It’s no joke when an architect and a filmmaker walk into a bar.
This year’s theme for Architecture Minnesota magazine’s Videotect 4 challenges filmmakers to show in 30 to 90 seconds how the design of a restaurant, bar or coffee shop can spark or enhance social interactions.
Architecture Minnesota editor and Videotect director Christopher Hudson said the contest started as a way to engage readers in a more participatory way.
“I don’t know why, but people are intimidated by architecture and urban design. They have a sense that the way we design environments has a huge effect on our happiness, our livelihood and health. But they think it’s an esoteric topic,” Hudson said. “This competition makes it so that everyone can talk about it by making it entertaining and funny.”
All of the entries will be posted on architecturemn.com from Feb. 14 to 21 for public viewing and voting, and then they will be screened at a free event at the Walker Art Center on March 13.
“There’s an untapped group of creative people out there that have some smart things to say about the way buildings are built or cities are designed,” Hudson said. “Even though most of the films are made by amateurs, they look really good on the big screen at the Walker.”
Past years’ themes focused on the Minneapolis skyway system, sustainable transportation and a city of the future. Entries used a variety of mediums from live action to animation and ranged from serious to humorous.
A common theme
Kevin Kirsch, a copywriter for an accounting firm, said he doesn’t know too much about architecture on a professional level but recognizes its importance.
“Architects are leading a lot of the new ways in thinking how we live. They’re leaders of change,” he said. “I’m interested in it from that standpoint.”
Before the first Videotect competition, Kirsch had never made a film. But he’s entered every year in hopes of taking home the $2,000 Grand Prize, a $1,000 Viewers’ Choice Award or one of four $500 Honorable Mentions.
Recently, Kirsch took a puppetry class at the Open Eye Figure Theater, where he learned how to build a “Crankie.” He drew a panoramic animation that tells a story on a long scroll of paper, which passes through a square cutout of a box. The effect is like a 2D moving picture book on a fake TV screen.
“The idea behind the film is that too often we use the TVs in restaurants and bars as ways to engage people,” he said. “Instead of letting others entertain us through TV, why don’t we entertain each other in a performance space in the middle of the room?”
James Tucker, principal design project manager at Target Corporations, also talked about the TV in his parody of the Antiques Roadshow, which he filmed at Victory 44 restaurant in North Minneapolis.
“I make a passing reference that TV isn’t part of the original design of the space,” he said. “It’s really about how comfortable the people in the space are that fosters good social interaction.”
More entries this year
As the competition’s popularity has grown, so has the quality of submissions. The first competition had about 20 entries, four or five of which Hudson said were really good.
“The videos are getting so good in this competition that it’s scaring some people away,” he said. “Now, a higher concentration of the entries are unbelievable. We’re stunned at what people are able to do with these videos.”
For the first time this year, less-serious filmmakers can bypass the $40 registration fee and still have a chance at winning one of several $100 prizes by submitting a six-second clip to Vine with the hashtag #videotect4.
Hudson hopes the Vine entries will allow more people to participate.
The awards jury is an impressive lineup that adds to the legitimacy of the competition. It includes architect Jon Buggy, Surly Brewing founder Omar Ansari, MPR movie maven Stephanie Curtis and Susan Smoluchowski, executive director of the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. Emmy Award-winning reporter Jason Derusha from WCCO will host the event for a third time.
Architecture Minnesota modeled the competition after the British Arrows Awards at the Walker, and Hudson said he expects tickets to go quickly this year.
“We will have to think strategically about how we grow it in the years to come,” he said. “It’s not quite like the Internet Cat Video Festival, though. I don’t know that we’ll ever have 10,000 people coming to the State Fair to watch architecture videos.”
What: Videotect 4 Voting
When: Feb. 14-21
What: Videotect 4 Screening
When: 7 p.m. March 13
Where: Walker Art Center Cinema, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis