Conway boy raising funds to head to Filmapalooza

Hannah Burney Originally Published February 24, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 22, 2013 at 10:37 a.m.
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Hannah Burney

Aidan Billy, 10, shows off the Hans Solo figure that was awarded to the film crew of Fire Engine Red, the first runner-up in the 48-Hour Film Festival in Little Rock. Aidan had the lead role in the film and is now raising funds to travel with other members of the film crew to the Filmapalooza festival in Hollywood, Calif.

— While excitedly bouncing around his living room, Aidan Billy related a tale of how his best friend at school had found the master staff that day, which would allow him to control his minions. The subject then quickly changed to how pirates decided it would be more efficient to hide their treasure above ceiling fans because, “Why would you need to dig a hole in the ground when you can look for a big X in the sky?”

The 10-year-old Woodrow Cummins Elementary School student said he enjoys setting the stage, giving his friends direction for the roles they will play, then acting out scenes of the multitude of stories in his mind.

“It’s kind of like I’m guiding them through a video game,” he said.

His dream is to direct his own films when he grows up.

“I might act, too, but I want to direct. That’s what I really want to do. I want to make my own movies,” Aidan said.

And he’s on the road to make that dream come true. Aidan recently starred in Fire Engine Red, a seven-minute film that won an Audience Choice award, Best Story and first runner-up in the 48-Hour Film Festival in August in Little Rock. The film, dedicated to the Little Rock Fire Department, is a heartwarming story told from the perspective of a little boy’s firetruck that he receives on Christmas morning.

Co-directed by Michael Armstrong of Little Rock and Jim Patterson of El Dorado, both first-time directors, the movie was invited to compete against 114 other runner-up films from around the world in early December and won a popular-vote contest to be screened at the 48-Hour Film Project’s Filmapalooza in Hollywood, Calif., to be held March 7-10.

Filmmakers from around the world will have the chance to network with each other at the festival and attend screenings and workshops led by industry professionals.

Aidan and his mother, Rebecca Billy, are trying to raise funds to make the trip to the festival with other members of the film crew.

“We need about $1,000. More would be better,” Rebecca said. “We mainly need money for food and airfare right now. The longer it takes, the more expensive it’s getting, because airfare seems to be steadily increasing here lately.”

Aidan said he was excited when he was offered his role as Tommy Shuttles in Fire Engine Red, and he has since performed in a few more independent films. Patterson noted that Aidan’s role was particularly difficult because his character was silent for the majority of the film.

“He had one spoken line in the entire movie. The rest of his performance was pure physical acting that was voiced over with narration later,” Patterson said. “That meant he — and the rest of the cast as well — had to convey everything with body language and facial expression.

“That’s no easy feat, but when I look at the final product, I couldn’t be any more pleased. They gave us everything we could possibly have hoped for and more. I can still hardly believe how lucky we got in terms of actors, and Aidan was a huge part of that.”

Aidan already has some of his own movie-making displayed on YouTube: a stop-motion film he made titled Jango Fett’s Big Surprise. He has several other stories still in the creative stages.

“I have a vast mind. It’s like an infinite underworld,” Aidan said when asked how he keeps the details of all his stories straight.

His mother has set up a PayPal account to receive donations to fund Aidan’s trip to Hollywood. Those with a PayPal account can make donations to send_me_to_hollywood@yahoo.com. Rebecca said for those who do not have PayPal, they can simply email the account for more information on how to make a direct donation to the family.

To view Aidan’s film on YouTube, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NH6dji-jDQ. For more information, visit the Fire Engine Red Facebook page.

Staff Writer Hannah Burney can be reached at (501) 918-4527 or hburney@arkansasonline.com.

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