'Half Smile' Wins Big at Z-Fest VIII

We’re grinning from ear to ear about the accolades our short film, Half Smile, received at 2017’s Z Fest Film Festival. Our awards tallied nine, including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematographer. Once again, we’re thrilled to be part of such a creative community in a town that supports the arts.

Joe gave a fantastic speech while accepting his award for "Best Actor". It really expresses the heart behind projects like Half Smile.

"Huge thank you to everyone in this room that got paid in Jimmy John's and cold pizza. You guys gave up your weekend and gave up your late nights. We have a great community here.

"Five years ago, my son, Champ, came to this earth and he lived for five minutes. His heart beat for five long minutes. After he passed away, it was a big part of my journey to do something special every day with five minutes of my life. He gave us an extra two, because we had to make a film under seven minutes

"Our hope is that we can pair up joy and sorrow in this world that we live in. At Uptop Films, we believe that we are here to bring out the best in life. 20 plus people came together on a random Saturday including a gentleman that worked at the junkyard. And, Ken, it means a lot that you were touched so much on set that you decided to come tonight and see our film. That's really special.

"Some days you live your worst nightmare, and other days you live your dream. And that's the beauty of life. So, whatever you're going through, keep going after your dreams.

Thank you."

- Joe Kessler upon accepting “Best Actor” for Half Smile at the 2017 Z-Fest Film Festival

Ryan Grams

Ryan Grams | Filmmaker, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Ryan is truly an artisan of the moving image. Whether he's serving as cinematographer, director, editor or all three at once—Ryan’s work reveals an incredible ability to make the intimate feel spectacular and the spectacular feel intimate. From short-films and documentaries to commercials and other branded content.