This following guest blog post comes from Indiana Cho, an independent filmmaker, community organizer, and participant in the Renton Film Frenzy. Learn more about this filmmaking competition from Indy. Plus, hear about the strides that Renton is taking to make their city a truly film-friendly destination.
Last year was the 5th annual Renton Film Frenzy, an annual 50 hour film making competition in Renton, Washington. I took on the challenge. I signed up to be a producer and proceeded to look for cast and crew. I reached out to some fellow filmmakers and, of course, Craigslist and quickly had a team that was ready to set aside 50 hours of their life to create a 4-minute masterpiece. There is an open division and a student division and all teams are given a list of “curve balls” for their films. Around 5:00 pm on Friday evening, the metaphorical starting bell rings and we are off. The crew was set, the logistics were worked out, craft service was planned and nothing could go wrong. This last thought now haunts me before starting any new timed competition.
I should have began this blog post by stating that I am a citizen, a filmmaker and a non-partisan supporter of the arts for the City of Renton. There is a hard-working core group of members such as Ken Saunderson, Jennifer Davis Hayes, Mitch Shepherd, Ben Andrews and a host of others who make this magic happen every year. I’m a participant and a citizen voice and it’s great that this team has been open to listening. I’ve shared my experiences, my thoughts on how to reach out to filmmakers and ultimately about where I’d love to see this go and they have been truly supportive. This is indicative of the team that has been working hard to put Renton on the map for film for all levels of filmmakers.
With the festival circuit in full swing in the Pacific Northwest, it’s easy to get lost in long productions that sometimes feel like they’ll never get made. As an indie filmmaker, it’s important to understand as many roles on the set as possible and that’s not always available when things move slow. Well, that’s what I love about these timed film competitions; it gives you a real chance to take on every role and really push yourself to get a final film completed and the pace is fast. Like the other competitions, this one has criteria you have to meet such as a line of dialogue, and a location.
What I love about the Renton Film Frenzy is that Renton has built a partnership with SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival). It’s no coincidence that Renton has been working so closely with SIFF and building a brand as a film-friendly city. Film and commercial video aren’t always a top priority for every city.
Not all cities have the infrastructure to support filmmaking and film appreciation and Renton was no different, but that’s all changing. Permit processes are being streamlined, businesses are looking to support productions, the locations for filming are strong and logistics for supporting film crews, such as parking and power, are actively being worked. Venues for film appreciation are also quickly becoming available. The Ikea Performing Arts Center, Carco Theater, and the Roxy Cinema have all updated their infrastructure to screen at the highest quality, to truly do our films justice.
Once the Film Frenzy is complete, all teams who have a completed a film get their work screened (only two weeks after they’ve been turned in!) on Sunday evening in front of around 300 friends, family and film lovers. The awards ceremony is a star-studded event, hosted by local celebrities. It happens at the Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center, the very theater that SIFF has one of their annual opening gala events.
The Renton Film Frenzy is one of the best bargains, as far as timed film competitions go, at only $50 per team. As if this wasn’t appealing enough, the prizes are phenomenal, with over $1700 worth of prizes in cash, scholarships and bragging rights. In the past, TheFilmSchool and ReelGrrls have offered scholarships. The biggest bragging right though is to have the winning film screened at the following year’s SIFF gala event, in front of several hundreds of people around the Puget Sound. What other local film competition can make that claim?
Now what? It’s great to be part of a big plan in a small city that I love and to see the arts propelled forward. So, I’ve got my crew, I’ve got my cast, and this year I will be taking on three roles at once, Director / Writer / Director of Photography. In the end, these competitions are not about the prizes. They’re about bringing a vision to life, making new friends, discovering new talents within yourself, and finding your true self in the midst of everything possibly going wrong that could go wrong. I don’t know about other filmmakers, but I’m planning to get a good night’s sleep on Thursday because once those curveballs are released, sleep will be the real prize at the end of this journey!