Movie-making Team for Oklahoma’s Al Mertens lands honors at Asia Pacific Festival

When judging was over at a recently-concluded film festival (held in three locations, that last stop in Alaska), the news for Art Mertens of Oklahoma could not have been better. At the Asia Pacific International Filmmaker Festival, “Lord Finn” (directed by Mertens, who also wrote the screenplay) won for best director and best screenplay (Mertens), best lead actor (Ben Richardson), best music (Miro Kepinski) and best best ensemble cast. 

Richardson, also the film’s producer, began his acting career on stages in Oklahoma City. 
Kepinski, his biography says, is a “composer, producer and performer from Poland.” 
The work, completed in 2018, emerged from Kaleidoscope Pictures, in association with Bri Productions.

The “Logline” reads: 
“Daniel Finley, a mentally-ill Native American of mixed race, struggles to reconcile love versus inner trauma, as do a storytelling female inmate, and a prostitute and car thief in a hotel suite.”
In the words of a publicity synopsis, “Daniel Finley, the free-spirited son of a Native American tribal councilman and Irish mother, attempts to navigate his worlds while hobbled by mental issues and staggering contempt for compromise. His storyline weaves amidst those of the volatile Cheer [SarahJo Mount], a self-medicating female inmate prone to reliving her past through her stories; and the hapless Warren [Delno Ebie] during a reluctant hotel stay with a familiar young prostitute, Jasmine [Jamie Loy].” The film is described as “A non-linear and often darkly humorous meditation on familial love, forgiveness, and ultimate redemption.” 
Other performers in the 1 hour, 27 minute drama include Suzy Weller, Russ Tallchief, and Mary Buss

Working in technical roles were David Jurney (executive producer), John Burton (cinematagrapher),  Meghin Elizabeth (production designer), Andrea Jones (wardrobe supervisor), Attila Ballaza (editor), and Brady Foster (colorist/VFX). 

Collaborators on the film are either long-time or recent Oklahomans. 
According to the provided notes, the film grapples with mental disability, Native American Culture and LGBTQ issues.

Mertens said the story, his first complete screenplay for the movie business, is admittedly dark, but “the tale is about good things, too: loyalty, friendships, and forgiveness. It occurs to me that everything I (maybe) know about love is contained in this story.”
Film production took place over 13 days, all in the Oklahoma City area. 

This reporter and Mertens have known each other for (number deleted) years, and each of us has evolved with the passing (deleted) decades. 
Mertens nonetheless consented to an on-the-record interview. He told The City Sentinel: “Surprise and elation was what I felt when I learned of being awarded of Best Director and Best Screenplay in this year’s Asia Pacific … Festival. For my feature film debut…wow.
“’Lord Finn,’ being an indie film, begins its life on the international film festival circuit. Our strategy was to submit to the top ones first, and this is the one that hit first. The Asia Pacific … Festival screens its 100+ accepted films over three summer months in three separate Festival Events held in major cities, including Jakarta, the 10 million-strong capital of Indonesia. Festival staff tell us Festival Events are attended by kings, queens, and royal families.
“Going from a few short years ago hoping to maybe be allowed somewhere near a movie set (whatever that was, I’d seen them on TV) if some director would maybe consider a short film script I’d tried to write…to scratching away at more writing (including the ‘Lord Finn’ script), reading books, watching videos, taking a few night classes…to this.”

As for his next “trick,” Mertens told this reporter, since wrapping production on ‘Lord Finn,’ I’ve completed three more feature film screenplays: ‘Transgressions,’ which is pure tension involving lawyers, politicians, and…priests!; ‘Thank You, Amelia Earhart,’ a poignant tale bout end-of-life issues, which actually went to #1 on Amazon, in their Screenplay category; and ‘Angel City,’ a suspense/horror story, that will be released on Amazon on July 15. 
“After July 15, all three are available on Amazon–for better or worse for those interested in such things. … I am looking to go into production on one of these next year.”

The hard-hitting interview concluded with the toughest question of all. Mertens was asked: “Which has been more challenging — being an ethnic minority in the film business OR … being a conservative in the film business?
His response was: “Being a conservative ethnic minority in the film world has, so far, been a non-event. Maybe that’s the result of living in our great state. We have so many talented, enthusiastic filmmakers who are only interested in telling their stories to the best of their abilities. That seems to be all that matters.”

Note: This story first appeared in the July 2019 print edition of The City Sentinel, a community newspaper based in Oklahoma City.