For most filmmakers, it doesn't get any better than being the recipient of a people's choice award.
Rick Castaneda, a Granger-raised kid who now is a Hollywood filmmaker, recently earned that honor for his movie Cement Suitcase at the Dances With Films festival in Los Angeles.
The awards ceremony was June 9 at the Level 3 nightclub near Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood after being voted on by the hundreds of movie buffs attending the event.
"This is such an honor," Castaneda told the Herald last week. "Of all the 16 feature films in the festival, ours was the highest rated."
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At the end of each screening at the festival, a score card was passed out to audience members to vote on each film on a sliding scale from 1 to 5.
"So this award means that people really enjoyed our film," Castaneda said. "Usually you're lucky if people tell you one or two things are good about your film, but everyone had great things to say about almost all aspects of (Cement Suitcase)."
The film was shot entirely on location in the Lower Yakima Valley wine country. It's about a successful wine salesman who finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him, but when he meets her lover he decides to befriend him even if he is "the other man."
"More than anything, this is a film about letting go," Castaneda said. "Writing the film was a way of giving myself the courage to actually take chances myself."
And even though he's watched his film a bazillion times as it was being shot and edited, hearing the laughter and applause from the audience was exhilarating, he said.
"It sounded like we had a lot of wine lovers in the crowd," Castaneda said.
He plans to enter Cement Suitcase into to other film festivals as he continues to work on a distribution schedule for the movie.
"I've also just finished my next script," he said. "It's called Modern Living."
It's another Castaneda-style comedy about a group of people who all live together in a furniture store.
The next step is to find investors for the film so he can start shooting.
More information about Castaneda's film ventures can be found at www.psychicbunny.com.