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Why Am I Childless on Spring Break and Who Will Select Daddying Film Fest's Atticus Award Finalists?

By Scott Beller

Daddying Editor and D3F Director of Communications

This week was my kids' spring break. It was the first time my wife and I have spent the occasion without at least one of our daughters with us. Both of them traveled with their high school crew boatmates to South Carolina for the week to enjoy three-a-day rowing, team bonding activities, and barely passable cafeteria grub while we headed to the Big Easy for three-a-day French Quarter hikes, jazz, and exquisite meals of which we tried our best not to immediately text them photos.

Can you fill the "kid void" with shrimp 'n' grits? We tried...

We also did our best to not dwell on the fact that, given our teens' love of rowing, spring break trips with the kids are a thing of the past. So, I guess that's it. From now on, our vacation pix will be filled with things like beignets, shrimp 'n' grits, and étouffée instead of our kids. And despite how delicious those foods absolutely were, I couldn't help but feel a little empty.

As I flew home alone and my wife flew the opposite direction for a business trip, that reality continued to creep in. The movie I'd downloaded to watch in-flight, Brian and Charles, oddly brought things even more into focus. It's a quirky yet simple story (shot almost like a mockumentary) of a lonely Welsh handyman and inventor named Brian, who creates an intelligent robot he names Charles. While Brian teaches Charles about the world around him, as a father figure might, he simultaneously tries to protect him from it by keeping his creation a secret. As Charles learns more, he longs to see and do more. And as Brian continuously asserts boundaries, his childlike robot increasingly acts out and attempts to push them. Of course, this is something to which all parents, particularly we parents of teens, can relate.

The film's uplifting ending (I won't spoil it completely) highlights perhaps the most difficult of all parenting inevitabilities and something I've found myself writing more about on the blog over the past year or so: letting go.

Do you like quirky and heartwarming? I do.

Brian and Charles made a suitable transition home from vacation and back to both a parenting and film-critiquing mindset for me. The film – which is excellent, by the way – debuted at last year's Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a 2023 BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film. I found the characters and their relationship charming. Brian struck me as a more self-aware Wallace (of Wallace & Gromit) and Charles as a sort of steampunk Johnny 5 from the 80s comedy Short Circuit. And I found the parenting themes even more touching than the love story between Brian and Hazel, the daughter of a woman Brian works for. Even though it is an unconventional take on father-child involvement, I think Brian and Charles is another film that would blend well with those our jurors are about to begin considering for this year's Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F).

But who am I to judge? Speaking of judges...

The first order of D3F business upon my return from vacation was to announce that we've filled all seats on this year's panel of expert judges. The VIP panel, comprised of experts in the entertainment industry, arts, academia, and some of our Atticus Award Finalists/Winners from 2022's inaugural Daddying Film Festival, will be responsible for selecting finalists from submissions by 1st-grade through undergraduate students, dads/dad figures, and other indie filmmakers.

The D3F 2023 expert judges are:

  1. Margaret Parsons, a film curator who founded the film program at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where she was Head of Film for more than 30 years. She has served as board member for major film organizations, including the Robert Flaherty Seminar and Washington Environmental Film Festival, and on the editorial boards for The Moving Image and the Getty Trust’s Program for Art on Film. She has been a judge for a number of international film festivals and her work in film preservation has earned her awards from the governments of France, Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, and Georgia.

  2. Dr. Carol Darcy, a lifelong educator who worked with the World Organization for Early Childhood Education’s US Chapter to organize an annual “film festival” at the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference until 2016. She is an advocate for the appropriate and skillful use of media for young children, families, and teachers, and created the professional development workshop “Being A Pro-Active Media Literacy Advocate.”

  3. Fredda Weiss, a film producer, costume designer, and member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1987, she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film for producing Love Struck. Her additional producing credits include The Best of Times (1986), starring Kurt Russell and Robin Williams; Shoot To Kill (1988), starring Sidney Poitier and Tom Berringer; and Zandalee (1991), starring Nicolas Cage, Erika Anderson, and Judge Reinhold.

