Sunday, September 24, 2023

‘Solo Orange’ gains film festival awards; plans second showing at Kimball Theatre

"Solo Orange" first premiered March 24 at the William & Mary Sadler Center. (WYDaily/Courtesy Identity Production Studios)
“Solo Orange” first premiered March 24 at the William & Mary Sadler Center. (WYDaily/Courtesy Identity Production Studios)

When “Solo Orange” shows for a second time at the Kimball Theatre in Merchants Square in January, film director Isaac Davis will have one particular friend on his mind.

Years ago, before John Van Bergen left Williamsburg to pursue college at Virginia Commonwealth University, he worked at the Kimball Theatre. He sat in the seats as he put together a portfolio of foreign and independent film catalogues and research.

In January, community members will sit in the same seats as Van Bergen did during his internship to watch Davis’s film, which is based on Van Bergen and memorializes him nearly two years after his death at age 19.

“These are very big ties that we have there,” Davis said Wednesday.

The Solo Orange showing is set for late January — either Jan. 27 or 28, the date has not yet been solidified — and is the second time it will be publicly shown in Williamsburg. The second showing will include a trailer featuring a few never-seen-before scenes, as well as some additional programming such as introductions for the actors.

Tickets will cost $5. 

Davis, a 21-year-old filmmaker and senior at William & Mary, started putting Solo Orange through his production company, Identity Production Studios, in the months following Van Bergen’s death.

By the end of March, the film was ready for public viewing, giving its audience an inside look at the struggles a person goes through when anxious or depressed. The film amassed positive feedback from all angles, from calls, to emails, to other messages. 

"Solo Orange" first premiered March 24 at the William & Mary Sadler Center. (WYDaily/Courtesy Identity Production Studios)
“Solo Orange” first premiered March 24 at the William & Mary Sadler Center. (WYDaily/Courtesy Identity Production Studios)

“It’s like we’re living in a dream,” Davis said. “I couldn’t walk on campus without people saying ‘When’s the next premiere?’ because people want to see it.”

That public feedback prompted Davis to enter Solo Orange in a dozen film festivals across the country — taking the film from inspiring to award-winning.

Over the summer, Davis discovered the film won the Best Student Short Film award with the New York Cinematography Awards. It also won the Best Narrative Short in the main category at the Mindfield Film Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico

This week, Davis also learned Solo Orange is a finalist in the Short Film Awards in South Orange, New Jersey. It is also a semifinalist in the Westfield International Film Festival.

To be honest, when I submitted it to the New York Cinematography Awards, I really wasn’t expecting us to win anything,” he said. “Our thought process was go big or go home. To our surprise, the award came back.”

As crews were creating Solo Orange, Davis never thought he would find himself later tracking entries in film festivals. The project was much more focused on effectively and emotionally telling the story of a young adult facing anxiety and depression — and teaching viewers how to understand those struggles. 

The goals are getting higher, and the film is gaining traction.

Van Bergen’s character in Solo Orange was played by Gunnar Frerotte, another William & Mary student, who grew up in Pittsburgh.

Gunnar Frerotte’s father is Gus Frerotte, a former Washington Redskins football player. The senior Frerotte has been talking with Davis about showing Solo Orange in colleges and universities around Pittsburgh.

“The reason we made Solo Orange was to ignite discussion among young people,” Davis said. “It’s made for students, by students. We will do anything we can do to get it into schools and raises discussions, awareness and solutions for anxiety and depression.”

After the film catches on in Pittsburgh, Davis hopes to begin spreading it at colleges and universities across the country.

Solo Orange isn’t the end for Identity Production Studios.

Davis is currently working on another film that delves into “temporary love.”

“Especially as college students and in a society where everything is so temporary, people in terms of having connections with each other — everything is so fragile,” he said.

The film doesn’t have a name yet — except code name “Project Alpha X” — but a trailer will be shown at the January film viewing of Solo Orange.

Identity Production Studios will raise the stakes with this next film in terms of quality and “pushing boundaries,” Davis said.

“Our whole goal as filmmakers as we step forward is we have to get better — we have to do better,” Davis said. “We think we’ve come up with something even better than Solo Orange.”

And, unlike Solo Orange, the crew already has big film festival aspirations for Project Alpha X.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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