On a pleasant April evening in Warwick, Rhode Island, Alec Asten attended the opening night of SENE (Southeast New England) Film, Music & Arts Festival, now in its ninth year. Back in year one, SENE showed Alec’s first film, the dramatic short “The Curse of Micah Rood,” starring the late Ron Palillo of Welcome Back, Kotter fame and Brian Ellsworth, a New England-based actor.

SENE gave Alec his first award as a filmmaker. It meant the world to him; so much so that he decided to pay it forward. In the nine years that followed Alec volunteered for the festival in any way he could. That April night, I watched as Alec was invited back to the Warwick Center for the Arts to receive the Limelight Award, a special honor that SENE bestows to those who have helped make SENE a great festival and who contribute to building the local film, music, and arts communities.

Alec took the stage to speak proudly. He held up the award he had received nine years earlier and recalled his feelings of being a new, unsure filmmaker back then. That edition of SENE was clearly one of the highlights of his early filmmaking career, a moment that validated his work and gave him the confidence to move forward and keep going.

This is the spirit that has grown around SENE over the past nine years. Every year this community comes out to celebrate, and the enthusiasm among its filmmakers, volunteer staff, and attendees truly shines. They have learned, through regular attendance, of the one-on-one contact between staff and filmmaker that’s the norm here. Over time it’s been something for all to observe with joy, and it just keeps growing.

2017 was no exception. The art shows, live musical performances, feature films, and blocks of short films in comedy, drama, documentary, international, and music video genres brought wonderful crowds in. SENE nurtures local talent and gives new filmmakers from all over the world a platform. It’s no secret why Alec and those like him keep returning. SENE believes in its artists, musicians, and filmmakers. MM

Christian de Rezendes is a Rhode Island-based filmmaker and the founder of Breaking Branches Pictures. His credits include Raising Matty Christian. 

SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival 2017 ran from April 26-29, 2017. For more information, visit their website hereFeatured image: Boston-based band Drunken Logic played the SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival’s Limelight Awards Party. Photograph by John Pitocco.