Local residents Garrett and Ashton Duncan, along with team member Jared Soucie are now named among awardees recognized in a series of international competitions after receiving word the team received two Awards of Recognition from The Best Short Film in the categories of Christian and Experimental for their submission of The Darkened.

Garrett also has received a third Award of Recognition through IndieFEST Film Awards for his original song, FEAR.

Although Duncan has created several short films and music videos in the past, including a very popular parody of Tracy Byrd’s I’m from the Country, with his remix, I’m from Cave City which also received international recognition, he said he had not really considered entering his own music for competition until being promoted by friends and family.

“I’ve done short films for a while and before The Darkened I did a couple short films. I did
‘Believe’ which was a church project we had at the time, I had a parody film for Supernatural the TV show. I‘ve always had people tell me to enter the films and festivals and try to win something and The Darkened was something I thought we should just try it for once and see if we win something,” Duncan said. “I’ve never been in the festival game or anything but I reached out to some people who had been involved in festivals to give me some guidance.”

Duncan said despite the fact The Darkened is about his walk with Christ and his struggle with faith, due to some of the content it is not accepted in the traditional Christian circles with regards to festivals.

“I found IndieFEST. It is hard to find a festival for this specific film because It’s Christian but has some darker themes and none of the Christian festivals will really take it. The Darkened is a dark deep dive into those dark parts we don’t want to talk about inside ourselves; intrusive thoughts,” Duncan said.

In December of 2023, Duncan and his team were notified they had won the prestigious Award of Recognition from The Best Short Films Competition in two categories. The piece features 91 visual effects created by Soucie of Salem with an original soundtrack by Duncan.

“I really have to give it all to God! He has been with us from the moment I wrote the first song to the day we released our short film. Beginning as a normal three-part music video series, we eventually moved to create a full-length short film,” Duncan said in a press release. “We had many scenes that got tossed out during the classic music video releases due to time constraints. We decided we had to make a short film so our audience could see the bigger picture we were setting up. Our team used what we had available to us and worked within our budget, so I’m very proud of everyone that stepped up to make this possible. Many thanks go out to family and friends. Without them, our project wouldn’t have been possible.”

In January of this year, he received notification he had received an Award of Recognition from the IndieFEST Film Awards (IFA).

According to IFA, the award was given to Duncan for his original track FEAR, featured in his film The Darkened which includes three original songs by Duncan all released under his album The Darkened. The three songs focused on in his film are “The Darkened,” “Fear,” and “Wages.”

“The IndieFEST Film Awards recognizes film, television, videography and new media professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film and television industry. Information about the IndieFEST and a list of recent winners can be found atwww.theindiefest.com,” a press release said.

When asked how it felt to win, Duncan said there was hope, but no great expectation as the competitions were against the whole world.

“I thought that was pretty cool I didn’t know if it was going to win anything, it is an international film festival. Anyone in the world can submit. Even to get an Award of Recognition is pretty cool because it’s against the whole world and Oscar and Emmy award winners,” Duncan said.

Duncan says the team has submitted more entries to additional international competitions and will wait to hear the outcome later this summer.

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Lauren is a an award-winning journalist who decided after 10 years of newspaper experience to venture out. Hallmark Times was born.