Sunday, May 20, 2007

5x8 Film Festival-part 4, Conclusion

The Edit

The Gushing Artery team left Galina Shevchenko’s apartment at 4:30. She slept for a couple of hours and began editing at seven. For Shevchenko, an accomplished artist from Moscow, this is her new art form. “I used to buy paints, now I buy hard drives.” She participates in the 5 x 8 because, “It is a challenge. Like running a marathon, it’s a way to check yourself, and there is a great party afterwards.” It is now about 11 and the film is beginning to take shape. There is a lot of the middle of the film- funny scenes, but no clear-cut beginning or end. She anticipates working until four before outputting the film and heading to Atomix.

At 2 p.m. Joe Winston sits behind his Avid at Superior Street. He is waiting for one scene shot during the day today to be delivered. Finally, at 2:35, Ted Hardin, the other Columbia faculty member on the team, arrives with a tape. It is of a young girl on a swing who says to the camera, “I know what happened to Group 18. It’s a secret.” It is the scene Winston promises that, “will tie the film all together.”

In Sean U’Ren’s apartment he and Christian Matts edit what they have. They are feeling good. When they arrived home Friday night’s shoot, Matts’ drunken neighbor agreed to be interviewed on camera, sharing his feelings about the disappearance of Group 18. Matts, rewound the one tape they had, and taped over U’Ren’s and Paul’s bus stop argument. U’Ren grabs a CD of accordion music and plays it underneath images of the drunken neighbor. Despite the unexpected benefit of the drunken neighbor interview, U’Ren explains his film still has problems. “There is not great audio, and it is lacking a plot, clear characters and any hope of resolution.”

Just before 5 p.m. bleary-eyed filmmakers begin dropping off tapes. A mini-traffic jam forms on Chicago Avenue in front of Atomix. Contestants leave their cars in the middle of the street and race inside, waving their tapes at Atom. Since, Rainbows 4 Jeebus cannot edit, their film is the first one in. The bad taste from last night has left Tyler. She is feeling pretty good about her film. “It is our best one yet, and I think people will like it.” By 5:30 all the tapes have been received and all 28 groups that showed up Friday night made a film that will be screened.

The Screening

250 people wedge into the Buddy Artspace on N. Milwaukee. They sit on old couches, lawn chairs, and folding chairs. They lean against the walls and crash on the floor. Two video projectors are aimed at walls at right angles to each other so everyone can see. Eventually, the owners of the building tell U’Ren and Paul the room is a fire hazard and people are turned away. The screening begins at 8:15 with a home movie Sean and Atom made to describe the rules and provide context to the festival. It is better than the film they entered.
For the first time 5 x 8 feels like a film festival rather than a contest. The first film begins. Group 18 is depicted as a guerilla commando group who find it difficult to make the transition into guerilla filmmaking. It is funny. The crowd likes it. When it is over there is a big round of applause. The festival is underway. The second film is Rainbows 4 Jeebus. It is perhaps the most experimental of the bunch. Since they could only edit in camera, there is a place where about five seconds are repeated. It is received with polite applause. No one seems offended by their parable.

The films play one after the other. Most are funny. Several are mockumentaries. If the MPAA was involved they would rate the evening PG-13 for language and mild violence. Some, like Rainbows 4 Jeebus, and one set in an insane asylum are experimental. It is almost impossible to tell a difference between films made by the film “professionals” and the “amateurs.” Many films, Ow MyEye, Gushing Artery and U’Ren’s and Paul’s pass by largely unnoticed by the crowd.

By 10 p.m. the screening is over and the climatic moment has arrived. It is up to the judges to decide the winners and clearly six or seven films are better than the rest. The ones that stood out paid close attention to details. Props and wardrobe make a big difference. Of the six prizes awarded all had some form of art direction, be it a giant joint in “Stoned to Death,” or a guy in a clown suit smashing a watermelon in “Seven Short Films About Group 18.”

At the end of Hearts of Darkness Francis Ford Coppola says the great films of the future will not be made by Hollywood, but by a “little fat girl in Ohio” who borrows her father’s video camera and makes a great little movie without studio interference. Coppola might be on to something. The winners of the 5 x 8 Video Festival are not professionals. They are architects.

The winning group is number 16, Secretly Blonde, and their film is called, “What am I doing?” Secretly Blonde is led by Deborah Chase, and of the winning films it the one that least hammers home the theme of what happened to Group 18? Secretly Blonde finished 4th at the last festival and this time, “we knew we were bad asses.” They, too, were unhappy with the topic, and until midnight they were going to make another film. The group couldn’t agree on concepts so they drew ideas from a hat. They shot on a borrowed camera and edited on Deborah’s home computer with iMovie.

In the film, we follow a member of Group 18 as he makes a series of mistakes and bad judgements while repeating the phrase “What am I doing?” It is very funny and features perhaps the most interestingly composed shot of the entire festival. Using a wide-angle lens the camera is in a moving shopping cart going through a grocery story. The camera feels as if it is floating through space behind two giant cans of tomatoes.
Chase will get the editing software because she paid the 15-dollar entry fee. She says the festival, “was the most fun I have ever had, almost.” Secretly Blonde plans on entering the next 5 x 8 festival in October, but first Chase is going to get copies of her house keys made so her teammates can use the software.


1 comment:

mrliteral said...

I love the idea of working under the gun like this, with the pressure to complete and screen a film being self-imposed. It's about the fun, not the finish.