Lights, camera, duct tape - action

Competition has 20 crews racing to make movies in 48 hours, all using a certain prop

October 01, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

In a disheveled office just north of Baltimore, Chris Harring is aiming lights at a wall and framing a shot in a nearby camera. In less than four hours, this scene - however it turns out - will wind up in front of an audience at the Senator Theatre.

Far from big-budget Hollywood - but smack in the middle of the city of John Waters - 20 independent film crews raced through the region yesterday attempting to produce a short movie on deadline for the Creative Alliance's sixth annual CAmm Slamm competition.

"In years past, we've had 15 minutes left to get it in," Harring said, coolly adjusting a light as one of his colleagues, Ian Corey, worked at a computer editing station around the corner. "We're seriously trying to avoid that situation this year."

Each team had 48 hours starting Friday night to make their movie. There were few rules, other than each had to keep whatever they produced to under eight minutes and had to find a way to incorporate a last-minute prop into the film. This year, that prop was duct tape.

Creative Alliance organizers hope the event - which culminated in the screening of the movies at the Senator last night - will inspire collaboration among the city's thriving community of independent moviemakers. The tight time frame also forces the artists to collaborate and quickly work around obstacles.

"We want 20 groups to make films this weekend and then we want them to make another film next month and the month after that," said Kristen Anchor, who is the director of Creative Alliance MovieMakers and who organized the event. "If this inspires 10 more movies to come out in the next year, then that is a huge accomplishment."

Harring and Corey co-founded a production team called RedstarKGB in 2002 and have competed in the CAmm Slamm before. This year, their seven-member group produced a genre mash-up shot in six locations that combined a teen drama with a pair of dueling time travelers who pop in and out of the action.

With little sleep and coffee cups planted in their hands, they dashed through the office carrying tripods, opening laptops, making "futuristic hats" from whatever was sitting around (plus duct tape). They wrote, directed, filmed, acted and edited - often simultaneously. At times, things got punchy.

"Time is essentially falling apart because of all the time travel," Harring said, attempting to describe the final scene of the film.

"Which I'm sure will be explained somehow," Corey jumped in, laughing.

In Cockeysville, a second group had turned an apartment into a studio and was setting up the camera for a last-minute shot. The team described their production as an infomercial about unusual ways to use duct tape. It was, one member said, a "weird, perverted PSA about death, destruction and duct tape."

In one scene, a man is shown on television bound by duct tape in a shower. As the camera zooms out to show the living room, a family is seen dead, also bound by duct tape. Asked how they came up with the idea, Russ Chave offered a short laugh and said, "This is kind of the first thing that we thought of."

Many of the participants in the event attended film school together and many of them work in production professionally. The slam, though, gave them a chance to explore their creativity.

The first prize was $200 and a gift pack from local book and music stores, Anchor said. The almost-as-popular third-place prize, she said: a case of National Bohemian beer and a pack of Newport cigarettes. The prizes, though, are obviously not what drive the artists to the competition.

"It's almost instant gratification," said Corey, setting the final scene of the time-travel, teen drama. "You work so hard all weekend long and then you get to actually listen to 150 people and hear what they think about your movie."

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