No Rest for the Wicked: EIFF and the Making of a Film in a Day | by Erin Lightning

The 24/One Film Challenge is an Annual event that takes place in September every year. Registration is open to the public and the top ten films will be played at the City Centre Landmark Cinemas Movie Theatre – tickets are $10.00. Presented here is a first hand account of the creation of a short film in a short period of time.

Now, if you have never been in a 24 hour film festival before, let me just paint you a picture of what you can expect: Once registered you are given instructions to meet at the City Centre Farmer’s Market downtown at the EIFF tent. At 11:00 a.m. on the nose the lovely volunteers of the film festival announce your theme, a quote, a line or a sentence that MUST be used at least once in your film, and give you an object that must appear twice in your film; and BOOM the chaos begins.

The rules of the film festival are quite simple – your movie must be a minimum of 3 minutes to a maximum of 7 minutes in length, you must create the entire film in the allotted time, without using any footage filmed before-hand and you must have your film submitted on a DVD by the deadline of 11:00 a.m. the next day.

The week before the Edmonton International Film Fest for me consists of excitement, nervous energy, anticipation and a whole lot of procrastinating. This is my 3rd annual film festival – and although my life, (the month of September in particular) has been extremely stressful lately, I knew that I have no choice but to sign up to participate in 24/one.

This year, the old boy scout motto would become my own – “Be Prepared”. That meant test my equipment ahead of time, free up some computer space, scout out my locations, and anything else that I can hope to remember. But alas, since procrastination is my middle name, and season 2 of The Bachelor happened to premier the same week, I didn’t get around to more than half of my “To Do” list, and before I knew it the 24/one volunteers were shouting “GO!” at the top of their lungs and I found myself lost in the rear of about 30 professional looking crews without a clue of what the instructions were that were just given.

I felt my first pangs of panic.

So what happened after the BOOM? Well if you’re me, here is what you can expect after the green flag waves go:

You find yourself driving wildly in downtown Edmonton, out of the parking garage and down the busy streets with your partner spurting out ideas left and right and brainstorming as you weave through traffic, your passenger frantically scribbles notes in a notebook and you drive to…… “I don’t know where! Just DRIVE!”

About 20 minutes later you find yourself sitting at your sister’s house over coffee completely forgetting you have a film challenge to start.

About an hour later the rough storyboarding starts and you glance up at the clock every ten minutes wondering if all the other crews are half done filming by now.

Impatience sets in. Finally, after a couple hours of brainstorming ideas and drawing rough diagrams of the shots you plan to make, you shout to your team “enough with the storyboarding already – we need to start to film SOMETHING!”

Second wave of panic sets in.

Later that evening, as you run down one of Edmonton’s main streets dressed as a cop chasing your mom’s border collie with a pair handcuffs you think to yourself – “there is something so exhilarating and completely satisfying about all of this” as onlookers and passersby stare on in shock, awe and confusion.

With all the running around, costume changes, ideas flowing and hunger setting in, guaranteed you’ll start to think that maybe entering this year was a bad idea…. And this blonde wig is getting itchy. These are thoughts that will repeat until they become part of who you are.

At one point in the night, as you crouch into an awkward kneeling position on a downtown sidewalk, you pray that you don’t pee your pants from laughing so hard at the pure shenanigans the day has provided you.

It has now been twelve hours since you heard the fatal words “GO” and as you drop off your sister’s dog back at her house and thank her for letting you borrow him to play the leading lady, you tell her you don’t have time to chat you’ve still got a movie to edit.

Once you get back to the comfort of your home, you realize that since you didn’t test your equipment beforehand you have no CLUE how to get the entire 120 minutes of raw footage from your camcorder to your IMAC.

Again comes the thought that maybe entering this year was a bad idea.

Some time in the wee hours of the morning you get some much needed support and encouragement from your significant other before he goes to bed. Ah, bed. What a luxury. Jerk.

Shortly after that, “Halleluiah!” Somehow the technical issues are figured out and you can start to edit! You realize the last coffee you consumed was about 5 hours ago and yet you don’t even feel tired because you’re racing against the clock.

After about 7 hours of nothing but editing, finally, delirium hits and you realize you no longer have a sense of what is actually funny anymore and what is downright insane. Hello sunrise, my old friend. But it is too late to worry about that now, as your movie is burned onto a DVD, you pace back and forth as your project “finalizes” and the little progress bar jumps back and forth from “20 minutes remaining to 7 hours remaining”.

Before you can even think of going to bed you need to test this disc on a DVD player.

You don’t own a DVD player.

Frustration mixes with the hope that you at least have something, other than a blank DVD, to show for your efforts.

At about 8:45 a.m. you crawl into bed – setting your alarm for 9:45 a.m. – 1 hour sleep is better than nothing right? But at 9:15 a.m. – your eyes flash open, heart beating a mile a minute – OMG what time is it? Did I sleep in? Did I miss the deadline? Oh good, it’s time for coffee.

It has come down to the last hour of the 24 hour film festival and as you run down the hall of the Landmark Cinema building at the Edmonton City Centre you feel like you are in the final stages of an Iron Man contestant heading to the finish line – why are there not rows of people taking pictures and handing out free waters?

You did it! With 20 minutes to spare. There is no applause. No congratulations. Just a thank you from the volunteer worker. You feel like you might pass out, or cry from relief. Inside your heart is full, the pride washes over you and you know that you have never pulled an all-nighter for a better reason than this. Your sense of accomplishment will last long into the year of 2015.

I strongly urge you to swap the stress of daily life for the exhilarating and fulfilling stress of 24/One. There really is nothing like it and the rewards are priceless.

Until next year EIFF! Peace!

Banner photograph courtesy of Wanderer Online photographer Erin Lightning

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