Movie Maniac

Film Race required courage, creativity, stamina

What’s great about today’s technology is that anyone can be a filmmaker — even a talentless hack such as myself. All you need is passion, determination and all the energy you can possibly summon.

So it was fantastic to see 34 brave teams participate in Tallgrass and CreativeRush’s “Down to the Wire: A 24-Hour Film Race” last weekend. Teams had 24 hours to write, shoot and edit a short film six minutes or less in length. The race started at 7 p.m. on Aug. 10. Teams had until 7 p.m. Aug. 11 to turn in their films on DVD.

One producer from each team was present at the kick-off meeting on Aug. 10, where Tallgrass rep Jessy Clonts and CreativeRush founder Kylie Brown explained the rules of the race. They also drew the four required elements that each film had to include: a line (“This isn’t going to have a happy ending”), prop (keys on a key ring), location (bus stop) and theme (catch-22).

The overall vibe at the meeting was exciting and jovial. Mostly everyone was just ecstatic that there were so many teams signed up. When we were finally released, we all wished each other good luck, then bolted out the door.

My team, which consisted of Randall Aviks, Megan Ballway, B.J. Hatter, Jeff Perrit Jr., Ann Freeman, Ann Spikes, Bryon Burkhead, Joshua Cates and Adrian Olinger, was ready and waiting. All our equipment was set to go.

We deliberated for a while and finally settled on our story. I cast the actors in their roles and quickly came up with a shooting plan. Then we all dashed our separate ways to gather props and select wardrobe. Megan started the makeup process. while Adrian and I went to the downtown bus station to get some early footage at dusk. I feared that the place would be swarmed with other teams already there, but was surprised to see no one.

I found that the bus station at magic hour wasn’t as pretty as I had anticipated. But when it did get dark and the station’s lights kicked on, it all looked fabulous through the camera lens. We got some gorgeous stuff.

We then moved to other locations (what I like about our film is its scope, that it incorporates several locations in such a brief time. Many films took place in only one location or room). Around midnight, we took a break to eat. No strangers to set life, we had food and water ready to go. My crew absolutely rocks.

We continued to shoot through the night, eventually wrapping about 6 a.m. Then I started the editing process and digitizing footage. I figured we were behind some of the other teams, but then I got a call from my brother-in-arms Wade Hampton, who called me at 11 a.m. and said his team had literally just finished shooting. Wow!

I continued editing (finding that it would be hard to get everything down to only six minutes; we shot far more) and finished about 5:30 p.m. We couldn’t turn in our films until 6 p.m. on Aug. 11; I finally turned in ours at about 6:20 with a huge sigh of relief.

Some teams literally worked up until the last minute. One team burned their DVD at the drop-off site. I was disheartened to see a tweet from a filmmaker who couldn’t get his DVD to burn. To think of going through all that and then having technology rebel was heartbreaking. Eventually, 27 teams submitted their films.

Tallgrass programmers then watched them, eventually narrowing the field down to 10. On Aug. 12, those 10 films were screened at the Orpheum Theatre with a live critique by guest judges. The event was a monumental success, with more than 500 people attending. Simply outstanding.

Although I’m proud of our work, my film didn’t end up being chosen for the top 10. When I later received my judges’ slips, one judge commended us on a good job. Another liked the tone of the piece and my camera work. Another judge’s slip simply said “confusing.” One judge’s slip was completely blank (really, you had nothing to say?). It all comes with the territory.

But the important thing was that we did it, and we had an absolute blast. I hope the other teams did, too.

And while I wholeheartedly congratulate the winners of the competition, I mostly resoundingly applaud every single person who rose up to the challenge. It was no easy feat — believe me — and taking that brave leap off the cliff required stamina, resourcefulness, fierce creativity and ultimately, courage.

Bravo, brothers and sisters, bravo! See you next year.