Born and raised in the seaside community of Point Loma, Brinker is remembered as a positive, supportive and caring producer whose intense love of making movies spilled over onto all who knew him. Best known for the films “The Boondock Saints,” and “The Boondock Saints II,” he was in post-production for his directorial debut “Bad Country,” when his life ended.
Chris Brinker’s family and friends turned their tremendous loss into triumph. They created the Chris Brinker Film Foundation (CBFF), a nonprofit that gives academic scholarships to aspiring Point Loma High School filmmakers, and the Chris Brinker award, given every year by the San Diego International Film Festival, to a first-time director.
At the helm of the foundation are Brinker’s sisters, Brear Brinker Cannarsa, president of the CBFF, and Laura Brinker. After his death they asked themselves how do we pay it forward and give back to the community, as Chris would have done? With the help of friends who knew the filmmaker and admired the man and his work, they created the foundation to give other filmmakers and artists the opportunity to achieve success in their fields.
“Chris was perceived to be very focused and instrumental in launching the careers of a number of people he had worked with in Hollywood. He was involved in independent films, as many people are who are passionate and talented filmmakers,” says Cannarsa.
“But he also had developed a community of fellow colleagues who were talented and had potential, and he kept them all motivated in pursuing their careers even though the odds were against them.”
The San Diego International Film Festival film works closely with the Brinker family and foundation. Cannarsa collaborates with Tonya Mantooth, executive and artistic director of the SDIFF, each year to bring in the presenters.
Doing the honors for the 2016 Chris Brinker award, actor Sean Patrick Flanery, who worked with Chris on the “Boondock Saints,” and Peter Nelson, a good friend of the late director who is now senior vice president of Worldwide Acquisitions at Sony.
“The family is pleased that we continue to carry out Chris’ legacy,” says Mantooth, “and that we give this award during the Tribute to the Stars night. They appreciate the fact that we honor him at this hometown event.”
Mantooth was part of the new team that took over the film festival in 2011 and she invited Brinker to sit on an industry panel that was part of the festival. She fondly remembers his energy and passion for the festival. He was excited about the plans that Mantooth’s team had to raise the level and profile of the festival to represent what San Diego has to offer in the way of culture and the arts.
“The Chris Brinker award is the one award that I choose. I identify what I believe are the top three films and then work closely with Jeffrey Lyons, long-time film critic, to choose the finalists. What I am looking for is a first-time director, a director that I believe has taken risks, one that shows great passion and spirit in their work, and also a sophistication, not only from a technical standpoint, but also a creative standpoint.”
This year’s Point Loma scholarship recipients, Alexander Allen and Chloe O’Rourke, were each awarded $1,000 scholarships for their work in filmmaking and the arts. And at the recent film festival, this year’s Chris Brinker award went to director Anne Hamilton for her debut feature film, “American Fable,” a fairytale thriller set on a farm in the Midwest.
Hamilton, who grew up in the Midwest, went to Yale Law School and became an attorney, practicing in New York. She had been thinking about the story for years and in her late 20s she made the decision to quit the law and pursue her passion for filmmaking.
It took her six months to write the script. Two years later her film is playing at a handful of festivals this fall and has a major distributor behind it, IFC Midnight, which will open “American Fable” in 10 cities in February.
“It is an incredible honor to receive this award and be recognized for the work you’ve begun to do and the potential you might have,” says Hamilton, who had never met Brinker but knew of his passion for filmmaking.
“‘Boondock Saints’ is one of my favorite movies and I approach filmmaking in the same way: I think about what I am trying to do as an artist and I think about having work that survives and that people will remember. This is something I would really like to achieve.”
Recognition of this kind is invaluable to a first time director, often leading to more scripts, bigger budgets and people who will take your phone call. Hamilton is very aware of how fortunate she is to be in the right place at the right time but also insists that it is no accident – yes she caught some breaks but was relentless in her pursuit of making this film.
“I went after it like gangbusters, I dove in, wouldn’t take no for an answer – in a way it was insane. I thought it seemed very unlikely to happen at the beginning but it did. Now I am working on a pilot, a feature sci-fi script and am looking for a bigger project that is already out there. I want to be someone who is on a director short list for the bigger blockbusters and the high-quality stories like ‘American Fable.’”