The fifth annual event takes place virtually March 4-11
Story by Olivia Minzola
The 5th Annual Ocean City Film Festival will kick off a new year in independent cinema this month, and viewers will have the opportunity to stream more than 80 films from the comfort of their own homes.
In years past, the festival was held in-person, with films screened to large, sellout crowds. Due to the ongoing pandemic, however, the festival will be held virtually this year. The founder and creative director of the Ocean City Film Festival, William “B.L.” Strang-Moya, welcomed the format change with open arms.
“Every year, we’ve managed to grow, and now we’re the most accessible we’ve ever been,” said Strang-Moya. “When we do our in-person events, a lot of people can’t travel to every venue to see every film. But now, with the festival being held virtually, it’s within their ability as an audience member to watch our entire catalog. For one week, almost all of our movies can be watched at any point, right in our viewers’ own homes.”
Since 2017, the festival’s inaugural year, graphic-design artist and Bishopville resident Ian Postley has created the event’s official poster. This year’s poster featured a colorful crew of robots, illustrating the transition from the festival’s regular, in-person event to its brand-new, all-virtual event.
“The robots were actually more thematically poignant than I thought they would be, just because now we’re transitioning to a virtual format,” said Strang-Moya. “Lately, we might as well become robots. It may seem silly, but it works.”
Originally, the poster did not feature robots. Instead, the figures strolling under the Ocean City Boardwalk arch resembled mindless zombies. The poster was originally designed in 2020, before the onset of the pandemic. Afterward, Strang-Moya and his team took another look at the unintentionally ominous cast of characters and decided that they needed to be replaced.
Beginning March 4, viewers can stream films and shorts and attend live screenings, workshops, panels, Q&A sessions and an awards ceremony. The festival concludes on March 11, after a closing broadcast.
This year’s screenings will cover an array of genres, including animation, dramatic shorts, environmental and aquatic films, feature films, funny shorts, horror, sci-fi, short documentaries, short feel-good films and youth short films. Over time, the abundance of genres has aided in demonstrating the accessibility of the festival to new filmmakers.
The youth short-films category, in particular, is a fan favorite and continues to provide young, aspiring filmmakers with the opportunity to explore a career in the film industry.
William “BL” Strang-Moya, who created the Ocean City Film Festival (OCFF) in 2017, said this year’s viewers will have the opportunity to stream more than 80 films from the comfort of their own homes. The Art League of Ocean City will feature Strang-Moya during its next online Lunch & Learn on March 9. B.L. will share an interactive history of the OCFF, discuss his career as a photographer and share films and videos from his portfolio.
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“One of the biggest driving forces for doing the festival is our ability to unite artists, specifically those within the community of filmmakers, at whatever level,” Strang-Moya said. “I think film is a medium that brings people together in a lot of ways, and it’s self-reflective for a town, such as the Lower Eastern Shore of Delmarva, to be able to have a film community.”
Since the very beginning, Strang-Moya has believed in his festival and all that it has to offer. What started as one man’s bold vision has now turned into something so much more. “It’s sort of a redefining thing for the town,” offered Strang-Moya. “The fact that this new, this weird, this quirky thing is blossoming and building this community of artists, both local and regional and sometimes international, is just unheard of. It’s new; it’s big; and it’s going to keep happening.”
Editor’s note: Olivia Minzola is a senior Media and Journalism major at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania preparing to graduate in May 2021. Olivia’s minor is Gender Studies and her current GPA stands at 3.77. She began interning with Coastal Style in February.