By Shirley Qiu / Seattle Times staff reporter
Spiders, private eyes and the undead all prowl through this year’s batch of winners from the 3-Minute Masterpiece digital film contest.
The annual competition, copresented by The Seattle Times and Seattle International Film Festival, solicits movies of three minutes or less from readers. This year, we received dozens of entries.
All 12 winners will be shown free to the public on the first weekend of the Seattle International Film Festival, which gets under way Thursday, May 15.
3-Minute Masterpieces will be screened at SIFF at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17, at SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle; free (206-324-9996 or siff.net).
Seattle International Film Festival: May 15-June 8 at SIFF Cinema Uptown, Egyptian, Harvard Exit and Pacific Place; also at Lincoln Square (through May 29), Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center (May 22-28) and Kirkland Performance Center (May 29-June 1); siff.net or 206-324-9996. More on the festival.
The 2014 winners
GRAND PRIZE WINNER: “DAY OF THE LIVING STATUES,” by Andrew Olivarez, Brandon Schlepp and William Schlepp. Directed by William Schlepp, music by Andrew Olivarez.
Statues don’t move … or do they? In this cops-and-robbers pursuit, two human statues competing for street entertainment money set their differences aside to chase down a nasty pickpocket. Filmed in one afternoon in downtown Seattle, “Day of the Living Statues” was conceived by Andrew Olivarez and sibling duo Brandon and William Schlepp, who have been interested in filmmaking since childhood. Olivarez and Brandon Schlepp played the leads — two human statues — and passers-by unwittingly played … well … passers-by. Some even tossed money at the filmmakers, thinking they were real buskers. “The gray statue actually made, like, 10 bucks or something that day,” William Schlepp said.
J. MICHAEL RIMA YOUTH-AWARD WINNER: “GO FISH,” written and directed by Abby Salmon, Jessica Salmon, and Phoebe Wall.
The three girls-turned-zombies in this film have been neighbors for a decade, and in that time they’ve created many skits, songs, stories and movies. “We make all different kinds of movies,” said Phoebe Wall, 13. “I like sci-fi movies a lot, and we like adventure movies.” However, this is the first time the girls have made any kind of scary or sci-fi film.“[A zombie movie] seemed like the only adventure, supernatural thing that we could do that was doable,” she said. “Aliens are hard to do because they end up looking like people in alien costumes but zombies are easier to do.”
“ARAIGNEE,” directed by Jeremy Jensen
Cross two feisty French spiders with some classic paintings and you have a story of two “araignées” in Paris vying for the title of top artiste. Filmmaker Jeremy Jensen, who made this short animation for a school project at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, said he drew out the entire two-minute film frame-by-frame. He was inspired, in part, by the Pixar film “Ratatouille.” “I sort of liked the artist in Paris thing, and I loved the colors in ‘Ratatouille’ — that kind of pink and purple — I liked the look of it,” he said.
“TEENAGER WRATH,” directed by John E. Williamson, starring Lillian M. Williamson, aerial photography by Patrick Moynihan.
Every parent knows the difficulties that can arise living with a teenager, and John E. Williamson decided to make that experience into an apocalyptic-like film starring his teenage daughter. “It’s actually a documentary,” he joked. “No, she’s actually a very sweet child, but every family has conflicts and sometimes … you feel that people are tearing down the house around you.” While a drone and a Go-Pro camera were used to film bird’s-eye-view shots, the tools used for explosions and crashes were relatively low-tech. “I am a game designer by trade so I have done a lot of very high-end graphics, but the secret for this project was that I used a 99-cent iPhone app,” he said.
“HOME TASTES LIKE LOVE,” created by Christopher L. Brown and Elsie Nelson Brown.
A father and his young daughter teamed up for this sweet documentary on the meaning of “home.” Made in the midst of a 30-inch snowfall in Holden Village (a Lutheran retreat in the North Cascades) back in February, the film collects children’s perspectives on the sights, smells, tastes, etc., of home. “These kids were very impromptu about their [statements] and I loved that about it,” he said. Originally made for Holden Village’s Snowdance Film Festival, Christopher Brown cut it down from the original 12 minutes to a 3-minute version for the competition.“ In some ways, I kind of like [the short version] better,” he said. “It’s nice and compact and gets to the whole point much quicker.”
“A HEARTLESS GAMBLE,” directed by Matthew Waxman and Andrew Maschmann.
