FILM FREAK: 5 Questions with Ernie Smith, director of ‘Christine at the Crossroads’

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interview and review by Chris Kessinger, The Film Freak

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Christine_at_the_Crossroads_09One person’s exile from the truth not only burns them from the inside, but it can do damage to those they love. This is the center of the struggle Christine faces in “Christine at the Crossroads,” a short film written and directed by Ernie and Heather Smith. In the movie, Christine (Diane Sokolowich) is a top notch businesswoman with a loving, supportive husband (Brett Moye), and a beautiful home. She has everything she ever wanted, but happiness. She is trapped inside of a personal prison that she has created within herself to be someone she is not. Christine has known she was a little girl that she was a lesbian, but due to an unsupportive family and fears of being different, she has ignored her real feelings all of her life. When she meets Jen, a new co-worker who ignites the passion in her hidden feelings, Christine is faced with the choice that will shake the foundation of everyone in her life.

I really enjoyed the film for its bravery and social commentary to expose the treatment

SCREENING:
‘Christine at the Crossroads’
June 3 at 8:30 pm
Jilly’s Music Room
111 North Main Street
Akron, Ohio, 44308

that many gay and lesbian people go through on a daily basis. The movie packs so much of a personal punch in such a short amount of time (54 minutes) without needing much filler in between to represent what direction our characters are heading. Much praise also goes to the wide range in performances from the actors who The Smiths have cast. Many of the lead actors have been in the film world for fewer than five years, but their emotional depth combined with exceptional line read timing (especially Moye) is impeccable. I noticed a lot of great symbolism in the film representing Christine’s emotional struggle. A reoccurring theme is Christine putting together a puzzle, and the pieces don’t fit until the pieces with her own dilemma fit. It’s a nice artistic touch that cost little to add to the film.

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5 Questions with filmmaker Ernie Miller Smith

Chris: Can you explain some of the developmental processes to getting this made, and where it all started?

Ernie: The movie had its beginnings at the end of our last feature film four years ago. I had an idea for a shot in mind, so we tested it (it’s the shot early on where we see “Christine” in bed staring at the camera while someone has sex with her). It was a powerful image, but we weren’t sure what the story was at that time. A few years later, during a conversation with my daughter, I asked her when she felt like she knew she was gay. Her answer, kindergarten, stunned me. Even with very liberal parents, she kept herself closeted well into her twenties, after being married and having a child. That is when Heather realized what the story was that went along with that powerful image we had. Heather began writing and as word got out locally what we were getting ready to shoot, more and more of our gay friends started relating their stories to us. It was shocking how similar they were. We incorporated many of their stories, along with my daughters into the final script. Once the script was finished and we had our cast, it took us maybe twelve days to shoot.

Chris: This film is playing in film festivals this year. Where else besides Akron will the film play?

Ernie: So far, we have screened in Virginia twice, Oklahoma and California and North Carolina. In Oklahoma we won Best Romance/Drama Feature at the Bare Bones International Independent Film Festival. In the month of June, besides Akron, we will be screening at festivals in North Carolina, New York City and Springfield, Massachusetts. We are trying to line up a screening in Columbus during their Pride Festival and we have a repeat screening here in Hampton Roads.

Chris: You tackle a lot of negative issues that come from outsiders unfamiliar with the Gay/Lesbian lifestyle. Were your scenes based on a personal experience with a friend or family member?

Ernie: Our script was definitely based on personal experiences, besides those of our daughter. Both Heather and I have had close relationships with gay and lesbian friends and family all our lives.

Chris: What do you expect people to gain the most from seeing your film?

Ernie: I just hope that we give people some idea of what it’s like to have to deny your true self and maybe offer hope to those that are living a lie right now. We’ve had people come up to us after screenings and thank us for telling “their story” and even one who told us that she was currently going through events like those in the movie. We seem to be touching people of all persuasions, which is very gratifying as a filmmaker.

Chris: What’s in the future for you and S.Kelly Films?

Ernie: The future is unwritten, isn’t that what they say? We have our next project in mind, but it probably won’t get started until later this year and once again we’ll be tackling some personal issues. I want to get “Christine…” out there to as many festivals as I can, and am really thankful to Jill for giving us this opportunity to screen it. Much thanks also goes to Gerard Dominick for introducing our team to Jill. We are a small, small fish in a very big ocean, so getting any movie we make out in front of people is a daunting task.

Chris Kessinger is our resident film writer. You can find more of his reviews at thefilmfreak.com

 

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