Newcity, March 19, 2003
by Tom Lynch
The director has the jitters. Caffeine seems to be soaking through her skin, and pure adrenaline is the wonder drug. The sun has set, the streets are emptying, and suddenly, time's up. Making a film with a deadline that isn't up for negotiation is difficult; making it in three days or less seems impossible.
Filmmakers all over the world are experimenting with time constraints, including right here in Chicago. The 72-Hour Feature Project insists its selected applicants create a feature-length film in 72 hours, from the shooting to the score to the editing. "It refocuses on ideas and planning," says Kristie Alshaibi, project director of the 72HFP. "In a way, the action of making is secondary, and the inventiveness of method and strength of the idea and concept must completely propel the work."
Fast filmmakers, apparently, are fast applicants as well. In just two months, the 72HFP has received more than 500 specific inquiries from all over the world, and by the end of March expects between 200 and 300 film proposals. Adds Alshaibi, "Filmmaking is an inherently dramatic undertaking. This kind of competition concentrates that drama into a short, very intense period of days. This really appeals to me, as I think it does others as well."
The inventiveness of method also plays a massive factor in the Fast Forward Film Festival, with its ninth installment happening in late April. Here the contributors are given topics by the producers, then have 21 hours to complete a three-minute movie to be screened and judged the following night. Sean U'Ren, co-producer of Fast Forward, says, "It builds community between people in our neighborhood, and it gives folks a chance to do something creative with their friends and families."
Not surprisingly, most of the fast-filmmaking festivals around the globe rely on digital technology instead of film. U'Ren says, "Technology provides filmmakers with unique and inexpensive tools that are easy to use. Film stock is expensive and requires time."
Another quick-thinking cinematic adventure is The Neutrino Project, a critically acclaimed improv troupe that combines filming ideas and improvising on the spot. The movie-making process is shown to an audience while they're making it. "I have a technical background, but I hadn't actually done any 'fast video' before we did 'The Neutrino Project,' " says director Fuzzy Gerdes. "But when the opportunity came, I had to take it. Since we started doing the project, I'm hooked on the concept."