Inspired by classic noir films from the 1930s, “A Heartless Gamble” is the sequel to a film Matthew Waxman had made for SIFF previously during an 8-hour filmmaking contest. He brought back most of the elements from the first movie — including the setting. “I wanted … the detective environment [mixed] with the high school environment to make it a little goofy,” he said. Even though he had more time to make this film, Waxman said he did not write a script, so most of the filming was improvised. “I thought up the perfect story and some cheesy lines to say in my mind’ … and the rest is private-eye history.
“THE VESSEL,” written and directed by Colin Dawson
Watching “The Vessel” feels like a dream — an unpleasant one, which is exactly what filmmaker Colin Dawson was going for. “It all kind of took place in this dream I had where this character is ripped from reality and goes down into this other reality,” he said. He uses all sorts of symbols in the film — from a serpent, representing a progression of thoughts, to skeletal hands moving across the frame, representing a change in perception. Along the way, he got to experiment with cut-and-paste animation for the first time. “I got into this because I wanted to learn to use Photoshop,” he said.
“ANGRY ASIAN GIRL VS. BULLY,” Producer/Director/Writer: Deborah Tahara. Director of Photography: Bry Troyer.
When Deborah Tahara encountered a bully, she decided to fight back in the form of film.“ I witnessed a grown man kind of intimidating a young woman just because she was speaking her native language,” she said. “It made me furious, and I kind of thought, I wish I could have done something, I wish I could have said something.” Though it is the first time she’s sat in the director’s chair, she has previously worked on script-writing and corporate films. She rallied her connections in the local independent filmmaking community for actors and assistance. “I hope people will enjoy it and get a laugh out of it and it will make them think,” she said.
“FREE PILE,” written by Bhama Roget, filmed by Liz Ellis, edited by Nathaniel Buechler, starring Nathaniel Buechler and Justin Lynn. Music: “Sereno” created by Clbustos.
Don’t be fooled by the protagonist’s T-shirt and jeans; “Free Pile” was filmed in less-than-pleasant weather conditions. “We made the mistake of going out on a really, really cold morning and pretending like it was nice and hot out,” filmmaker Nathaniel Buechler said. “I think that we could’ve gotten more takes, but we decided to cut it short because we just couldn’t be outside anymore.” Why not wear some warmer clothes? “The little gag at the end where the guy’s carrying me away was filmed much earlier,” he said. “I had to dress the same as I did when we got the first shot, and in that one it was really nice and hot out.”
“SUNDAY IN THE CAR WITH MOM,” Directed by D. Wiley Jones.
For the comedic documentary “Sunday in the Car with Mom,” D. Wiley Jones placed a camera inside the front of the family car to film mom, dad and son wrangling over where to pull over to eat. “I really like writing those quirky comedies,” he said. “I just like that idea of those random things popping up along the way and having to deal with them.” Jones had a general outline in mind, but the dialogue and interactions were completely off-the-cuff. “I wanted something truthful and relatable, while at the same time I wanted something that was completely uncandid, where you could look at that and go, ‘Wow, I remember having something that was like that,’” he said.
“DRIP,” directed by Kyle Jensen and Asa Buehler, written by Kyle Jensen, starring Kyle Jensen, Asa Buehler, and Stanford Kobayashi.
In this epic sci-fi adventure, two boys embark on a journey to save a friend, who has been turned into ice cream, before he melts. This is the second movie for young filmmaker Kyle Jensen, age 11, who said the filming process didn’t go entirely as planned. Once, when he was practicing running up some stairs for a scene, his father said the line, “What took you so long?” A woman nearby overheard, “and she got mad at my dad for being a so-called ‘jerk,’ ” he said. Undeterred, Jensen said he would like to continue making movies. “I’m young; I don’t know a lot about filmmaking, but I hope to be really good some day,” he said.
“PHANTOM FRIDAY,” Directed and filmed by Zach McIntosh, starring Joel Wiebe, music by Keith Kenniff of Unseen.
Zach McIntosh and Eric Harrison didn’t set out to win the 3-Minute Masterpiece contest. They shot “Phantom Friday” — footage of a biker in a forested area of Duthie Hill — purely to test out a high-speed Phantom Flex camera that they had acquired. Then Harrison submitted the film for competition. “I’m kind of amused by all of this, I hadn’t realized Eric had sent this to you guys,” McIntosh said. “We didn’t go out there to shoot any narrative piece; we just wanted to capture some action in super slow-motion and we shot it sequentially just for the sake of a little visual story.”