NEW YORK — College of the Atlantic film professor Nancy Andrews is the winner of a 2017 Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Short Form Breakthrough Series for her made-in-Maine YouTube show, “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes.”
Andrews received the award on Monday, Nov. 28, at the 27th-annual Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) Gotham Awards in New York City. The prize was presented by “Gerald’s Game” star Carla Gugino.
“We have so much gratitude to be here tonight in this room of incredible filmmakers and projects,” Andrews said, flanked by partner, series production designer Dru Colbert, and series star Michole Briana White.
“It feels great to have made this series with so little money — it’s fiercely independent and breaking down boundaries of form, character and ideas.”
The annual Gotham Awards, called “the Iowa caucus of awards season” by “Variety,” are seen as indicators of award success to come. Previous films that have won Gotham Awards and gone on to Academy Award success include “The Hurt Locker,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “O.J.: Made in America” and “Moonlight.”
“The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes” incorporates sci-fi and afro-futurist themes, animation, live action, musical numbers and comedy to tell the story of Dr. Sheri Myes (White) as she attempts to expand her perceptions through mad-scientist-like experimentation. The series is adapted from Andrews’ 2015 feature-length film of the same name made in Bar Harbor and other locations on Mount Desert Island.
Andrews and White collaborated on the series and continue to work together on new material.
“Michole and I have been working hard to carry forward this mission-driven kind of work that is important to us,” Andrews said, explaining that their intentions are to open people’s eyes to the commonalities we all share and to worlds we cannot readily see.
“The underlying message in ‘Strange Eyes’ is that everything is connected in ways we might not perceive, and we have to work harder to broaden and deepen our consciousness of that. If we could see beyond our own personal perspectives of what is true, we might understand that there are other truths that are just as valid — and if we could see those, maybe we wouldn’t be as dogmatic, and dangerous, in our beliefs.”
Founded in 1979, IFP is the largest and oldest nonprofit dedicated to independent film. “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes” was one of 10 projects chosen to participate in IFP’s 2016 Screen Forward Labs, and Andrews turned it into a web series with editor Paul Hill at the Wexner Film/Video Studio.
The feature-length production premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2015 and played at various festivals, including New Horizons, Poland; Imagine Science Film Festival, New York (won Outstanding Feature); Dutch International Science Film Festival (nominated for Audience Award); Maine International Film Festival; Cinequest; and others.
“Strange Eyes” was filmed in 2013 with a large cast of Mount Desert Island residents, local landmarks and scenes from Bar Harbor’s iconic Fourth of July Parade. College of the Atlantic faculty, students, staff and alumni were central to making of the film: art professor Colbert served as production designer; audio visual technology specialist Zach Soares co-composed the music; Rohan Chitrakar ’04 was director of photography; and Marco Accardi ’16 was one of the actors. Approximately 70 people from the college were involved with the film, whether in front of the camera or behind the scenes.
The film and the series, which Andrews has described as “a twist on ‘The Fly’ combined with ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Twin Peaks,’” began as an experimental 2010 short film called “Behind the Eyes are the Ears.” The piece was shown in various museums and independent film venues and was collected by the Museum of Modern Art.
Andrews said that she and White continue to use their unconventional storytelling methods to raise consciousness and create a more understanding world in the new series they are writing, a sequel of “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes” but with some fantastical twists.
“I could just make a bumper sticker that says, ‘World Peace,’ but that’s not my style. Anyway, the world is a complicated place, and Dr. Myes is a complicated character,” Andrews said. “I want people to engage in the show and leave with something they hadn’t thought about. I’m interested in provoking thought and challenging conventional forms.”
The 2017 Gotham Independent Film Awards were hosted by actor, writer and director John Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell originated the title role in the stage musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” starred in and directed the 2001 film adaptation of the same name and directed the films “Shortbus” (2006) and “Rabbit Hole” (2010).
Andrews lives on the coast of Maine, where she makes films, drawings, music, props and objects. She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from grantors including the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, LEF New England Moving Image Fund and National Endowment for the Arts.
Andrews’ work has been presented by the Museum of Modern Art, Pacific Film Archive, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, Jerusalem Film Festival, Flaherty Seminar, Nova Cinema Bioscoop, Brussels, Belgium, The International Film Festival Rotterdam and Taiwan International Animation Festival, among others. Six of her films are in the film collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and one is in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Film Collection.
Andrews holds a master’s degree in fine arts from the Art Institute of Chicago.