Corn" or "San Telmo Carne" version and are something of a budget pick at $3 for singles and $2.50 per empanada for two or more.
"The San Telmo Carne has ground beef, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and Argentinean spices," Deppe said.
‘MEAT MAN PARFAIT': Every Decatur Celebration has a few new heart-stopping food items that create a buzz by either appealing to or disgusting potential buyers. Whereas last year's festival featured fried brownies and battered bacon as new items, this year's buzz-worthy item may very well be the "Meat Man Parfait" from Springfield-based Midstate Meat Co., a conglomeration of beef brisket, mashed potatoes, pulled pork and barbecue sauce in a clear plastic cup that is modeled in the image of the dessert parfait.
"We started making these just about a year ago for the Illinois State Fair, and they've been extremely popular ever since," owner Steve Donelan said. "People have never seen it before, and it's eye-catching."