The Reel World
Small Time Film Festival
What: Small Time Film Festival
WHEN: Submissions are due by April 30
MORE: Films must be one minute or less; the theme for the inaugural festival is “60 Seconds That Changed the Future”
Cost: Submission fees benefit the Lighthouse Mission
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh shot his 2018 thriller Unsane entirely on an iPhone, but a background in the movie-making business is in no way a requirement for using the mobile devices as ace filmmaking tools.
In the case of the inaugural Small Time Film Festival, organizers Julien Scherliss and Chris Donaldson of Moment Films say they’ll accept any submission that hews to the theme “60 Seconds That Changed the Future”—regardless of what it’s filmed on.
“Shoot it on an iPhone,” they say. “Break out your grandma’s 16mm camera. Record a Zoom call. Film it on an expedition to uncharted places or film it in your bathroom. Inside, outside, with music, without. We don’t care. We just want to see your idea come to life.”
Stressing that the Small Time Film Festival is open to both first-time filmmakers and seasoned pros—and everyone in between—the duo is hoping people around the Pacific Northwest take the challenge by creating one-minute masterpieces for submission. In coming weeks, they’ll be sharing tips on their festival Instagram and Facebook pages from Bellingham and Seattle creators discussing filmmaking approaches that might help bring the projects to fruition, but note that as long as participants stick to the 60-seconds-or-fewer dictate, they should be less worried about making a perfect movie, and more interested in making the creative process a fun one.
Donaldson and Scherliss have each had short revelations that rocked their worlds and changed their lives—the former when his daughter was born, and the latter when his sister informed him Santa Claus wasn’t real—and they’re looking forward to seeing how people interpret the “60 Seconds That Changed the Future” prompt. Will they take it as a challenge to make a short sci-fi about saving the world, produce an abridged documentary, use animation to tell their tales, or cleverly edit 60 seconds of childbirth? The sky’s the limit.
Submissions aren’t due until April 30, so there’s time to put some thought into your best approach. When you do submit your entry, the registration fee and matching donations will go to the Lighthouse Mission, which has continued to house, feed and provide medical visits to the unhoused during the pandemic and could use all the financial help they can get. Additionally, cash prizes for the top three films will range from $50-$250—and include matching donations to a charity of the winners’ choice.
When contemplating starting the Small Time Film Festival, Donaldson and Scherliss were spurred on by bringing the artistic community together for a good cause and beginning a “COVID-unfreeze.” But they know that’ll take some time. A virtual festival is planned the weekend of June 19 at a computer screen near you, and in addition to getting to view some of the film selections, attendees will be able to take part in break-out sessions with professional filmmakers discussing everything from scriptwriting to fundraising and distribution. The effects of the pandemic will likely be a topic on the table, as well.
If it is, Donaldson and Scherliss will be up to the task of explaining how Moment Films was instrumental in creating Washington state’s COVID-19 communication campaign, and their takeaways from putting it together with Seattle agency C+C. After working to tell a story about people on the front lines that “wasn’t just a lecture about wearing masks,” they learned that people can come together to make change for the better, and are proud of the television spots they produced—under strict safety protocols, of course.
“The one thing we want to accomplish is to remind people that we all have a powerful story to tell,” Donaldson and Scherliss say. “Our hope with this festival is that we can remove some of the perceived barriers around filmmaking, that it costs too much or requires a ‘Big Hollywood Crew’ to make something good. This couldn’t be father from the truth. We all carry a powerful film camera right in our pocket, and by telling your story and sharing it, we can help jump-start the artistic community into bigger and better things.
“None of us had any idea a year ago that our lives would change so dramatically because of the pandemic. Weeks stretched into months stretched into a full year with people not being able to fully participate in community. But that community is still here, and it will rebound stronger than ever.”
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