If you thought making a film in 24 hours was challenging enough, the organizers of Down to the Wire are about to make things even a little more interesting.
“We’re changing up the required elements this year, and we have some more surprise elements as well,” said Kylie Brown of CreativeRush, which partners with the Tallgrass Film Festival and Blacktop Nationals to stage the competition.
The elements are props, locations and dialogue lines that participating teams must put in the their films. Last year’s dialogue element, for instance, was the line “You can’t stand up in a Cadillac, either” (attributed to Wichita aviation legend Bill Lear).
The third annual DTTW film race takes place from 7 a.m. Saturday through 7 p.m. Sunday. In keeping with the frenetic pace of the event, the 10 top entries will be shown Sunday night at the Orpheum Theatre.
There’s a producer’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, during which rules, release forms and other matters are discussed, and a directors meeting at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. That’s when the required elements will be drawn from a hat and given to participants.
After that, the teams of filmmakers have 24 hours to create, edit and submit their films, which can last no longer than six minutes. If an entry is a second late, or a second too long, the team is automatically disqualified, Brown said.
Last year’s DTTW drew 37 teams. Ten films were chosen to be shown at the Orpheum to a crowd of about 750 people. The winning effort was titled “Unmasked.”
“It sounded exciting,” said Eron Rawson of his group’s decision to enter. “Man, was it ever. The 24 hours goes by fast at first, then really slow, then really fast. At some points you think you’ve got a total handle on it, then you think you’re going to lose it.”
Rawson said his team went into the competition with a vague idea of a “superhero” story in which two crime fighters come out of hiding on TV to draw out their arch nemesis. The team got permission to use the Kansas Aviation Museum and an art deco building near McConnell Air Force Base that used to be city’s main airport terminal.
“People said ‘How’d you get to use that?’” Rawson said of the museum. “We just asked. It helps to have good friends.”
Finding a way to work the required dialogue into the script “was probably the toughest thing,” he said.
Tallgrass executive director Lela Meadow-Conner said technology has leveled the playing field for participants.
“People shoot with everything,” she said. “That’s the beauty of the age we live in right now.”
Meadow-Conner said teams “run the gamut from elementary school students to senior citizens.” In fact, organizers moved the competition from August to June this year hoping that more students would participate.
First prize is a $1,000 filmmaking grant and $15,000 worth of equipment and studio time. There’s a $500 emerging student filmmaker prize and several smaller prizes. An anonymous panel of film buffs will narrow down the field to 10 finalists, providing each team with a critique, and a three-judge panel of industry folks will pick the winner at the end of the showcase. Those judges are media personality Anita Cochran, Jason Opat of MindFire Academy and cinematographer Shawn Rhodes.
Brown said the required elements, time pressure and competitive juices make for some dramatic developments of their own. The first year, for instance, called for a shot of the bus station.
“We heard a lot of teams were running into each other,” she said. “They were trying not to shoot each other.”
During last year’s 24 hours of filming, Brown said, one team tweeted random questions to the organizers to “just throw everybody off. They were doing it just to mess with other teams – a good strategy for them, I guess, because it is a competition.”
Out of last year’s teams, eight either gave up or were unable to finish their film in time for submission.
“There are tons of people that either go too big and can’t get it edited, or their editing machines aren’t exporting,” Brown said.
The best advice she can give people is to get a lot of sleep the day before, because you probably won’t get any during the competition, and also to leave plenty of time to get to the submission point.
“One guy (who) was reaching to get here, he actually wrecked his car and called me – ‘Kylie, I just got in a wreck, what do I do?’ I said you need to stay there and wait for the police. He actually got there before we closed the submissions.”