Students try for 24-hour film stardom

The Insomnia Film Festival gives filmmakers 24 hours to make their films.

by Devin Henry

While some people on campus use the night hours for homework, partying or – rarely – sleep, a few teams of University insomniacs recently used that time for filmmaking.

On Oct. 13, these students found themselves writing scripts and musical scores, playing roles, filming and editing movies for the annual Insomnia Film Festival, a contest put on by Apple Inc. that gives student filmmakers around the country 24 hours to make a three-minute movie.

For University alumnus Jonny Grubb, the festival was an opportunity to do something he loves.

“It’s an excuse to make movies,” he said. “Making the whole thing in 24 hours, that kind of deadline is something we really love. We thrive and we love that pressure.”

Grubb’s film, “Late for Work,” is about someone who wakes up late and has to run to get to his job on time. During the jog, Grubb’s character engages in a typical teen drama, including getting a girl’s phone number and fighting with the girl’s boyfriend.

First-year theater student Carisa Anderson said she took part in the festival because it was something she was interested in. Her movie, “Secrets of the Psyche,” was inspired by a simple bus ride.

“I was on the bus and I saw somebody in a trench coat and a fedora,” she said. “The rest of it kind of came after that.”

Producing her film, about characters who meet for the first time in a dream, was more difficult than she had planned after some people on her original team dropped out of the process.

“Our cast became some of our friends from our dorm, and everyone in the movie is from Bailey Hall,” she said. “When we asked for help, they just stepped up and it was really cool, actually.”

The films, which didn’t need to be made with Apple equipment, are now showing online at Apple’s Web site. During the first few weeks, filmmakers’ families and friends voted for the more than 1900 entries.

Film industry professionals are now judging the top 25 films. The winning team, which will be announced Tuesday, will receive laptop computers and filmmaking software.

While the teams don’t know if they are in the top group, first-year cinema and media studies student Arnold Ringstad said he was pretty grounded as to his team’s chances in the contest.

“Honestly, no,” he said, referring to whether he thought his team’s film, “Fryday,” was in the top group. “But I hope so.”

All films entered in the contest had to incorporate three of a possible 10 film elements, which included a specific filming technique, a character name and a certain setting.

Ringstad’s “Fryday,” a film about a potato-gun-wielding park-goer, used the editing technique and camera angle elements, as well as the setting element – the use of a park bench.

Aaron Dolan, a sophomore in cinema and media studies, also used the park bench and the camera angle, as well as the character name, Robin Darjeeling, in his team’s film, “Dead Romance.”

“I haven’t done it before,” Dolan said about the film contest. “I found it and thought it would be really fun to do.”

Dolan’s film, a zombie love story, took about 19 hours to create, he said.

With the strict 24-hour time frame, some problems did arise.

“Location was a problem,” Anderson said. “We originally wanted it to take place on a bus, but we realized that wouldn’t be feasible, and we had to figure out new places for everything.”

For Ringstad, recording equipment proved to be an interesting obstacle, as his consumer-brand microphones picked up extra sound, such as airplanes.

“We had to end up cutting a lot of the sound out and just putting music in over it,” he said.

Each filmmaker, however, agreed the festival was a fun learning experience.

“I want to do a lot more in the future,” Dolan said. “Hopefully next year I can do that again and find some ones to work on in the meantime.”