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The Arts

Lights! Camera! (Fast) action!

No Film Film Festival challenges contestants to make a short video in one week

BELLOWS FALLS—According to one of its organizers, Jacob Stradling, The No Film Film Festival (NFFF) is not a fully reflective name for the event.

“Actually, it is both a contest and a film festival,” he says.

Unlike traditional film festivals, contestants at the NFFF do more than present their work and perhaps even win a “best film” award, although they can do that, too.

Participants literally make their films during the festival — or rather, they make their “no films,” since everything is shot quickly on video.

The No Film Film Festival is the brainchild of Stradling, executive director of Falls Area Community Television (FACT-TV), who organized the event with Joe Eisenberg, a volunteer with the community access station.

Stradling and Eisenberg have had two goals: first, to get filmmakers “to join in and make a film,” Stradling says, and then to get the public to view them at the Bellows Falls Opera House.

The festival is a variant of the popular 48 Hour Film Project, a contest in which teams of filmmakers are assigned a genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue, and have 48 hours to create a short film containing those elements. Shortly after the 48 hours of filmmaking, the films from each city are then screened at a theater in that city.

“This festival has been produced in virtually every city in the United States,” says Stradling, who has participated in the event.

While similar to the 48 Hour Film Project in some ways, the No Film Film Festival is a unique event.

People who are interested in participating in the NFFF should form a team to make a movie, although at this point the teams will have no idea what their films will be about. A team might include a director, a photographer, a sound editor, a screenwriter, and actors. The team can scope out locations were they might want to film.

“Promoting teamwork is one of the goals of this event, since teamwork is essential to filmmaking,” says Stradling.

All registrations and fees must be mailed or submitted online by April 1.

Making the videos

On April 6 at 6 p.m., the contest officially begins with what is called “The Starting Line,” with contestants and contest officials meeting at the Bellows Falls Opera House (or watching a live stream on the contest website), where the filmmakers will find out what their films will be about.

Stradling says the NFFF will provide synopses from seven classic American films from which the filmmakers can choose.

“We might, for instance, select the Capra film, It’s a Wonderful Life. We could give this description: ‘A man is about to commit suicide when an angel comes to earth and helps him review the importance of his life.’ The filmmakers can then decide what kind of film they can make from this description.”

An eighth choice, for those averse to using a scenario from a film already made, will be a synopsis from a current novel that has not been adapted into a movie.

Contestants will then select out of a hat their film’s assigned genre. Choices might range from drama to comedy, action, or Westerns.

While this scenario often will result in “a copy and spoof” of the original film — imagine It’s a Wonderful Life done as a Western, for instance — Stradling wants to make clear that “filmmakers can go any way they want and perhaps make a serious and original film from the prompt, and are given one week to remake, re-adapt, or whatever, a 7-to-15-minute digital movie.”

During that week, as part of the event, filmmakers can participate in other activities where they can network and learn from one another.

On April 6, at 6 p.m., Stradling says “there will be excellent presentations by some of our esteemed judges.”

“Andy Lewis, an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter for Klute, will give a talk about his experience as a Hollywood writer,” Stradling says. “And Mathias Gohl, an Academy Award-winning music producer for The Red Violin, will be on hand to give a talk about his work in Hollywood.”

The completed film by each team must be submitted by the following Friday, April 13 at 6 p.m. at “The Finishing Line.” Teams will be asked to run their film to complete the contest.

Teams who cannot travel to Bellows Falls must email NFFF officials an online video link of their completed film for judging. Those who do not make the deadline will be disqualified from judging, although they may show their film.

The final product will be judged by a committee that includes industry professionals. The films also will be judged by audiences on the big screen at the Bellows Falls Opera House on April 28 and 29, the NFFF Screening Weekend.

Here, audiences will have a chance to vote for their favorite film. The winning teams will win an award specifically made for this event by Sherwin Art Glass, a glass-blown statue that Stradling describes as “an overweight Oscar.”

First-prize winners will also receive a Canon T3i Rebel digital SLR camera.

Spreading the word

Both Stradling and Eisenberg have worked tirelessly getting the word out about the festival to encourage filmmakers to join. They have traveled to film departments in schools around New England to make the pitch and have also emailed every public access television station in the United States.

“Since each state has from 27 to 50 public access television stations, contacting them all was a lot of work,” Stradling says.

So far, six teams have been organized, from areas as close as Brattleboro and as far away as Virginia and Australia. Potential teams might be coming from Massachusetts and Carson City, Nev.

Stradling says he hopes 12 teams will enter, and he wants to emphasize that it is still possible to form a team and join. Deadline for registration is April 1.

For more information and to enter, visit the No Film Film Festival website.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #143 (Wednesday, March 14, 2012).

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