Lights, camera, ACTION! The 14th annual 72 Hour Film Festival premiered 44 short films at its Oct. 12 screening. All of them showcased the talents of motivated movie-making teams of all skill levels from amateurs and students to semi-pros and professionals.
As the name suggests, teams had 72 hours, or three days, to create a short film. Every year, a common theme is given to guide each team. This year’s theme was occupations. Each team was given a specific profession to work with. Other than that, teams were given complete freedom over what their film was about as long as the given job is related. Each film also had a five-minute limit.
The audience was greeted with an introduction describing the festival and the process. This festival was not only the 14th annual festival, however. The 500th short film, created for the festival, would be played that night.
The festival lasted from 6:30 p.m. to midnight, with a 15-minute break. The first half consisted of films from students and amateurs.
One such group of students is the team Laugh Track, a group of Frederick County high school students who attend CTC, studying TV and film. The team of young movie stars put together an enticing horror film about a new farmer being stalked by a murderous scarecrow.
I asked Laugh Track lead actor Brady Walser what it was like working with such restrictions. “The biggest problem I found was time-management from creating costumes, storyline, and shot lists (a map of what will happen and what will be used in a shot)”. Fortunately, Brady is from Brunswick and was resourceful enough to use the local farmland to his advantage.
The student films were executed very well. Obviously many of the students and some of the amateur teams had little access to professional-grade technology including cameras, lighting, and special effects. Despite this, many of them relied on scripts that hit on an emotional level. Many of the comedy based films used main ideas for stories that I found very creative.
One example was Graveyard Master, a film by FirstGrade Studios. Normally, I would assume a film about a gravedigger would have been horror-based. In a twist, however, the team thought a game show to find “the best gravedigger” would create a unique plot.
Another outstanding film was “The Good Boy” from SKR Video. The concept of the movie was a politician running against a dog. Such a simple but wacky idea gave me the feeling that SKR was not only motivated to make a movie, but they wanted to have fun doing it. I mean, what’s more fun than working with a dog?
I was captivated by how much I was immersed in the films. After the first few shorts, I glanced around the room only to realize I had completely forgotten that I was in a large theater full of people, staring at a screen. The scenery was almost as beautiful, a large dark room where everyone’s face was almost all uniformly illuminated by the screen. I had never been to a film festival but it was just like being at any other movie theater, except with a friendly, local twist.
The second half of the festival featured shorts from teams of semi-professional and professional talents. These films were developed with great quality. With such a short development time, many of the teams relied on well-written scripts. One that stuck out to me the most was “Black Bags” from Dishwasher Safe. At first, the film featured a team of trash collectors tasked with an average job of removing bags of trash from a woman’s home. After the homeowner is observed by the collectors the audience is induced with a sense of confusion and mystery. Towards the end the one worker sees the woman grieving in a barren child’s room and the entire reason for the job is understood. All without a single word of explanation.
Team Too Many Cooks created a very ironic yet clever film, “Fresh Start.” On paper, the movie includes two real estate agents who greet and tour a home for several people. It becomes apparent that the main leading agent is dealing drugs from the house. As tensions rise, you realize the agents are members of a cult. Now, what if I told you that the movie is comedy-based, the drugs are candles, and many of the horror tropes are purposely overused? The entire film drops the horror genre on its head to create an experience that kept me laughing all the way through.
I got to speak with Too Many Cooks member and Brady Walser’s older brother, Evan Walser. “When we were eating, we were writing the script,” Evan said, explaining the importance of multi-tasking during such strict time constraints. Despite the hardships, Evan added that it was a great experience. “We had fun,” he said. “Just coming together and trying to create something out of just a simple prompt”.
Like I previously explained, I had never been to a film festival. The 72 Hour Film Festival was an incredible experience and I look forward to attending next year’s festival.
To see the films, go to https://72fest.com/#.