  4. Mark Maxey, an Emmy Award-winning producer and President of Rolling Pictures. His recent motion picture productions include Kyra Sedgwick’s feature directorial debut Space Oddity starring Kevin Bacon; Mayim Bialik’s directorial debut As They Made Us, starring Dustin Hoffman, Candice Bergen, Dianna Agron, and Simon Helberg; Rare Objects, directed by and starring Katie Holmes; and the documentary feature Up To Snuff, which Maxey wrote, directed, and produced, featuring Aaron Sorkin, Martin Sheen, and Tom Arnold. His executive producer credits include The Kill Room, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, directed by Nicol Paone. Maxey is chairman of the Producers Guild of America - Capital region and a member of the Television Academy and Documentary Producers Alliance. He is co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Washington West Film Festival, the only film festival to donate 100 percent of box office proceeds to help at-risk youth and families in need. Maxey serves on the boards of Women in Film & Video, Artistic Fuel Foundation, and the Rock & Roll for Children Foundation benefiting families fighting pediatric cancer at the National Institutes of Health Children’s Inn.

  5. Robert Manganelli, father of Gio and Catalene. Now developing a documentary, We Were Here. He participated in Writers and Directors Labs at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute. Wrote/directed the award-winning short, Listen Carefully, which was selected by several festivals, including Sundance, AFI, Haifa Israel, Porto Portugal, and Cork Ireland. Manganelli earned his MA from UCLA Film School. As a grad student, he was nominated for a Paramount Pictures Fellowship.

  6. Deborah Boldt, an award-winning filmmaker with expertise in using film as an educational catalyst. She is the Executive Director & Co-Founder of REEL FATHERS. Her 1987 documentary, Miles to Go, which she directed with Sarah Stein and co-produced with Hilary Maddux, won an Academy Award Certificate of Special Merit. Her film, Fresco, was broadcast as a national PBS special. She’s an Aspen Institute Scholar/Lecturer, recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Regional Fellowship, and served on the board of New York Women in Film and Television.

  7. Chris Moore, a television writer, producer, and graduate of Chapman University’s screenwriting program. He has written for Netflix’s award-winning Family Reunion, as well as the CBS series The Neighborhood and Nickelodeon’s Young Dylan. He is currently writing and producing an animated project for Fox’s Tubi TV.

  8. Cris Iannucci, a New York City-based Assistant Director, Cris works in network TV and feature film production. With a BA in Performance from the University of New Mexico, she’s performed every job in front of and behind the camera. Raised by a single dad, Cris understands the importance of D3F for kids and dads and is thrilled to be adjudicating a festival that advocates for the accessibility of filmmaking to youth around the world.

  9. Thomas Callahan, an actor, broadcaster, and artist. Callahan attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. He has performed and exhibited in Los Angeles, New York, and Boston and earned awards from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Associated Press, Los Angeles Art-House Film Festival, and the Radio and TV News Association of Southern California. Thomas co-founded WUMB-FM Radio in Boston and currently hosts “Seasons & Celebrations” and 60s Chicks Radio.

  10. Aaron Scully, Daddying Film Festival 2022 Atticus Award Finalist for his short film Dad For Hire. Sydney, Australia, born and bred, Aaron is a working film, TV, and stage actor, filmmaker, and teacher who also runs an acting school for all ages near his home. The hilarious Dad For Hire starred his then 18-month-old daughter and garnered several festival awards, including a 2022 Daddying Film Festival finalist spot.

  11. Pablo Estrada, a filmmaker and the Daddying Film Festival's 2022 Atticus Award college undergraduate student winner for his animated film Pater et Filio. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pablo studied Image and Sound Design at the University of Buenos Aires before continuing his animation studies in Canada. He’s worked with Le Cube studios (Buenos Aires), Guru Studios (Toronto), and Pipeline Studios (Hamilton). He now lives in Oakville, Ontario, and is working with Pipeline on a new PBS cartoon series.

