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Reston Duo Earns Kudos for Online Western

Kathryn O'Sullivan and Paul Awad are behind online series "Thurston."

Restonians Kathryn O’Sullivan and Paul Awad recently returned from the fourth annual Indie Soap Awards in New York with honors for their web series,  Thurston.  

O’Sullivan won for Best Costume Design and Awad won for Best Cinematography. Her husband, Awad, was also nominated for Best Director (Drama).

The awards were sponsored by We Love Soaps and the Indie Series Network. The Indie Soap Awards champion independent scripted, serialized storytelling on the Web. 

Thurston is a Western drama about residents of a remote mining town and their struggle for survival in the 1880s Kansas Ozarks.

O’Sullivan leads the Theater Program at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. She is also co-executive producer, creator, writer and costume designer for Thurston. Awad, who teaches digital filmmaking at the Art Institute of Washington, is co-executive producer, director, cinematographer and editor for the series. 

O'Sullivan said as of 2011, she had never heard of a web series. But when her NOVA students began talking about the concept, she checked it out and bounced around ideas for one of her own.

"I thought 'why not reinvent the Western?' " she said. "We could tell the story of the Western we wanted to see. Not just from the point of view of the Native American or the women or the men. It's really a story about the new frontier."

The series films in Wytheville, Va., where an out-of-business Western theme park stands as the town exteriors.

"When you see peeling paint, it is really peeling paint," says O'Sullivan.

They also film interiors at historic spots in Manassas, Brentsville and Spotsylvania County.

The couple finances the production with their own money and some small grants, O'Sullivan says. They also have to work filming around breaks in their fulltime teaching schedule.

They get assistance from several people with NOVA connections as well.

NOVA professors Lisa Nanni-Messegee and Todd Messegee play Jo Maxwell and District Attorney Stewart; former NOVA student Garry Westcott plays Marshal Robinson; and Garrett Brennan, a student at NOVA’s Loudoun Campus, plays Owen Snead.

Brennan was was nominated for the Indie Soap Award Best Breakout Performance.

The series was recently named an Official Selection at the 2013 HollyWeb Web Series Festival and the 2013 LA Web Series Festival. Both festivals will be held this spring in Los Angeles.


Check out Thurston here. 

Diane Blust February 28, 2013 at 01:43 PM
Congratulations! Here at Sustainable Reston, we focus on things like resource depletion, climate change and external economic disruption (can you say "sequester"?). So, it's really nice to see a story about art and artists in our community. A sustainable and resilient Reston needs a thriving cultural life. Folks like O'Sullivan and Awad bring the arts to the rest of us. Thank you!

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