Theater club

The Film Club short film in local competition

By Kate Patterson

On February 12, the University of Puget Sound Film Club set out on an arduous task: write, shoot, and edit a short film, all in 96 hours. The ambitious project is for the Reel Life 96 film competition, an event organized by the town of Lakewood, WA. “I wanted to jump on it as soon as I heard about it,” said Jake Greenberg, fourth-year president of the film club. The University team competes with 31 other teams of up to 16 participants competing for prizes of up to $500.

The “weekend” (it’s actually four days in total) began at 5 p.m. on February 10, when Greenberg received an email detailing the required items, which are deliberately withheld to ensure that teams don’t try to get ahead of the curve. Each movie must include one prop, one action and one line of dialogue which are only announced at the start of the competition.

Before the start of the 96 Hours, Greenberg predicted, “It’s going to be tough this weekend.” He was right.

I was able to join the film club just as the required items were announced and they started brainstorming for their five minute short film. The email announcement came at 5:00 p.m., and by 5:26 p.m. nine members of the film club were thinking in a circle. As they tossed around ideas and considerations, the energy in the room was eclectic. One student even bought a Pepsi from the nearby vending machine using only parts borrowed from other people. Although they were tired of the school week, they were lively in their discussion. Fourth-year film club vice-president Karen Hunt exclaimed, “Oh no!” as the gravity of the work ahead seemed to sink in.

The three requirements were written on a whiteboard for reflection: the required prop was a lit candle, the action was the dance, and the line of dialogue: “Sometimes you have to be happy for what you do not do have.” There was a broad consensus that the line of dialogue was pretty cheesy. In the end, the band decided to focus on the love story, movies, and the importance of showing up .

The script was completed on Thursday evening. As the band settled into work, most of the filming took place in Rausch’s auditorium and Schneebeck’s auditorium lobby. The group remained masked throughout the process, except for the actors while they were actively filmed.

Saturday’s shoot didn’t go smoothly. In an important candlelit scene, they forgot to turn on the mic and had to go back and re-record the audio. This added another task to the long list, but they got it done.

The process was kind of a complex relay, with different people working on different aspects. There were 15 people involved, who worked on scriptwriting, cinematography, editing, sound, lighting, acting and other odds and ends. It was a chaotic and collaborative experience, in all the best ways.

First-year Annika Freeling worked mostly on screenwriting. She said, “Specifically, I really enjoyed the process once we established our basic idea and were able to come up with individual plot points and fun little details to add.”

Greenberg said, “It’s fun to get together with the people you know and the people you care about and do something you can be proud of.”

The finished film, centered around a love story, is sweet and hopeful. A couple, Joey (played by Greenberg) and Casey (played by third-grade Cormac Smith), run a movie theater together. Joey’s movie premieres in 30 Minutes at the theater and they’re at their wit’s end. Everything goes wrong: the lights don’t work, the popcorn machine is broken and Joey worries that no one will come to the screening. On top of that, Casey is late to help with the setup.

In the pivotal scene, Joey is at the theater, on the verge of depression. Casey reassures them, and they end up dancing and finally sharing a kiss. Once back in the hall, a crowd has gathered outside! We learn that Casey was late because he spent all day posting flyers.

The film was edited on Sunday and Monday. The final step in the filmmaking process was driving a USB drive with the finished film to Lakewood on Monday afternoon. With that, the project was complete. The completed films will be viewed at a screening party on March 19. Cormac Smith, an actor, said in reflection: “My favorite part was just being able to create something ambitious with people I love working with.