By Matthew Young, RealWV
The 27th annual LA Shorts International Film Festival is set to begin Wednesday. For nearly three-decades, the OSCAR-accredited festival has featured works from the likes of Jon Favreau, Hilary Swank, Bryan Singer, Tim Burton, and Rachel Weisz. However, with this year’s festival’s world premiere of the animated short film “Walls” – written by Beckley native Joey Fama – the City of Angels will feel a bit more like Almost Heaven.
“I’ve always liked to write,” Fama said while speaking with RealWV. “There was a time when I was a sports writer at my alma mater, Concord University.”
Despite Fama working consistently to perfect his craft, he wasn’t seeing much early success with his writing. Now living in Berkeley County, Fama eventually gave up sports reporting to become a pharmacist. After a conversation with a friend about dialogue, however, and many hours spent researching screenplays at the Concord University Library, he decided to try his hand at screenwriting.
Fama’s work would eventually lead him to an acting workshop at the Northern Virginia International Film Festival, where he first met Los Angeles-based filmmaker, Michael Perry. A graduate of the USC School of Cinema, Perry began his career directing music videos and television commercials, before evolving into short films. In the time since their initial meeting, Fama and Perry have become both consistent collaborators, and good friends.
“Our first film together was a musical, called ‘Carnival Kid,’” Fama said. “It had a lot of success. We played at the Chelsea Fashion and Film Festival, and the Cutting Room Film Festival in New York, and at the Northern Virginia Film Festival.”
Fama’s claims of the film’s success were well-earned. Carnival Kid was both winner of the 2018 “Grand Jury Award for Best Film” at the Northern Virginia Film Festival, and nominee for “Best Musical Drama” at the Cutting Room Film Festival. In total, Carnival Kid won two awards, and was nominated for six others during its festival run.
According to Fama, his most recent collaboration with Perry, the animated short film Walls, came as the result of a Skype-call during COVID-lockdowns.
“Michael told me that he had an artist whose style he loved, but he didn’t have a script,” Fama said. “I told him that I had tons of ideas, and not to worry about it. [I gave him a script] about two weeks later, and he said, ‘This is perfect, we’re gonna make it.’ Just like that the animator started drawing. That was about a year-and-a-half ago.”
The artist whose style Perry loved was 2D animator Anna Zaitceva. Zaitceva and Perry previously worked together on the award-winning 2022 vignette, “Saturday Night.”
“The film was beautifully animated, and it was beautifully scored [by pianist Mariya Remizova],” Fama said. “They (Zaitceva and Remizova) did such wonderful work.”
As summarized on the film’s website, Walls is a “thoughtful and intriguing film, delivered with a stark, almost stilted animation.”
The film’s description reads: “We see unmoored author Ami Arnette Alabastor toiling to create things of superficial value that appear to have no purpose and buying things for which she has no need until she meets a reader of one of her books.”
In Fama’s own words, Walls is about, “Trying to deal with the monotony of life, and just trying to find purpose.”
“I don’t write for a living,” Fama noted. “It’s something I do because I love to do it, and I’ve been very fortunate.”
“I know a lot of writers who are hitting the film festival circuit and writing a lot of great stuff, but have never gotten anything produced,” Fama added. “I’ve been very fortunate that I have. I’ve met a lot of great people who I really like – friends and writing partners – and that’s probably the best part about this.”