168 Best Film Project winner “The Party.”

By Joyce Rudolph
Published: Last Updated Tuesday, March 30, 2010 10:11 PM PDT

Maggie Jones, 6, received Best Actress and Jeff Rose from “Army Wives” won Best Actor in the 168 Best Film Project winner “The Party.” (Courtesy of Nathaniel Bluedorn)
They win more awards than ever in this year’s 168 Film Project at the Alex Theatre.

Women made a strong showing in this year’s 168 Film Project, a two-day film festival that culminated with an awards ceremony Saturday evening at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

Film crews created a short based on randomly chosen Bible verses and have one week, or 168 hours to film it. In this eighth year of the project, women won more awards than ever.

“It was definitely a banner year for female producers, said John Ware, founder and president of the event. “Women have been empowered by many things.”

They receive a lot of support in the 168 Film Project, he said. There are workshops run by professionals in the field they can learn from.

But the bottom line is, “they are very talented,” he added.

Take best newcomer winner Jeanette Reedy Solano, Ware said.

The film “Out of the Fire” was her producing debut, he said. She was an actor last year.

“She was a newcomer — a complete newbie and took this major project on,” Ware said. “She lost all her crew and camera gear because they got another job and went away. She prayed and kept working and finding a crew.”

Winning best film was Helen Urriola of Decatur, Ga., producer of “The Party.” It also won best director for Jim McKinney, best actor for Jeff Rose and best actress for 6-year-old Maggie Jones.

Urriola said she attributed the film’s success to a great team effort, starting with McKinney. A producer of TV commercials, Urriola took time out from her regular job to volunteer with the 168 Film Project.

“My primary task was to round up colleagues and co-workers on commercial projects to donate their time,” she said.

Urriola also scouted filming locations, helped McKinney with casting and did some script supervising, she said.

“And calling the caterer to clean up at the end,” she added.

She is a true believer in the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, she said.

“We had a lot of terrific actors and terrific crew people who loaned their personal equipment and expertise and muscle to move things around,” she said. “Combined with a fantastic script, we were lucky. The stars were aligned just right for us.”

“The Party” was about a little girl whose parents are divorced and the father is struggling with alcoholism. Her dad buys her a tea set, and they sit down for a tea party. During the party, a common house spider happens by, and she asks if it is poisonous. Her abusive dad says yes.

Cut to the little girl thinking about slipping it into his tea, Urriola said.

“It looks like she’s going to poison her father with the daddy long legs,” Urriola said. “She has to listen to the voice inside telling her the right thing to do.”

Winning was a lovely surprise, she added.

“It’s really an honor,” she said. “It makes all the hours you put in worthwhile, because it’s done on a volunteer basis. It’s a nice reward, and it reinforces our belief in the story, which is what really drew all of us to the film.”

Urriola’s contribution allowed McKinney to concentrate on directing the film, he said.

“She took responsibility on so I could work more on being a director,” he said. “I didn’t have to worry about tables and chairs, or actors’ call time.”