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Feeling Sick But Welles

A day off paid off for Travis Waugh.

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A junior at Clover Hill High School, Waugh beat out 24 contenders, including some heavy hitters who make a living in film-related jobs. Second place went to Richmonder Kevin Hershberger, who wrote, produced and directed his film “Mystic Motel.” Hershberger is founder of LionHeart FilmWorks LLC, a Virginia-based film development and production company. Andrew Quike, a professor of cinema television at Regent University in Virginia Beach, took third place with his entry “Byline.”

According to Waugh, he shot “Sentencing of the Cat Stealer” while home sick from school one day using his family’s digital video camera. Serving as an entire film crew — scriptwriter, cameraman, soundman and editor — Waugh also co-starred in the film, alongside the family’s black-and-white cat, Oreo.

The seven-minute, full-color DVD features Waugh as a cat stealer who pays a hefty price when Schmirnof the Witchdoctor places a hex on the thief. As a result, he’s sentenced to live out his life as a cat.

A panel of judges from various backgrounds in the film industry rated the film entries in 10 categories: presentation, writing, sound, editing, creativity, visuals, audience communication, acting, insights and excellence. The judges were impressed with Waugh’s creativity and wit. “While other entries had more professional qualities,” says contest judge Kathryn Stephens of the Virginia Film Office, “Travis won for his originality.” For example, when the colorful cat stealer is condemned to his eternal feline fate, the scenes switch to Oreo’s vantage, at floor level and in black and white.

According to Stephens, Waugh entered five films in the competition. Not only was Stephens impressed with his use of the camcorder, she says, “The stories were so funny and different.” The judges also selected another of Waugh’s entries to be screened at the festival. The short film “Desire” was co-produced with his long-time friend Danny Clingenpeel.

The two became interested in filmmaking in sixth grade when Clingenpeel received a video camera for Christmas. Since then, two or three times a week, the teens have gotten together after school to improvise scripts and shoot scenes. The two formed a production company called “Ten Fingers.” Clingenpeel does improv at Comedy Alley, according to Waugh, so most of their films are quirky comedies. They take turns behind the camera and share scripting, directing, acting and sound-dubbing duties. “Three hours later,” Waugh says, “we have a seven- to 10-minute movie. We’ve made tons of films—maybe 50 or 60.” Waugh also works with another friend, Matt Giordano, making “more serious films.” Under the banner Shade, they produce suspense movies and thrillers. “Every time you make a movie,” Waugh says, laughing, “it’s your best production in the world.”

Waugh wants to use some of his contest winnings to buy lighting equipment for his next production. “We’re planning to make a really, really good film — a mockumentary about a flashlight tag league.” He adds, “We have lots of backing,” which means not necessarily financial help but a cache of willing actor friends ready to make it in the big time.

Despite his early success in filmmaking, Waugh is uncertain what career path he will take. He says, “It’s definitely just a hobby; it’s cool — the whole basis of making a movie.” He thinks he might become a minister. But for now, he is caught up in the fun of filmmaking. In a mock interview he prepared for the “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Waugh deadpans for the camera, “I think I’ve got it down,” he says. “It goes something like this: first Spotsylvania, Virginia, then Hollywood, right?” S



All entries from the Virginia Independent Filmmaker’s Contest will be screened at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Fredricksburg on Jan. 1 and 2. For information, call (540) 372-1160.

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