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Interview: Film Race’s Charlie Weisman
by Reynard Seifert
Charlie Weisman, organizer of the Film Race, sees his project as film school in a can. photo C. Weisman
How did your organization start?
NYC Midnight Movie Making Madness, LLC was founded in 2002 by myself and Craig Flamm. We wanted to create a competition where filmmakers could compete on a level playing field and be rewarded more for creativity than for a big budget. The idea of the 24-hour film competition came about from a film we shot at a New Year's Eve Party in 2001 after the ball dropped and we stayed up all night editing.
Do you know when the first 24-hour film race or contest was held?
We held our first 24-hour competition in New York in 2002. Back then the filmmakers received a genre and theme for their films and had until midnight to midnight to create a 10-minute film. Now the filmmakers are challenged to create 4-minute films based on a theme and a surprise element assignment from 10pm on a Friday night to 10pm on a Saturday night.
What do you think are the benefits of filmmakers challenging themselves to make a film this fast?
We get a wide range of filmmakers. For amateurs, it's a great experience because they get to go through the entire process of making a film (scouting, casting, writing, shooting, editing, scoring, etc...) in a single day and get to see their work on the big screen in front of a packed theater, which is one of the most rewarding experiences for a filmmaker. Many of our more experienced participants are involved in the industry,, and it's a great chance to take creative control of their project and tell the story they want to tell.
Have any of your contestants gone on to find funding because of the film contest, besides the obvious cash prize?
We do our best to provide as much exposure as possible for our filmmakers, and several of our participants have gone on to screen and win awards at top festivals. One team that participated in one of our earlier competitions in New York secured funding and directed a great feature film in 2005 called Southern Belles
- which featured Anna Faris.
Do you think these 24- or 48- hour challenges can act as a substitute for film school?
It's pretty difficult to disregard film school since directors like Martin Scorcese, Spike Lee and Joel Coen are film school alumni, but film races are definitely an excellent crash course in filmmaking.
Coppola once said that he was looking forward to the day when anyone with a camcorder could make a film, because motion pictures might cease being "professional" and finally become an "art form." Do you think this is happening?
Absolutely. It's pretty hard to call many of the films on YouTube "art", but with easy access to cheap cameras and editing software, filmmaking is becoming much more accessible. And just like art forms like painting or writing that provide anyone with an outlet for their creativity regardless of how much money they have, people that may never have thought about making films now have the chance.
What kind of films would you like to see made for your contest?
The films are getting better and more creative every year. The most unique films are created by filmmakers who aren't trying to appease a certain audience or impress the judges, but are creating something they believe in themselves and are telling their own stories.
What is the standard by which you judge your shorts to find winning films?
30% Story, 25% How The Story Is Told, 25% Production Values, and 20% Acting.
What do you see for the future of the 24-hour film race?
With the positive feedback from our participants and with digital technology becoming more accessible every day, I think the future is very bright for film racing and independent filmmaking in general. We hope to keep expanding to additional cities beyond North America and discovering a new wave of talented storytellers.
Posted on Sep 21, 2010 - 05:23 PM