Local filmmaker Joshua Sheik is the only southern filmmaker left standing among the TOP 20 finalists in HBO's "Project Greenlight."
Thousands applied and submitted their films in the nationwide contest created by Oscar-winning actor Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to find the next great film director to direct a feature film.
All the remaining contestants are from Los Angeles, New York and Boston, but Sheik, of Enterprise, is still in the running.
"I saw so many wonderful films from other southern filmmakers," said Sheik, a former Army officer. "I am humbled to find myself still in the competition. I hope to be a good representative for the South."
According to the show's website, the fourth season of "Project Greenlight" will (in documentary style) pick one winner and follow that director from pre-production and casting through principal photography and post-production.
"Winning would be huge for me," said Sheik, who describes himself as a Christian who makes movies. "I don't want to make only Christian films or films that simply 'preach to the choir.' Christian film is its own genre, and there are plenty of great ones. I want to make films that anyone would be proud to show their grand mother or their young daughter. Winning this competition would help me do that."
The whole journey started earlier this summer when Sheik entered his film "Excuse Me" in to the online contest.
The entire film takes place in an elevator and was shot over three days at Hillcrest Baptist Church.
The three-minute comedy crosses genres and stars local actress Allison Cain.
After a round of online peer voting based on production quality, overall appeal and originality, "Excuse Me" advanded to the Top 200.
The next round required the directors to submit a two-minute biographical film.
"It had to be funny," said Sheik. "During a production meeting with (Assistant Director) Javarice Moody and (Director of Photography) Alan Moore, we came up with the West Wing walk-and-talk style concept. I wrote the script overnight and we began shooting the next day."
The third round is where the voting comes into play.
Only one of the Top 20 films will make the Top 10 based on votes. The other nine films will be selected by the "Project Greenlight" judges.
"I like that getting into the Top 10 isn't based entirely on votes or popularity," Sheik explained. "The size of your current fan base isn't the best indicator of potential, but I still need your vote so I can remain competitive."
Always the optimist, Sheik said he believes he has a good chance of moving in to the next level.
"In may ways I've already won," he said. "I mean Matt Damon and Ben Affleck will definitely see my movie now because in this round they are part of the deciding panel."
After serving almost eight years as an Army helicopter pilot, Sheik got serious about making films in 2012. He sold his home to finance his filmmaking career.
He has written, directed and produced two feature films and several short films.
His work has won awards and been selected for the Glory Reelz Film Festival, the International Christian Film Festival and the Gideon Film Festival.
To vote, go to www.projectgreenlight.com/#participiate, find the film "Excuse Me," click on the three-minute video, watch it and click "vote."
Online voting began Sept. 15 and will continue until Sept. 26. Voters are only allowed to vote once and only after viewing the entire film. Voters will also be asked to login with their Facebook accounts.