By Logan Dubel
Since launching in 2017, the Ocean City Film Festival (OCFF) has aimed to inspire and encourage budding storytellers across the Delmarva Peninsula. Highlighting unique Ocean City stories and plotlines rarely found in the mainstream film industry, the festival has successfully drawn participation from filmmakers year-round. Once again, the OCFF has prevailed in its mission to influence and motivate, but now local producers need the assistance of the community to catapult their next project forward.
The feature, entitled Peer, is a BIPOC-focused short film produced right in Ocean City covering the intersection of the beach, love, and inclusion. Tackling topics untouched by most filmmakers, Director Marlon Wallace and producers William Strang-Moya and Danielle Mooney hope the project brings more representation to the streets of their favorite vacation destination.
The story chronicles the journeys of two Black men, Harold and Arthur. Harold, an aquaphobe on vacation in Ocean City, and Arthur, a lifeguard spending the summer working for the beach patrol, have opposite personalities. Harold, a timid and quiet rising senior in college, eventually meets Arthur, who on the contrary, is quite outgoing. The pair eventually meet on the pier at the Ocean City Inlet, and Arthur, a lover of the water, wants to help Harold overcome his intense fear. Eventually, the two swim together to help Harold become more confident and simultaneously fall in love. Still shy and conflicted, Harold faces a major decision – will he continue to be afraid or pursue happiness?
Strang-Moya, Founder of the Ocean City Film Festival, is proud to showcase this unique story. “When I read the script for the first time, I knew I hadn’t seen anything like it in Ocean City before. We’ve seen so many summer romance films, but this involves a queer romance among people of color, and these stories are lacking in Ocean City and the mainstream media,” he said. “While we have seen representation increase tremendously on the national level, we still have work to do here in Ocean City, and I hope this film achieves that. Marlon Wallace, the director, knows movies inside and out and is truly a film encyclopedia. We all want to help our friend Marlon, and Ocean City is the place to do it.”
Wallace, a longtime editor at WBOC, writer of the M Report blog, and juror for the OCFF, approached Strang-Moya with the script shortly after the festival wrapped up in March. From personal experience, he understands the importance of sharing this story in the Delmarva area.
“As a juror in the Ocean City Film Festival, I see what films are submitted and get to help choose what ends up on the big screen. I’ve noticed that there has never been the kind of story that truly represents me,” Wallace explained. “As a Black gay man, I realized that I want to see a film that represents myself on the big screen. Representation has been lacking in cinema especially. I waited forever for someone to do a project like this, but I finally decided that I needed to stop talking and just do it myself.”
For film fanatics and lovers of Ocean City to enjoy the feature, support from the community is necessary. The festival has launched a 30-day GoFundMe campaign, asking for a grand total of $12,500 to support production and the cost of the cast and crew.
“The crew will almost exclusively be comprised of locals, thus making our film a small yet viable economic opportunity for the few people who do this kind of work in the area. As someone who used to freelance, I know that there weren’t always a lot of opportunities for people in the industry to make a living in the local area.” Strang-Moya added. “Anything we can do to build the culture of Ocean City is something I hope people are willing to contribute to. This film is another way of us showing people that we love Ocean City.”
Not only will the cast and crew benefit from donations, but the producers believe the Town of Ocean City will as well. They see the film as an advertisement for the resort, targeting new demographics, proving that the island is an inclusive place open to everyone.
Wallace is hopeful that everyone sees and appreciates the opportunities his film provides.
“To people that might be apprehensive, I would say that having a more inclusive town that tells these kinds of stories will only make it a better place. If people like me feel as though Ocean City is a place that is welcome to them, then more of us will come to the town and contribute to our local economy,” he said. “We can all enjoy the great activities Ocean City offers and help to make it a more prosperous place. Governor Hogan always says Maryland is open for business, so let’s promote Ocean City as open for all visitors.”
Those who make contributions will get perks for their support, ranging from free copies of the film, movie posters, and a chance to win 2022 OCFF all-access passes. Businesses that sponsor the film will even get the opportunity to have the name or logo of their establishment included in the feature.
If all goes as planned, production will begin in September, and editing will wrap up by the end of the year, in time for the Ocean City Film Festival in March. Eventually, the team hopes to take the film across the country and world to promote Ocean City.
To read more about the film and make a donation, click here.