Dan Bowman, the subject of "A Good Blinder," tunes a piano

Dan Bowman, the subject of "A Good Blinder," tunes a piano.

The smell of buttery popcorn and the buzzing of soft voices enveloped Court Square Theater’s red carpet and comforted the audience on Tuesday. As people took their seats, Kevin Reynolds approached the microphone to introduce the upcoming short films as well as thank his co-workers.   

“We really appreciate Court Square’s presence in the community, how they’ve reached out constantly to all kinds of filmmakers and musical acts like that,” Reynolds, a media arts and design professor, said.

The screening consisted of three short films: “The Blue Zone,” “Eggs and Soldiers” and “A Good Blinder,” which were all created by SMAD faculty members. Students in a film production class assisted with the films as well.

What’s love like for the elderly? “The Blue Zone,” written and directed by Reynolds, depicts two seniors, Harmon and Irene, who were friends in the past and rekindle their relationship at an assisted living home. 

The duo get in comical trouble dealing with erectile dysfunction, nude modeling and accusations of cheating. The film was shot in Harrisonburg. Local viewers will recognize certain locations in the film such as the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and the Ice House. The film suggested that while age can play a factor in relationships, not much changes throughout the years.

“I guess I’ve been intrigued by how people age over the years, the passion of youth, what happens to some of that energy and emotion as you get older and when it bonks you in the face or over the head,” Reynolds said.

Inspired by her own experience as an Irish immigrant, Imelda O’Reilly, an assistant media arts and design professor, wrote and directed “Eggs and Soldiers,” which is now being released in Europe by Shorts TV Europe. 

The film portrays a single Irish dad who neglects his parental responsibilities on Christmas, leaving his eldest son, Ned, to step up and help his younger brother, Marco, feel like a kid on Christmas. This forces Ned to choose between handling relationship problems and being a good big brother. 

“The night shoots were more challenging,” O’Reilly said. “The very first night of shooting we had a generator that broke down.”

Despite these struggles, O’Reilly and her crew were able to work around the obstacles and now the 8-year-old kid she cast is touring around the U.S. as part of the “Kinky Boots” cast.

The final short film was a documentary on a local Harrisonburg resident. Being blind can create an obstacle when playing the piano or creating woodwork with power saws, but 75-year-old Dan Bowman hasn’t let his blindness stop him. “A Good Blinder,” produced by Shaun Wright and Mike Grundmann, both media arts and design professors, followed Bowman around for a year and a half documenting his unique and humble lifestyle. 

“A lot of hours came intruding into our schedule but it was worth it in the end,” Bowman said at the film’s conclusion. “I didn’t know I could be made [to] look so good.

Bowman lost his sight when he was 12 years old due to a condition he was born with. He attended the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton, Virginia, where he discovered his love for tuning pianos. To this day Bowman continues to tune pianos all across Harrisonburg and estimates that he’s tuned over 20,000 in his lifetime. The film got its title from Bowman’s daughter, who would say that her dad was a “good blinder,” meaning he could accomplish many things despite his blindness.

Over the course of a year and half the filmmakers shot about 30 hours of footage and edited it down to this short documentary. Wright did most of the shooting while Grundmann concentrated on the interviewing and sound.

“It was wonderful to see the audience laughing at all the right points and even some points I thought might have been too subtle for them,” Grundmann said. 

Bowman and his family received a long standing ovation from the audience after concluding the screening. Students, teachers and friends gathered at the Capital Ale House in downtown Harrisonburg for a question-and-answer session with the creators of the films and in celebration of the screening.

“It seems the feedback is that one of the nice things was that the three films are very different and they complement each other in a certain way,” Reynolds said.

Contact Ingrid Basheda and Joey Scully at breezearts@gmail.com.

Ingrid Basheda is a junior media arts and design major with a concentration in Journalism. A writer for multiple sections, you can find her on the Quad with her headphones in, most likely listening to The Beatles when she has free time.