Whether it’s a lead who won’t work without his or her daily dose of whiskey, a snowstorm during a summer beach scene or surly extras who won’t listen to the director, every film presents different challenges. Each filmmaker showing their work at the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative’s (AFCOOP) annual Super 8 Holiday Party screening tonight dealt with fixed obstacles in making their films.
Those obstacles were as follows: Shoot a three-minute film Super 8 film without any sound for $35, using in-camera editing—editing the film as it is shot—and watch the final cut for the first time before a live audience at the AFCOOP holiday party on Thursday, December 15, at the Seahorse.
“When you shoot on film, you can’t see it until you process it,” says Walter Forsyth, director of AFCOOP. “You have to send it to a developer and then you see it when you get it back. Except this time, it’s in front of an audience. Imagine you shot a wedding, you get the prints back and the first time you see them is in front of the whole wedding.”
There are different ways to approach a three-minute silent film. Ron McDougall, who screened a documentary titled Scars and Relic at the 2005 Atlantic Film Festival, chose to forgo actors altogether, instead creating a “musical love story” called Duet that shows the birth and death of romance between piano keyboard hammers. To most cinephiles, this might seem impossible without sound. But McDougall, taking an idea he formulated from attending his daughter Fraya’s piano lessons, saw things differently.
“Being free from the notions of sound and what sound can do has helped me focus on visuals—the presentation—as well as what the actions of the visuals did to the story and to what the audience will hopefully feel or experience while watching,” the 35-year-old filmmaker says about the short he made with Margaret Pheby, his daughter’s piano teacher. “It helped because it allowed us to focus more on the character of the piano hammer, so whether they were being hit soft or hard against the strings, it gave the impression of the character.”
There are ways to get around the inability to edit, such as storyboards and rehearsals and, to a more technical extent, double-exposing the film stock, or using fades, dissolves and mirrors. Friends Sam Madore and Iain MacLeod shot Holly Dazed, about a Christmas season fanatic, with a crew of four friends. The group met to discuss the premise of the film and shot only after they felt comfortable they would get the take in one go. However, not everything went according to plan.
“There was one point where I was walking towards the camera and that would be the end of the scene, where it was focusing on me,” the 24-year-old Madore says, laughing. “Iain, who did the filming, told me to walk into the camera and I actually walked into the camera. So that will be interesting to see how that turns out.”
Local indie film producer and director Cam Erais made A Shitty Christmas, the tale of a mother who purchases a toy robot for her 12-year-old son, only to discover that it escapes on Christmas Eve to wreak havoc. Erais, who made a stop-animation commercial for Garrison Brewery and has been working on a piece with assistance from the AFCOOP one-minute film scholarship program, shot his Super 8 film in one night with his girlfriend Ashley Morris.
“We had to shoot everything in sequence so that the story will make sense when it is screened,” Erais says. “It was a great exercise in how to tell a story in a short period of time.”
The Super 8 party not only presents challenges for burgeoning filmmakers, but it is also a great way for them to learn what it takes to make a decent film and gives them the chance to screen their work in front of their friends. A prize goes to the movie voted the most entertaining by the audience.
“The nice thing about this is a lot of people think film is dead as a medium, yet it’s only 100 years old,” Forsyth says. “It really is a new medium and hasn’t been explored that much. So people are going out with a camera, shooting in a day and showing it at a party. It’s all about that immediacy. That’s what’s cool about it.”
The AFCOOP Annual Super 8 Holiday Party, December 15 at The Seahorse, 1659 Argyle, 9pm, free.