WILLIAMSTOWN — Matthew Reeve, the eldest son of late actors Christopher and Dana Reeve, will present Williamstown Film Festival's very first award at a gala Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.
Reeve will bestow the prize and a check for $500 to the filmmaker with the highest number of favorable votes from the festival's audiences. Only the filmmakers who produced a narrative, short film are eligible for the award. There are 19 this year. The other short films in the festival are animated.
"We've never had one," executive director Steven Lawson said in response to why he created the award. "We were being a little purist about not being a competitive festival. But, quite often even one award inspires entries. People like to get something."
He said filmmakers who have "maxed their credit cards, borrowed from their folks and sold their cars" in order to make movies should be especially excited by monetary incentive.
"Five hundred dollars is a very nice prize. It's more than some of the shorts' total budgets," he said.
Once he decided to create an award, he wanted to dedicate it to the Reeve family, who are former residents of Williamstown. He said he first met Christopher Reeve in 1980 through work at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and has been connected to the family ever since. When the Williamstown Film Festival was founded in 1998, Reeve was the first person Lawson asked to be on the advisory board. Reeve also helped save Images Cinema from financial ruin more than 15 years ago. Both Reeves remained involved in the theater festival over the years.
Christopher Reeve died at age 52 in 2004 after falling into a coma. He had been paralyzed in a 1995 horseback riding accident. His wife, Dana, died of lung cancer in March at age 44. They left a son, Will, now 14, and Christopher's two grown children from a previous relationship, Alexandra, 22 and Matthew, 26.
Matthew Reeve now works as a documentary filmmaker and Lawson said he agreed to take a break from working on a film about kite surfing in Venezuela to present the award.
"I'm very excited, I think it's going to be fun," Lawson said.
Audience members will vote as they are leaving each screening, and festival organizers will tally the results Sunday.
The festival begins Thursday, Oct. 19, at Images Cinema at 8 p.m. with a screening of "21 Up America" and ends Sunday, Oct. 29, at the cinema with the "Shut Up and Sing" at 11 a.m. The Clark, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams and local restaurants also will host festival events on both weekends. Moviegoers can purchase tickets at www.williamstownfilmfest.com.