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Fathom Film Festival: Bemidji native's films to be shown tonight


Two feature films by a Bemidji native that have already won recognition at the South Dakota and Nevada Film Festivals can be seen by Bemidji audiences tonight at 7 at the Wild Rose Theater, located in the Masonic Temple on Bemidji Avenue North.

Tonight's showing will be the premiere of Saarens Productions' Fathom Film Festival and is free and open to the public.

The first film, "Inside Looking Out," is a semi-autobiographical piece about how one deals with grief after an unexpected and devastating loss. In 2010, the film won Best Screenplay and was a Grand Jury selection of Best Film in the Nevada Film Festival. It was inspired by the loss of Harlan Hegna's brother Terry's life due to a drunk driver and how Hegna dealt with his loss with the help of the Grief Group at Bemidji Middle School. The film, a "pay it forward" story, focuses on a man who loses his wife and how he deals with the different stages of grief.

The second short film, "Seasons," was a Jury Selection Award winner in the 2010 South Dakota Film Festival and won Best Screenplay in the Nevada Film Festival in 2011. The film was actually the final production project for Hegna at the Colorado Film School at the University of Colorado. It is about a couple who have stayed married through all the seasons of life: spring, summer, fall and now winter.

Hegna is a name one would connect to Bemidji High School for football, student government and Vocalmotive. He graduated from BHS in 2003. Hegna was home over the holidays but had to leave before his features could be shown because of a previous appointment.

When Hegna was in high school, he wrote a film review that was printed in the Bemidji Pioneer. He polled about 500 students and asked them to name their top 10 films.

"I identified the top 10 films and wrote a review for each film," Hegna wrote in an email. "This was my first venture into the film business. In fact, back then I wanted to be a film critic more than a filmmaker."

He went on to say how his years in Bemidji were so important to him. He talked about one of his English teachers, Gina Bernard, who was the first person to encourage him to write.

"She gave me hope as a writer which as any writer can tell you, isn't always the easiest thing to come by," Hegna wrote.

After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater, film and television, Hegna and his wife, Christina (Lehmann) settled in Los Angeles. Hegna can boast of being gainfully employed, which is no small feat for job seekers in his field in California. He interned at After Dark Films and worked for Dr. Phil, MTV and CBS. His biggest break came in working in promotion for the Oprah Winfrey Network. Hegna also can boast of being an extra in television shows and films. One of his last gigs, "Pretty Little Liars," actually showed his face to audiences.

But it is film that is Harlan's first love. As he wrote, "Film is truly one of the more collaborative mediums out there and I think that might be why I enjoy it so much. Every time I wrap up a shoot it is bittersweet Though long hours and hard work are exhausting, the friendships forged along the way always make it worthwhile."

What could be so important to this 27-year-old filmmaker that he could not stay for the preview of his films in his hometown? Hegna has an interview with Sony Pictures Television in Los Angeles for a full-time job as a production coordinator. As he wrote, "After adding a name like Oprah to my resume, it became much easier to find work."

Hopefully, it will all work out for him, as he is planning to shoot a TV pilot or film in Bemidji at some point in the next year and a half.