Being Awesome is a slice-of-life drama with some comedy elements. The independent feature made its world premiere at the winter 2013 Indie Memphis Film Festival in Memphis, Tenn., taking home the Hometowner Narrative Feature Award. The film went on to win the Ron Tibbett Audience Award at the February Oxford Film Festival in Oxford, Miss., then went on to be a featured selection in late April at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in Dubuque, Iowa, the Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles on June 6, and the Waterfront Film Festival in South Haven, Mich., June 12-15, 2014.
The film is written, directed, produced and edited by Allen C. Gardner, who pulled the characters and situations from his own life and relationships. “About five years ago, I was coming off of a production that just ended, and I was ending a really intense relationship. All of a sudden I just felt displaced and unsatisfied with where I was at in my life,” Allen said. “I needed to figure out why, and I needed to learn how to appreciate myself again, and really take stock of who I am and all that I had accomplished, and what I had to offer.”
The story centers on Teddy and Lloyd, one a deeply introspective artist, the other a gregarious jock, who meet again at their 10-year high school reunion. Both discover they are in similar places of disillusionment, and unable to move past their failures, and unachieved dreams. Teddy and Lloyd band together to motivate each other toward a more awesome life, and provide encouragement, and sometimes a swift kick in the butt, to help each other turn their lives in a different direction.
Very few dramas explore the inner-life of men, or their perspective and feelings over relationship breakups, marriage struggles, divorce, career stagnation, and achieving purpose and direction in life. This is generally the purview of women’s dramas, and any male in the script is either the antagonist or focal point of the woman’s redemption. Being Awesome takes on this exploration, and succeeds in charting the emotional journey of both men in a winsome, engaging, and authentic manner. The independent also succeeds in building an accurate portrait of the challenges, fears, and struggles men face toward owning their true self and building honest and integrous bonds with each other. Though the film has some comedic moments, the humor is more lighthearted than laugh-out-loud, giving glimpses of Teddy and Lloyd life situations, personalities, and foibles that serve to reflect their commitment, earnestness, and sincerity in the midst of their process.
Shot in Allen’s hometown of Memphis, Tenn. the atmosphere, color, and lighting evoke hope, and reflect what the characters are striving toward, rather than their more depressed state of mind at the start of the film. While the pacing feels a bit off in the second act, Allen quickly picks it up again, bringing the film to an ending that is neither ultra-high, nor unrealistic, but reflects the satisfying life stage of each man, their process, and their forward momentum as they discover their own awesomeness, and strive to share it with others.