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While God Rested, Filmmakers Use All Seven Days
by Rick Diegtel
Kung Fu with crutches, a man with three nipples, and a bad boyfriend being buried alive, were just a few of the scenes from the 30 odd films competing for a spot in the Second Annual San Francisco
7 Day Film Festiva
. As the title suggests, teams of filmmakers, two to ten people, had one week, July 14 to July 21, to write, act, direct, shoot and edit a film of eight to 15 minutes in length.
"This event provides concrete impetus for the film maker to get out and do things," said Neil Schwarz, organizer of the 7 Day Film Festival. "It forces them to do something and then inspires them to do more."
"It serves filmmakers to have a time limit," agreed Vincent Lowe, who entered his film "Feeling Fuzzy" into the festival. Lowe is an advocate of even more frenzy, however, considering he produces the 48hr Film Festival in San Francisco and San Jose. "People get busy but they get the job done. It works out better to have a time limit, keeps everybody focused and making practical decisions."
In fact, Lowe knows a filmmaker who brags about a short film that took him two and a half years—Lowe saw a better one made in three days. It turns our frenetic media culture into both a contact and a participatory sport.
The contestants came together on July 14 in the screening room of the 9th Street Independent Film Center where Schwarz handed forms to be signed. Rigorous guidelines must be maintained to insure no cheating. On the opening day of timed contests, filmmakers are told for the first time that their film must include a certain object, be shot in a specific style, like a Western, or have a running line throughout. This insures no previously written or shot material will be used.
"This year," Schwarz explained to the expectant gathering of about thirty filmmakers, "There must be some sort of medical equipment in the film. It could be a band-aid, a syringe or a crutch." Last year, he told me later, the filmmakers ran for the door as soon as the meeting was over. It wasn't quite that way this year, but the room did empty quickly.
The Fast Masters: G. M. Sakara stars in the 7 Day Fest's Award-winner "This is not a Note." He won the award for Best Acting while partner Richard Something won for camera work. photo: R. Something
Richard Something and G. M. Sakara, along with his girlfriend, Phoenicia Pettyjohn, raced home and got drunk that night, a Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were spent writing, filming, acting and directing. Something edited over the weekend, added the credits on Monday, and turned "This Is Not A Note" in to 9th Street one day early. It won Best Film, $1000, and a polarizing filter. Something also took the award for Best Cinematography and Sakara for Best Acting, quite a sweep for "This Is Not A Note."
"Our goal was to make a really depressing movie," Something said. Filmed mostly in black and white, "This is not a Note" is about a thin specter of a man, who wears dark clothes and sunglasses, and spends his days walking around downtown San Francisco, smoking cigarettes and getting drunk. One night, after drinking and smoking more than usual, he dreams of getting kicked in the ribs. Evidently, his significant other died, or left him, and he suffers the loss intensely. The only color scene is his memory of her.
Just Because It's Fast doesn't mean that "This is not a Note" shooter R. Something doesn't go out of his way for the hot shot. photo: R. Something
Another filmmaker scurrying home to get to hopping was Allison Ayer. By the third day, she was shooting in her Richmond district residence, where the front door area was blocked with blankets, sheets and tape, to stop the exterior blue light from flooding her interior shot. James Adamson was shooting, with a camera balanced precariously on the staircase, the tripod legs at varying lengths. Holly Nugent Levy starred and was sitting in an antique wheelchair—the medical equipment requirement. Called "Contrition" the piece is about an heir and heiress: one is crippled below the waist, the other with guilt.
"Your ears are out but your nose is in [focus]," Adamson said to Lance Fuller, Levy's co-star who was pushing the wheelchair. For each take, it took a bit for Adamson to frame Fuller, moving him an inch here or there, probably because they were both exhausted. Fuller was appearing in the arduous, literally, production of "Nymphomania," a play by Morgan Ludlow which premiered this summer at West Oakland's The Crucible. Adamson had only had two hours of sleep because he was also working on a film for the Sacramento 10 Day Film Festival. Talk about timed-film fanatics!
"Ready? Action," Ayer barked, quite the timed-film professional by now. Last year, she also entered the 7 Day with "Look Both Ways," about poetry, food and a woman who was involved with a man who didn't listen. Nugent Levy starred in that one, too; in fact, she took home the best actress award, a gold colored film can embossed with her and the film's name. "I'm starting a shelf," she said, referring to awards to come.
"One of the differences between 48hr and 7 Day Film Festival," noted Lowe, producer of the former and entrant in the latter, "is that when people enter my festival, they put aside the time to work full time on their movie. In the 7 day, people still go about taking care of other business in their life." "Usually in these festivals, because of the time constraints," he continued, "Most of the movies tend to be comedic but this time some of the top films [like "This Is Not a Note"] were a bit more dark."
On August 1, the awards show took place in the screening room of the 9th Street Independent Film Center. In addition to receiving the gold film can trophy, winners got either a case of VitaminWater, cap and T-shirt or a universal camera, a surveillance camera designed to be mounted on a ceiling or wall. The awards and the films that won them were Best Editing: "Catch 21," Most Imaginative: "Immersion," Best Screenplay: "Contrition," Best Music: "There's a Spider in the Shower," Audience Prize: "Bad Reception," and Best Comedy: "There's a Spider in the Shower."
Join the timed-filmmakers next summer, if you are up for the challenge of making meaningful media at hyper-speed, or find any one of the number of other time-constrained festivals—pick your length, 2, 7, 8 days—sprouting up like mushrooms everywhere.
Posted on Oct 05, 2010 - 07:18 PM