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April 9, 2003


Controversial 35mm short emerging as sleeper hit of festival circuit


Date: 09 April 2003
Cleveland International Film Festival: 216-623-3456, www.clevelandfilm.org
Filmmaker Contact: Rik Swartzwelder/863-602-5796, www.oldfashionedpictures.com
Press Photos for Download: www.oldfashionedpictures.com/the_least_of_these.html

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and graduate of Tusky Valley High School, Rik Swartzwelder was recently honored by Kodak and Film Craft Lab at the 27th Cleveland International Film Festival. On Sunday, March 30, Swartzwelder and his 35mm short film, The Least of These, received the “Best Ohio Short” award as well as a $1,500 film stock and processing grant.

“This particular award means so much to me and my family since I first learned how to make films while growing up in New Philadelphia—with an old 8mm movie camera that was handed down to me by my grandmother. It had belonged to my grandfather before he passed away. Camera. Tripod. Splicing equipment. Mini-home Moviola. The whole bit. The gift my grandmother gave me in that film gear changed my life. I only wish she were still alive to see just how much that is true. I dedicate this honor in memory of her—Helen Maxwell-Tantrum,” Swartzwelder said.


Based on a true story by internationally known speaker and sociologist Tony Campolo, The Least of These has already garnered 14 awards and over 35 “official selection” screenings during its nine months on the film festival circuit. Filmed at the historic Tastee Diner near Baltimore, Maryland, the atmospheric, character-driven film tells the story of how the fading, isolated life of a diner owner and the dull routine of his late night crowd are forever changed by the unusual proposition of a stranger.

On April 7, the Rochester International Film Festival, the oldest continuously held short film festival in the world, announced that The Least of These will be presented a coveted Rochester Trophy and be screened at the prestigious Dryden Theater in the George Eastman House—the world’s premier museum of photography and film in Rochester, New York (May 1-3).

Other recent awards for The Least of These include the Sprint PCS Filmmaker of the Future Award at the Pensacola Bay International Film and Television Festival (March), a CINE Special Jury Award at the 44th Annual CINE Golden Eagle Awards ceremony (held February 27 at the Grosvenor Auditorium at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC), and a Silver Telly in the 24th Annual Telly Awards program.

Distinguished alongside other honorees including Sheila Nevins, executive vice-president of original programming at HBO, celebrated documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and The Smothers Brothers, Swartzwelder received the CINE Special Jury Award for his work as writer-producer-director on The Least of These. Honored as the “Best of Entertainment/Drama,” Swartzwelder’s extraordinary short film was competing against submissions from all of the major broadcast and cable networks and his win was a stunning victory for such a modestly-budgeted, independent project. Last year, the same CINE Special Jury Award was presented to Wit, produced by HBO and starring Emma Thompson. Founded in 1957 by a consortium representing business, education, and government to depict American life and thought realistically for a global audience, CINE continues to recognize and foster the highest quality of non-theatrical film and video production through its semi-annual competitions.

The Telly Awards, founded in 1980, annually honors the best in film and video productions and non-network cable TV commercials. Entries do not compete against each other. Rather, they compete against a high standard of excellence. Of the well over 10,000 submissions that the Telly Awards receive every year, only a select 7-10% receive the Silver Telly, the organizations highest honor. Now with their own Silver Telly, Swartzwelder and The Least of These join other several other esteemed recipients of the award, including DreamWorks, Turner Classic Movies, and The History Channel.


WINNER – Heartland Film Festival, Damah Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, Rochester International Film Festival, Pensacola Bay International Film & TV Festival, Columbus International Film & Video Festival, Magnolia Independent Film Festival, CINE Special Jury Award, CINE Golden Eagle, Silver Telly, and four honors at the ITVA-DC Peer Awards in Washington, DC.

OFFICIAL SELECTION – Filmstock International Film Festival, Phoenix Film Festival, Dawson City International Short Film Festival, The Back East Picture Show, Maryland Film Festival, Durango Film Festival, Palm Beach International Film Festival, Fargo Film Festival, Bare Bones Independent Film Festival, Tambay Film Festival, DC Independent Film Festival, Dead Center Film Festival, Big Muddy Film Festival, Thunderbird International Film Festival, International Family Film Festival, Breckenridge Festival of Film, Marco Island Film Festival, Ragamuffin Film Festival, and the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

- Jeffrey Travis, Hope Arts Center/Project Seven

- Desson Howe, The Washington Post

- Frank Gabrenya, The Columbus Dispatch

- Stevi Calandra, The Discovery Channel

- Jane Rulon, Director, Indiana Film Commission

- Jorge Bernardo, All About Film

- John Axelrad, Editor, "Hack" (CBS)

- Ryan McReynolds, University of Colorado

- Matthew Borlik, Washington City Paper


A graduate of The Florida State University’s Graduate Motion Picture Conservatory, Rik Swartzwelder is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at nearly 100 film festivals, internationally, and garnered over 25 major awards—including the “Student Emmy” for his highly acclaimed master’s thesis film, Paul McCall, and the Crystal Heart Award from the prestigious Heartland Film Festival for his multiple award-winning 35mm short, The Least of These. Rik has also sold two feature scripts, one treatment, and is currently prepping to direct his first feature.