The first event I was privileged to take part in at the LDS Film Festival this year was the 24 Hour Film Making Marathon. I've written about my experience as an entrant elsewhere, so I'll not bore you with those details here. Suffice to say that I learned a lot about myself as a filmmaker and a person. Instead, I want to deal with the competition in general.
For those unfamiliar with it, the Marathon starts the Friday before the festival screenings begin with a registration meeting. Teams of filmmakers (no more than five people per team, cast and crew) meet to sign up and find out a theme, an object, and a line of dialogue that must be included in the film. This year, the theme was sacrifice, the object was a match, and the line was, "Let me be your..." From the time the meeting ends, the teams have 24 hours to produce a completely original three-minute short film based on the criteria. Anything over three minutes is disqualified, but a film can be shorter.
41 films were turned in this year.
An interesting side note: at the opening meeting, the question arose as to whether a person could be on more than one team. The issue was put to a vote, which came down in the affirmative. I noticed several people in multiple films at the screenings the next Thursday.
Speaking of screenings, I had no idea what to expect from the films when I showed up for them, but I was amazed by what I saw. Filmmaking of the highest quality was represented there. Many films were so polished that they easily could have been competition shorts. The creativity with which the theme, object, and line were used was vast.
I saw there a friend of mine, Todd Smith, whose films have won audience choice awards in past festivals. We grew up in the same ward, and I hadn't seen him for some time, which made the encounter more enjoyable.
One thought I had going into the competition was that it would be easy for filmmakers to take a comic approach, seeing how tightly regulated the competition was. I thought comedy would be a crutch for many groups, because it could help to mask flaws created by the tight schedule. While a lot of the films were funny, I was impressed by how few seemed immaturely so. On the other hand, many of the films dealt with subjets seriously and well. I was surprised, pleasantly, to see that a ridiculously tight production schedule and inflexible content guidelines (the three required elements) did not seem to stifle either creativity or quality. In some cases, the opposite may have been true.
Some of the films included There's Waldo (Todd's group), a sort of "Where are they now?" film about the red-and-white-striped cartoon icon; 'Fice: the Musical (parts 1 and 2); The Infinipede Space Monster from Outer Space, a spoof on the original Star Trek and sci-fi in general; Gold is Not Enough, another musical with a spy themel; Malaroli, a personal favorite of mine; and many more.
It's hard to review any one of these films independently, since they were all so much a part of each other. The 24 Hour Filmmaking Marathon represented the entire range of LDS work: from first-time filmmakers to experts, from comedy to drama, from narrative to documentary, from traditional to experimental. Although there were a few moments that I personally felt were in poor taste, none of it was bad. In fact, it produced some real gems, as good as anything else that played all week, and in some cases more meaningful.
As Christian Vuissa said of it, one of the most important things about this competition is that it gets filmmakers making films. It strips away all the traditional excuses. No one expects an appreciable budget or big-name actors. Few actors were widely known, even within the LDS community. No one I knew of expected to win based on prestige. I would bet that few expected to win at all. I don't want to get into too many disclaimers about how I don't know what other people were thinking and feeling, but, as far as I know, the only things anyone expected were to have fun, be friends, work towards perfecting their crafts, and create something good. And while there was certainly an air of competition, that is exactly what happened.
Read about the winners here.