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Raleigh filmmakers are working to rejuvenate film in North Carolina.
If there’s one thing Raleigh-based filmmakers Lance Bacon and Steve Neilson have learned from the film industry, it’s that you should never give up.
After submitting their short film, “Oh Crappy Day,” to several film festivals in early 2015 without hearing anything back, they finally won the Lou Costello Award for Best Comedy Short at the Garden State Film Festival that year.
“We were up against big names and all of the sudden, I heard us called and our lives changed after that,” says Neilson. “It was the moment in my life that I was like, ‘I think I know what we’re doing.’”
The recognition sparked a slew of additional festival wins across the nation, including the Best Plot Twist award at the 2015 Granite State Film Festival and Best Comedy award at the 2016 Cape Fear Independent Film Festival.
The short tells the story of a college filmmaker with OCD who goes on a blind date at Raleigh’s Hayes Barton Cafe; there’s a witty plot twist at the end. It’s a lighthearted, hopeful portrayal of a person dealing with a disorder that has won the hearts of many since it was first screened at The Rialto Theatre in 2014.
Now, Neilson and Bacon—who suffers a mild form of OCD himself—are turning “Oh Crappy Day” into a feature film to submit to top tier film festivals like Cannes, Tribeca and Sundance. The filmmakers were inspired to enter Sundance after the festival selected a Wilmington-shot feature film called “Uncle Frank” for its 2020 premiere lineup. “This is exciting for us because it shows that folks in the industry want to know what’s going on in the South, specifically in North Carolina, because it was so vibrant at one time,” Neilson says.
For decades, North Carolina was one of the top filmmaking states in the nation but after the state’s General Assembly let a significant film incentive program expire in 2014, many filmmakers left the state and relocated to places like South Carolina and Georgia where filmmakers receive higher tax credits and other incentives.
But Neilson and Bacon decided to stay in Raleigh.
“Our stance is to dig our heels in the sand as independent filmmakers to bring back the incentives that we all deserve,” Neilson says. “We may not be successful in our run, but at the same time, somebody has to stand up and say ‘This is wrong and we’re going to continue to make films here in Raleigh, because it’s a wonderful state.’”
North Carolina’s Film Commission has since been reestablished under Gov. Roy Cooper in an effort to serve and lobby for the state’s film industry. Bacon and Neilson are optimistic that local filmmaking is on the road to recovery, and that “Oh Crappy Day” can help pave the way.
Bacon and Neilson will host a crowdfunding event at Clockwork on March 4 to raise funds for costs associated with the festival circuit, marketing materials and distributions deliverables. Follow them on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (@ohcrappydayfilm) for updates.
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