Hometown Boy Damian Horan Screens His Award-Winning Film at Worldfest

If this is what Damian Horan can do in graduate school, movie lovers are in for a treat when his career begins to take shape.

For his master's thesis at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, Kinkaid School grad Horan created Children of the Air, an allegorical drama based upon Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. The 20-minute film chronicles a wrecked love affair within the confines of a fairy tale, and features creative filmmaking choices, such as split screens that narrate multiple story lines concurrently.

Katheryn Winnick (who has starred alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Giamatti, Kurt Russell and Charlie Sheen) and Travis Van Winkle (Friday the 13th, Transformers) play the tortured couple in the 2012 effort that's reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, thanks to its startling portrayal of true dysfunctional love.

Thus far, the film has locked down a ton of film fest screenings (Denver's Festivus Film Festival, Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson, Mississippi) and award nominations (Treasure Coast International Film Festival, a Remi at the Worldfest Houston International Film Festival). Not bad for the former corporate banker who received his undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University.

When asked if he's surprised by the amount of kudos that the film has received, Horan tells Art Attack, "We are very happy that Children of the Air is getting the opportunity to screen in front of a wide variety of audiences across the country. It was definitely a passion project that took a lot of blood, sweat and tears from a lot of very different people, and we are very happy that we are getting the opportunity to share our work with new audiences."

Horan, who has transitioned to a freelance filmmaker and photography director since his December graduation, also has a full-length documentary to his name. Barbarian Days follows obsessed fans of the Conan the Barbarian character as they make the annual pilgrimage to Cross Plains, Texas, for Howard Days. The event is named after Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard, who committed suicide in Cross Plains in 1936.

Horan explains that he discovered the Howard Days phenomenon through his good friend, fellow Texan and Washington and Lee buddy Grant Gish, who is the producer of Barbarian Days.

"Grant had a friend who had a family ranch down in Cross Plains and suggested that Grant think about doing a documentary on the subject. So Grant approached me about the project and we flew down with a small crew from L.A. and filmed the festivities," says Horan.

"Once we got down there, we quickly realized there was a lot of heart behind the many characters we met at the festival, and found that there was a very universal theme that most people spend their whole life searching for what makes them happy, few find it, even fewer get the experience of sharing it with friends."

Children of the Air screens at the 45th Annual Worldfest Houston International Film Festival at AMC Studio 30 at 9 p.m. Monday, April 16, 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17 and 3 p.m. Sunday April 22. Barbarian Days will play following the Monday, April 16 showing of Children of the Air.

For more information about Children of the Air, check out the film's Facebook page and Web site; for Barbarian Days, go to the film's Web site. Detailed Worldfest information can be found at the festival's official Web site.

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen