3 June 2012

Report & Photos by AUSXIP Reporter Heather Ryan


ittle ROC Film Festival
June 3, 2012
By: Heather Ryan

After having the opportunity to attend the Little Rock Film Festival on Sunday, June 3rd I have an entirely different level of respect and appreciation for Renee O’Connor!!! Let me tell you - it was an very different experience than the Xena Cons…MORE than worth the 8 hour round trip drive to Arkansas’s state capitol from the heart of the Mississippi Delta.

When we first arrived at the location of the Infinity screening and the Women in Film panel discussion, I saw Renee and Jed (Sura) standing at a counter and had to fight the urge to go running up like a gushing school girl…yes composure is KEY!!! Besides…I am cool right?!?! HA!!! After the spit returned to my mouth I went to buy tickets to Infinity and the panel. I was promptly told that my buddy and I could not attend the panel as it was only for VIP’s and Gold Ticket holders…uuuhoohhh…nowhere on the festival website did it say that!!! BUT! I am a grown woman, I have met her several times before, clearly I will have an opportunity to at least say hello, watch Infinity…life is good!!!! About this time I see Jeanette O’Connor (no relation that I am aware of – please correct me if I am wrong) walk past. Jeanette is the Co-producer of Infinity, wife of Randy Crowder, and actress in her own right (check her out on – long list of film, TV!). Jeanette and I are new friends on Facebook, though we have never actually met – but what the hell right?!?! I am friendly. I’ll meet my new friend in person at any rate (how often do we get to meet our FB folks?)! When I introduced myself, and my buddy to Jeanette, I was instantly greeted with warmth and recognition – super nice lady. When I explained that we were not going to be able to attend the panel she said she’d see what she could do and to come with her into the screening room.

The screening room quickly filled up and the lights dimmed. Now, I have to say, I have seen Infinity before. Most of you likely recall that Renee brought it for us all to see at the 2011 Xena Convention, so I was somewhat prepared for what was coming, my friend, however, was not. You may think, it’s only a 14-minute film, how can you get so emotionally involved in such a short period of time? Maybe that’s the trick to the Short Film Genre. As a filmmaker of Shorts you have to get in there IMMEDIATELY with a compelling story and characters…no reliance on tricks, fluff, or time to “set the hook” so to speak. Randy, Renee, and the folks involved with Infinity definitely do that. My buddy was so wrapped up with the film that she literally growled at Jed when he walked into the room with Renee and Randy, for the Q & A that followed. Infinity really tugs at your heart on many levels. It is very complex, layered, timely, and incredibly moving.

Randy, Renee, and Jed discussed Q & A topics like:

• How was it for Renee & Jed, as parents, to have their daughter in the film?

Both responded with how important it was to keep her away from the darker aspects of the film, keeping her involvement light and fun.

• How long did it take them to shake off the darker, intense emotions the film brings forth?

All three indicated that as soon as Randy would say, “cut” they all tried to be as light and loving as possible to help alleviate the intensity.

• Renee did bring up the importance of telling the story of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the harsh reality of how many of our soldiers and their families are affected by PTSD when they return from their tours.

• What kind of camera was used?

A Canon 7D

• How long did it take to film?

3 half days and one full day

• What’s next for Infinity?

It has been accepted by the Manhattan Film Festival for screening later in June of 2012, with more festivals to follow. Beyond the festivals Randy and crew are looking at distribution options.

Infinity is not available to the public at this time. Look for updates on festival screenings, awards, reviews, and subsequent distribution information at

So now what?!?! If you recall, this roving AUSXIP correspondent was having to, very graciously, accept the fact that without a VIP pass or a Gold Ticket (just had a Willie Wonka moment), access to the Renee’s panel would not be possible. I was all prepared to speak to Renee in passing and head on back to Mississippi, when the coolest thing occurred!!! Jeanette and Renee came up to my buddy and I and whipped off their own Filmmaker All Access Passes and handed them to us and said to come on with them!!!! OK!!! So now I am officially in love with Jeanette as well as Renee!!! My buddy had no idea who either of them are…never seen a Xena episode…but now she’s hooked as well!!! Her comment - “she’s so down to Earth…feel like I have know her forever”…yep, yep, yep!!! That’s our girl!!!

In all seriousness, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a several “real” minutes talking with Renee while we were waiting for the panel to begin. She was very warm and gracious, relaxed. As I said, I have met her several times over the past couple years - Xena Con’s backstage activities & photo shoots, Awareness Seminar, a few emails…but this was a whole different experience. She has always been awesome to talk with but this was Renee, doing HER thing, something you can tell she loves intensely. She was very complimentary of the Little Rock Film Festival, saying that it was more elaborate then many of the others. I, for one, will make a point of attending festivals in the future.

Now, on to the panel…

The panel discussion was led by actress Lea Thompson (Back to the Future, Some Kind of Wonderful, The Trouble with the Truth, and one of my personal favorites, Howard the Duck) and featured our favorite Filmmaking, Awareness Building, Power House of an Amazon Queen, along with Jenny Deller, and Martha Stephens. Jenny Deller is a writer, director, and actor living in Philadelphia. Her second feature-length screenplay, FUTURE WEATHER, won the 2009 Showtime Tony Cox Award for Best Screenplay at the Nantucket Film Festival. Martha Stephens is a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking, Martha’s first feature film, PASSENGER PIGEONS premiered at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival, and won the “We Believe In You” Award.

I have to say, that while I have served as Director of Photography on three projects for a friend in LA (all in post-production), I consider myself anything BUT a filmmaker, anything…but after attending this event I feel inspired to learn more about film making and women’s role in the art form. Renee talked a good bit about the importance of being AUTHENIC and true to your vision, not from a male or female centric perspective but “just tell a good story”.

When asked about women filmmakers that inspire her, Renee, mentioned Jane Campion and Chloe Smith. Both women are from New Zealand. Jane Campion is the second of four women to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director (The Piano in 1994). The other half of our favorite dynamic duo, the incomparable Lucy Lawless, just completed filming the role of Caroline in Campion’s new series Top of the Lake, due out in 2013. Chloe Smith worked as producer on over 100 of the 134 Xena episodes, as well as producer on Spartacus (God’s of the Arena & Vengeance), Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, among a long list of other films and TV series you are likely to recognize.

Renee also went on to point out the importance of relationships with the people you are working with, making sure “you are all telling the same story”. Looking at Renee’s career in independent films and the projects she chooses to get involved with, it is obvious that this is a key bit of advice that she practices whole heartedly! Come to think of it Lucy and Rob seem to subscribe to that way of filmmaking as well…at least it would appear so if you read the credits!


After the panel discussion, Renee was gracious enough to pose for a few pictures for this article and AUSXIPROC before moving on to the next event…and events were back to back so I cannot express enough gratitude to Renee for her willingness to take her time and do this for us! But that’s Renee – no muss, no fuss – just a down to earth woman who wants to tell compelling stories with a group of friends and family she loves and trusts. I for one, can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!



You can find out more about INFINITY with the latest news on AUSXIP Renee O'Connor Infinity Movie Subsite