  12. Leela Malladi, a filmmaker whose short film, Hey Dad, It's Me, won the inaugural Daddying Film Festival's 2022 Atticus Award for high-school students. Now in college, she is currently double majoring in Radio/Television/Film and Economics at Northwestern University. Leela has expanded her filmmaking roles and now produces budgeted student films while also serving as the finance chair of Northwestern's student production company Studio 22.

The D3F Judging Process

To select D3F finalists, submissions are first narrowed by student and adult preliminary jurors from around the U.S., who have been trained in evaluating films by KIDS FIRST! and DADvocacy Consulting Group staff. Student jurors range from 4th grade through high school. After submissions have been culled, the D3F expert judging panel will review them to select up to 5 finalists in each of seven voting categories:

  1. 1st through 4th grade (elementary school)

  2. 5th through 8th (middle school)

  3. 9th through 12th (high school)

  4. College/university (undergraduate)

  5. Best Short Film (students, dads, other indie filmmakers)

  6. Best Feature Film (indie filmmakers)

  7. Roy R. Neuberger Prize for Best Dad-Created Film

All D3F student finalists earn a $250 award for use toward an activity or project to enjoy with their dad/dad figure. All D3F winners, including non-student, indie filmmakers, earn an “Atticus,” a statuette symbolizing Atticus Finch from the 1962 film based on Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mockingbird. Finch, an iconic single dad, represents several ideal daddying qualities. Student Atticus winners also earn an additional scholarship to advance their studies or create a project encouraging positive dad involvement. The best film submitted by a Dad will earn a special Atticus, the Roy R. Neuberger Prize, and $500 to use toward an activity or project with their child(ren).

Winners in each D3F category will be chosen by public, online voting during the festival in early June. Voting will be open from midnight, Sunday, June 4, through Saturday, June 10, 2023, at 11:59 pm EDT. Awards will be presented to student, dad, and indie winners in an online ceremony, Sunday, June 11.

Send Us Your Daddying Films/Videos

My next order of D3F business is to get this weekly blog post published, so I'll just leave you with this reminder: the D3F final deadline for submissions was just extended through May 1. All D3F submissions will be evaluated based on overall quality, creativity, and, more importantly, on how well they relate to one of the following daddying themes:

  1. A letter to my father/A letter to my daughter/son

  2. The most joyful/fun thing I ever did or wish I could do with my father and/or daughter/son

  3. If I could make one wish come true for my dad and/or son/daughter it would be...

If you're a student, dad, or other indie filmmaker, you've got a little more than three weeks to finish up and/or submit your film/video expressing what having or being an involved dad (or not) means to you. Note to indie filmmakers: even if your film has shown elsewhere or was made one, three, four, or more years ago, if it relates in some way to D3F's daddying themes, we'd still love to see it! Here's where to submit:

Submit your film/Video by May 1st!


Scott Beller is the proud, imperfect dad of two mighty girls, Morgan and Lauren, imperfect husband of rock-star mom, Elisabeth, Editor of the Daddying blog, and Director of Communications for DCG and D3F. He's a seasoned writer and PR agency veteran with more than 30 years of experience helping organizations of all sizes reach audiences and tell their stories. Prior to launching his own creative communications consultancy in 2003, he led PR teams with some of the world’s most respected agencies, including Fleishman-Hillard and The Weber Group. As a consultant, he’s helped launch two other parenting advocacy nonprofits with DCG founder Allan Shedlin. His first book, Beggars or Angels, was a ghostwritten memoir for the nonprofit Devotion to Children's founder Rosemary Tran Lauer. He was formerly known as "Imperfect Dad" and Head Writer for the Raising Nerd blog, which supported parents in inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and creative problem solvers. He earned his BA in Communications from VA Tech.


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