Some consider "amateur" to be a dirty word. I disagree. I've got nothing but respect for people who do something purely out of love, who don't let their lack of training or skills get in the way of expressing their passion.
One heartfelt work by an amateur is worth five slickly produced and polished pieces by a "professional." That being said, passion can only go so far, and at Friday night's "Beat The Clock" 48 Film Challenge screening at Phoenix Art Museum, I saw a lot of films that were staggeringly awful.
The video above is for one of the participating shorts, "Weekend at Bernie's III." Check out a full review of the event and the judges' picks for the top 5 films after the jump.
The event itself was well-done, held inside the museum with a DJ spinning MJ records, a cash bar, and a buffet table serving up pasta bowls and tasty sloppy-joe sliders. They had two screenings that night, but the first set had an unscheduled intermission and went on longer than expected, so when I arrived to catch the 8 p.m. screening, there was a long, long line snaking through the lobby waiting to get into the theater.
The screening showed 32 films, each three minutes long. Each film had to use the same prop and line: a paintbrush and "I'm so hungry". When the film-making teams gathered to do the event (which they had to paid an entry fee to do, so these are folks who are into it because they love making movies), they were given sealed envelopes with a choice of two genres to pick from, ranging from "slapstick" and "sci-fi" to "musical" and "romantic comedy". Unfortunately, they screened one film immediately after the other and didn't put in a few seconds or so of blank screen as a breather, so the films often seemed to bleed into each other, and it was easy to miss the opening lines of the next film because folks were still applauding (be it sincerely or politely) the last film that had just finished playing.
But while there was a fair share of just plain terrible films, there were also a few gems that made the screening worth seeing. There was the impressive effects and campy old school Star Trek vibes of "Space Patrol 1992" and the Frank Miller-inspired "Extraordinary Colleagues," which blended live action, awkward work-place romance with comic book panels depicting gunfights and noir cool. "Weekend At Bernies III" might very well be the funniest (and shortest) sequel to an 80s film ever (and if you ever wanted to know how to get a corpse to pole-dance, watch this movie). "Silent Mary And The Attack Of The Sonarians" used the clever gag of having aliens invade the earth, using weapons powered by "bad foley artists" (so we have scenes of characters running around with invisible guns shouting "pew pew!"). And "Suicide! The Musical" wrangled some morbid laughs out of the frustrated lives of a homeless man and an artist reduced to painting office buildings.
After the 8 p.m. screening, an award ceremony was held to honor the top 5 films as well as hand out awards for various achievements, including "best actress" and "best use of prop." An audience favorite award was voted on and went to the highly deserving "Reality Check" -- the funniest film of the festival. While it was shot in a rough manner, the film had a series of twists that would make M. Night Shyamalan shit himself in envy. The top 5 winners were deserving, save for "Masterpiece," which while shot well and had a professional looking aesthetic, was hokey and trite.
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And while my brain was assaulted throughout the evening with some truly awful cinema, there were enough flashes of inspiration and invention that I'm looking forward to going to more short film challenges in the future. And perhaps one day someone at a future short film challenge will produce something as great as Guy Maddin's "The Heart Of The World" -- possibly the finest short film I've ever seen that gives most feature length films a run for their money.
Beat The Clock Short Film Challenge Top 5 Winners:
1.Suicide! The Musical
4.Space Patrol 1992
5.Silent Mary And The Attack Of The Sonarians