Paul Awad and Kathryn O’Sullivan, a husband and wife team steeped in the art of moviemaking, have tried to be living examples of the old adage “practice what you preach.”
Awad, who teaches digital filmmaking, and O’Sullivan, who teaches drama and play- and screenwriting, have always advocated to students a “do-it-yourself” approach to filmmaking if barriers crop up. In the movie business, the biggest barrier has always been money, keeping the industry closed and selective.
“I tell my students that this is such a great time to be writing screenplays because the technology allows them to get a camera and go out and create,” said O’Sullivan. As sophisticated digital video-cameras and editing software becomes more affordable, moviemaking becomes less dependent on large coffers, she explains. The lesson is simple: “If you can’t find someone to do it, do it yourself,” said O’Sullivan.
IN THE LAST few years, the local couple has taken their own advice, collaborating to produce two short movies. “It almost started as an experiment to see if [the advice] was really true,” said O’Sullivan, explaining the couple’s foray into movie production.
Their latest film, “Lot Lizards,” a 16-minute short about three truck-stop prostitutes who ponder leaving their profession, will premiere this Thursday, May 4 at Gardel's Supper Club in Baltimore. The couple’s other film, “Sweet Dreams,” which Awad wrote and directed, will also be shown. The 21-minute short, which was produced by O’Sullivan, premiered last year at the D.C. Independent Film Festival.
O’Sullivan wrote “Lot Lizards” three years ago as a comedy/drama for the theater. During its run at the Source Theatre in Washington, D.C., which has since closed, the 10-minute play was well received, winning second place at the Washington Theatre Festival.
“When the play debuted, there was a lot of laughing,” said Awad, who directed the play and the movie.
Awad and O’Sullivan both teach at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College, where Awad has worked with video production classes and O’Sullivan teaches speech and drama. When the couple decided to produce “Lot Lizards” as a movie, several students from their classes joined the production crew to gain valuable real-world experience.
The filmmakers also attracted three experienced theater actresses, including Mildred Marie Langford of Alexandria, Lydia Mong of West Virginia and Kristy Van Meter. Langford, who studied theatre at George Mason University, and the two other actresses have performed with several theatre companies.
ON A TIGHT budget — the couple spent $1,500 to produce the film — they shot the film quickly. “It took about three days over three weekends to film,” said Awad.
But the quality of the film and its low budget continue to be examples to aspiring film students. “We’re living proof it can be done inexpensively, and I think that’s exciting,” said O’Sullivan.
The couple’s next project, a script O’Sullivan has started to write, is a comedic Dracula dating story. It’s about Dracula muddling through the difficult world of dating and trying to find “Mrs. Right,” all the while his overbearing mother is pressuring him to get married. While O’Sullivan says she enjoys putting ideas to paper, she loves to see her “visions come to life” on film. When the time comes, Awad will direct. “I’m lucky, I found a director who I trust with my work,” joked O’Sullivan.