William Strang-Moya and Kristin Helf



Go beyond the scenes of the 2018 Ocean City Film Festival with its founders

Written By: Jonathan Westman | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

How is it that a couple of college students created the first legitimate film festival in Ocean City in 2017? Simply put: William Strang-Moya and Kristin Helf are wise souls well beyond their years, and their passion for the film industry, its genuine creativity and the beauty of the Eastern Shore made it all happen. That and a chance meeting with Art League of Ocean City Executive Director Rina Thaler.

William, a Berlin native, and Kristin, from Crofton, met while attending college at Towson University. They made a trip to Ocean City to help a college friend with the production of his thesis film. In need of a last-minute shooting location, a call to Thaler to inquire about the gallery as an option led to a discussion about hosting the film’s debut once it was finished. Thaler, in turn, tossed out the idea of expanding the experience into a festival. 

“We pretty much hit the ground running after that night, and six months later hosted our inaugural festival,” William said.

This year’s festival, presented by The Art League of Ocean City, runs March 9-11 and showcases 100 films from local, regional and international filmmakers (students to professionals) in a variety of genres. Feature-length films will be shown on each of the three festival days, while short films are most abundant on the schedule and cover a wide array of genres, including drama, documentary, experimental, comedy, youth and social commentary. “Not Short But Not Feature Length” selections, animation and music videos are also on the slate. All films will be shown at North Ocean City locations (Ocean City’s Center for the Arts, Fox Gold Coast Theater, The Princess Royale and the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau), to maximize convenience and the opportunity to take in as many entries as possible.

“We choose films that we believe are purposeful and personal to the filmmaker,” William said. “We often prioritize local films, but we ultimately seek films that we know will resonate with our audience. We proactively curate the stories that can’t be found in any ordinary movie theater.”

The weekend also includes a series of workshops for aspiring filmmakers on a variety of topics.

“This region is sort of a dead-end for the film industry,” William said. “I do not view the lack of opportunity on the Eastern Shore as a dead-end, rather
I view the Eastern Shore as a land to be cultivated. Our end-game is to create opportunities where there were none before.”

The 22-year-olds, who’ve graduated from Towson and gotten engaged, hope the festival and its backdrop serves as
an inspiration for others, allows film-makers to create invaluable networking connections and brings renewed awareness to Ocean City as a filming location. 

“More people should realize what a great location this is and that its beauty and uniqueness transfer to the camera,” Kristin said. “If the film festival helps someone realize that in some way, then I think we’ve achieved our goal.”

Tickets to this year’s Ocean City Film Festival, which range from $10 to $50, can be purchased at A complete schedule of viewing times and locations is available online, as well.

A filmmaker himself, William’s latest work is titled “The Sign,” a historical documentary about a Confederate marker in Salisbury, while Kristin is a professional writer.


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