This blog post is one in a series that documents the experiences of the High School Film Competition Award-winning filmmakers as well as those High School Film Competition official selection filmmakers at the 2010 Heartland Film Festival. The 2010 Heartland High School Film Competition theme was Hope. The 2011 Call for Entries opens January 15, 2011 and the theme is Courage.
For all the amazing stories told in the films embodying the theme “Hope” that were submitted to the Heartland High School Film Competition, high school senior John Gordon’s Clay stood out as a clear winner and was honored as the Grand Prize film. Clay portrays a victim of the 2010 Haiti earthquake left in the rubble who treks through his memories in order to stay alive. This powerful film grabbed the attention of not only the Grand Prize jury, but also audiences for its unique portrayal of an individual overcoming a devastating experience, leaving people with the knowledge that hope exists in many forms.
The film’s director, John Gordon, has attended a number of other film festivals including the SXSW, AFI and Sundance; yet without a doubt states that his, “experience at Heartland reigns at the top.” Gordon recounts his experience: “Heartland has also helped me in carving out my path for the future. Some sort of spark was ignited inside of me during my time there, and I am now heading full speed toward my film career. Film is such an effective means of communicating to a large audience, and Heartland has shown me that if you can create a moving piece of work, then they will provide that large audience. Better yet a huge audience! I would have to say, that the best part of the entire festival was seeing a short clip of my film on the huge screen at the awards gala. Then to see that regal graphic reading “2010 Crystal Heart Awards” come swooshing in on top of it with a deep bellowing rumble…. gah! My heart stopped. I cannot thank the phenomenal people at Heartland enough, and cannot wait to come back again!”
John wasn’t the only one who had a life changing experience. The entire experience has helped Gordon’s father, also John, to see things differently as he now recognizes that “there is an organization that exists to promote truly moving films and help filmmakers tell inspiring stories.” After all, the festival was all about the filmmakers. The young filmmakers were given the same honor and respect as the more experienced filmmakers. “It was probably most inspiring to see experienced professional film makers take a real interest in my son,” Gordon wrote proudly. “Only a festival like Heartland could provide such an environment.”
For every proud father, there is a proud mother. John’s mother, Benita, appreciated Heartland’s bigger purpose: “to send a message to the world that very talented people through their arts can make human kind stand up and take note of the world and to shine a light on what the world wants to ignore.” She points out that John now knows his choice of careers in the world of film affirms his belief that everyone’s story needs to be heard. Benita also expressed the impact that the festival had on John’s brother and cousin, both of whom appear in Clay. Taylor, John’s brother, says his belief in mankind is renewed, and Alex, John’s cousin, believes he too can make a difference in this world.
John is currently studying film at Full Sail University in Florida. He plans to use his prize money from the Heartland High School Film Competition to develop a professional short film about astronauts in training.
John and his entire family were such a joy to have at the 2010 Heartland Film Festival. We at Heartland are so encouraged by the Gordon family’s experience and can’t wait to see what John does next with his burgeoning career.