I have always wanted to film a documentary. It’s just one of those things that I would love to cross off my bucket list one day. I’ve since realized that films take time, skills, resources, editing, and sometimes even a little money. But really, all obstacles aside… you don’t have to be among the likes of Michael Moore with high tech equipment or exclusive access to an out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle set for the big screen. These days people make films about anything and everything! I’m serious. There’s even a film about Helvetica!
The only thing you really need is an idea, a camera, and simple editing skills. We live in an iMagical world where devices can capture photos and videos that can be easily cut, paste, and neatly strung together to create a story. It all might sound like a bit of a challenge, but if you’re up to it… I present you with the Hart House Film Challenge!
Their website gives all the information on the initiative and how to participate in the weekly challenge. Basically, there is a given theme set for each week that ranges anywhere from horror to tragedy and everything in between. Once you’ve decided that you’d like to enter the challenge, a given word, phrase or prop is spontaneously e-mailed to each participant or team to create a short film under 5 minutes in length. You are given from 10am on Friday to Monday at noon each week to submit and upload your video.
Best of all, there are prizes! Each month, there is a prize-draw sponsored by the Bloor cinema for all eligible participants.
I was able to get in touch with two past participants of the challenge who had great things to say about the experience and whose short films I personally enjoyed very much.
- Ammar Keshodia, a first year student studying Economics and Political science entered the first challenge with the genre Comedy and had to use the challenge words: Student and Laboratory to create his short film. Along with a cast and crew of other U of T students their submission led to a short comedic film titled “Diversion” about a girl who keeps procrastinating when she needs to finish an essay.
Here’s what Ammar had to say about the experience:
I’ve never really made any films before this one, I’ve just been really interested in movies and moviemaking. We saw the HHFC as a good excuse to get into it, and it was a great starting point for beginners like us, mostly due to the fact that the challenge provides you with some restrictions and keywords that set some boundaries for your creative realm rather than just leaving things open ended and ambiguous. Creating something like a film in a constrained period of time is hard work, mostly because filmmaking is so dependent on quick and efficient collaboration. We definitely learnt a few things as this was our first time around filming anything; carefully planning out what you’re going to do rather than jumping straight into things is key to avoiding any problems or roadblocks. All the team members are enthusiastic in participating again. As for me, if the right category or theme comes along and I have a good idea to go on, I’d love to do it again. That being said, I am looking at working on some other bigger projects that may not be suited to the confines of the challenge, even though it was a great starting point. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience; given the time limit I think the resulting film turned out well and our team did a great job.
- Darrin Campbell was a participant of the Horror genre challenge that used challenge words: Scientist and Gloves. Here’s what he had to say about the experience:
I’ve always been an avid participant in everything “film” and the hart house film challenge was a wonderful avenue to express my ideas and passion for film. Making a movie as amateur as it turned out just encouraged me to pursue greater knowledge about film making. I will continue to learn the techniques and technical aspects of film making so I may submit more appealing movies into the HHFC, and eventually submit a movie into the University of Toronto film festival.
You can view both films and more on the submission page. I definitely encourage you to do so! It was great to see the creativity and hard work that these participants put into this challenge. The HHFC is in its start up stages and has already had a great response from several talented students and participants. Even if you don’t think that being behind the camera is for you, don’t worry – there are other ways to get involved! You can volunteer to help run the challenge by contacting HHFC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I spoke with Rick from Hart House who says:
There are many similar competitions all over the world in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavours and at the U of T Film Festival we have run film contests in the past. We decided to set up something a little more permanent. On-line and Ongoing. We had a call for volunteers and 3 people stepped up to take care of some nitty gritty operation. We can use more help, especially thinking ahead. As a long-time staff member at Hart House I know we get these great volunteers who will inevitably leave the nest as it were. We always need people to keep the good ideas going (and getting new ones started, like this one).The rules say under 5 minutes maximum but that doesn’t mean it HAS to be 5 minutes. Small 1-minute, 2-minute movies are easier on everyone. One entrant asked me if it was okay to not have a team and do something myself and the answer was a resounding YES. Simple can be very effective. Of course, if you want to go to town, that’s good too. What I love about this is that everyone can hone their chops at their own level. That’s what it’s about: honing your chops. And challenges like this force you to concentrate for a short period and spit something out the other end. It’s the only way to learn. Finishing what you start, for better or worse, is an important part of the process.
In a nutshell, the HHFC falls under four f-words: FREE, fun, and up to five minutes. Lastly, it could lead to fame! That’s right. All entries are eligible for the annual U of T Film Festival that will be held on March 23, 2011 at Hart House this year. The submission deadline is March 4, 2011.
So if you’re thinking of getting a little creative, give it a shot! There are even several creative classes offered at Hart House in film making, among other creative outlets such as music and theatre. There is a new offering of classes that all sound interesting and fun! I might even try my hand at one of their new interesting classes learning the ukulele. You never know, it could be an upcoming challenge word in the Hart House Film Challenge…!