The award-winning dramatic short film “Ladies Most Deject,” directed by Martha Elcan, will compete at the upcoming Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF) which will run September 8 – 13, 2020. It will be part of the festival’s Narrative Shorts Block II and will be virtually screened beginning on September 8.
Shot entirely in Wise County in far Southwest Virginia, the film tells an emotionally gripping story about resilience and strength in the face of overwhelming odds and broken promises.
The short film’s most recent awards are the Gold Remy Award for Short Subject Film – Dramatic/Original at the 53rd World Fest Houston for Audience Choice, and Best Ensemble Cast – Featurette at the 2020 Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. Previous awards include the top prize at the 2019 LA Femme International Film Festival, and it has received accolades at PUSH Film Festival, Southern Shorts, Brooklyn Women’s Film Festival, and won for Best Screenplay at Dam Film Festival
In the tradition of “Winter’s Bone”, “Ladies Most Deject” is the story of 17-year-old Charlie who struggles to free herself and her three siblings from the grip of their unstable addict mother and drug dealing uncle in rural Appalachia.
The film was directed by veteran director Martha Elcan, who hails from Lynchburg, Virginia. The screenplay was co-written by Conner Wharton (who plays Charlie) and ARAY Productions’ Mark Salyer, both of whom are from Wise County. Helen Cho Anthos served as Director of Photography, and Emmy Award-winner Nena Erb, ACE, edited the film; Production Designer Kleev Guessford and Sound Designer/Music Composition Brian Hawlk complete the creative team.
Filmed entirely in the Appalachians, the film’s producers strove to represent the authentic and gritty reality of life in the mountain communities in America today. ARAY (Appalachia Right At Ya) Productions tells stories by and about the people of the Appalachian Mountains. Created by Appalachian artists Melissa Palmer and Mark Salyer, ARAY develops projects for television, film and new media.
Conner Wharton (Charlie and Co-Writer) is a student at UCLA majoring in English and minoring in Film Studies. She was 19 years old when she and Salyer wrote the screenplay for Ladies Most Deject, inspired by the people of her tiny hometown in Central Appalachia which is dealing with a drug crisis of epic proportions. “I want to tell stories about people dealing with extraordinary circumstances – heroes and heroines making a difference,” she said. Asked how a teenage girl from the mountains ended up at UCLA making films, Conner said, “I always knew I wanted to be in California working in this industry. I may very well be the only Appalachian girl at UCLA.”
Other cast members include Robin Mullins, Ben Mackel, Pepper Binkley, Ellie Williams, Sofia Adams, and Josiah Wells. Mullins, Williams, Adams and Wells are all from Southwest Virginia.