Two Major Film Festivals Honor Web Series by Screenwriting M.F.A. Students

A digital video production by students in Hollins University’s Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) program in screenwriting and film studies has been cited by two renowned film festivals.

Bless Your Heart, written by Bri Kaisen, Michael Greenwald, and Ian Deleon, was named Best Web Series in the November 2022 monthly competition sponsored by Top Shorts, a leading online film festival that was selected by Motion Array as one of the best short film festivals for up-and-coming filmmakers. Top Shorts is one of the best-reviewed festivals on the website FilmFreeway, with over 200 five-star reviews.

The production also earned Honorable Mention in the Best Original Story category in the New York International Film Awards’ (NYIFA) monthly film and script competition for November. NYIFA’s goal is to acclaim films and filmmakers from around the world and to serve as the next stage in their careers.

Bless Your Heart is a four-episode comedic web series that Kaisen, Greenwald, and Deleon originally developed for a screenwriting class taught by Chuck Kim, who boasts credits in prime- time television, comic books, and animation, including multiple seasons working on the NBC series Heroes.

“The series’ main character is Annabelle, a snob mayor of a local country town trying to get reelected,” Kaisen explained. “She sees the local hotdog eating competition held by wacky ketchup enthusiast Bill Kleinz as the perfect press event where she can win over more residents and convince Mr. Kleinz to donate much-needed money to her campaign. Unfortunately, Brenda, the local town drunk, stands in her way. But, when Mayor Annabelle tries to convince Brenda to leave, she may or may not accidently kill her. Now, Annabelle has to figure out how to hide the body while winning over her town and the hotdog eating contest.”

Jax Martin, Matthew Humphrey, and Mary McKeon partnered with Kaisen in filming the series during writer and filmmaker Lincoln Reed’s Summer Term 2022 production class (Reed’s short film Drop Dead Gorgeous was named winner of Best Screenplay, Audience Choice, and Best Cinematography at the 2018 Envision Film Festival).

“We had a lot of hardships and troubles but we pushed through and were super-proud of what we created, so I decided to submit it to some film festivals,” Kaisen recalled. In addition to the recognition from Top Shorts and NYIFA, Kaisen and her collaborators just learned that Bless Your Heart has been selected for the Festigious Los Angeles – Monthly Film Competition. “We’ve submitted it to bigger annual festivals taking place next year and have our fingers crossed,” she added.

Kaisen hopes to someday write comedy for television. “I’m currently working on a 30-minute comedy TV pilot episode about a bright-eyed nurse trying to improve a nursing home that is in danger of being shut down. I’m also in the process of rewriting a feature-length dark comedy screenplay entitled Horoscope Hell about a horoscope writer for a dying local paper who dreams of becoming a real journalist. She angrily writes murderous horoscopes that are accidentally published and then become real murders.”

Kaisen believes that “none of this would be possible” without the guidance and support she has received as she pursues her M.F.A. in screenwriting at Hollins. “I’ve completely evolved throughout the program. I’ve gained confidence in my writing and learned so much from the amazing teachers we have. Hollins’ screenwriting program has given me a real chance to succeed in the industry.”