Director Hollie Olson could ask for no higher praise.
The Vancouver esthetician's first feature film, "Gabby's Wish," won the coveted Audience Choice Award during this year's Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival, known as POWFest.
The movie premiered to a packed house March 8 at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland. The festival reported record ticket sales and the response to the 90-minute film was overwhelmingly positive, Olson said.
"This is our first year with POWFest, they have been extremely generous and sweet," she said.
The film follows Gabby (Catherine Johnson), a dying widow with no children, who has lost touch with her family. She attempts to become reacquainted with her relatives in hopes of finding a proper heir to her estate. But she finds herself in the eye of a growing storm of family issues that touches on both humor and drama.
Olson wrote the film in 2010 as a way of working through grief after the unexpected death of her brother, Jim Olson. It was the sudden disconnect in her family from the loss that inspired the theme behind the character-driven film.
"I think that just any kind of connections to people you have is important," said Olson, for better or worse, adding how family members often don't resolve issues between each other, which can create resentment.
"I love the challenge of taking all the puzzle pieces and making them all fit together," Olson said.
Olson started as an actress 30 years ago, but only recently found herself writing and directing. Her favorite part of filmmaking is casting, she said. "Most of our team have all met each other through auditions. It's this weird little grapevine," she said.
Cast members include Johnson ("Pathfinders"), Jonathan McGinley ("Leverage"), who plays Gabby's assistant, and Adrienne King (the original "Friday the 13th"), who plays Gabby's self-righteous sister. King jumped at the chance to break away from the horror genre to play the stress-filled character, Olson said.
Most of the production occurred in July 2010 in Vancouver and West Linn, Ore. The film's score was by composer James Pick, also from Vancouver.
The movie relied on the strong film community in the area, especially with Oregon's movie incentives program, something Olson would like to see Vancouver implement.
"I feel like Washington needs to build up their film office," she said. "I'd love to be a pioneer for Washington film."
Olson is currently seeking distribution for "Gabby's Wish," and it was just recently selected for the Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii. She is already working as a writer and producer for "Bad Sign," an edgy mockumentary that will start shooting this summer in the Vancouver area.
— Ashley Swanson
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