Guys! It’s film festival season again! If you know me at all (and Carolyn), you know that we are pretty much like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers, but with skydiving film festivals. Just an FYI that our gangster rap WILL be submitted at Andy Malchiodi’s 6th Annual Elsinore Echelon Freefly Film Festival at Skydive Elsinore, Summerfest at Skydive Chicago, and the film festival Karl and I are talking about creating for Skydive Arizona. Will totally let you know when the dates for that are set. Duh. And since the rap will not be posted online, you pretty much have to attend one of these events to see it, or seek out Carolyn or myself personally. Your call.
SO, since the season is upon us, I thought I would post my tried and true article on how to make your own film festival movie, and with it enjoy all the spoils of the making and the winning.
How To Be a Film Festival Winner
By Melanie Curtis
Originally Published March 2010
Blue Skies Magazine
So there’s a film festival coming up at the drop zone near you. You want to enter, but don’t know where to begin. My intent with this article is not only help you through the process, but also get you making a movie that’s actually gonna get you the gold, and all that goes with being a winner.
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Read on.
Step 1: The idea
This of course is the foundation for you being a winner or loser. When the ballots are being passed around to the peeps after the show, you want it to be an inevitable certainty that the box next to your film is getting checked. I’m sure you’re like, “Mel, I would love nothing more than to have my box checked multiple times, but how do I do it?”
Good question. All winning films have a few key elements, so when coming up with your idea, be sure to incorporate each one, and you will be on your way to a top-three finish, increased popularity, and firmer overall feelings of self-worth.
a) Make it hilarious. Everyone likes to laugh. Skydivers in particular, and especially at this type of event. That’s what we expect out of entries, so if yours doesn’t have it, don’t expect to win. If you’re someone who doesn’t really know funny, but still wants to make a movie, think about adding one, a few, or all of the following: a serious take on a ridiculous subject, funny pairings of music and footage, clever editing that results in laughs, any and all effectively edited acting by anyone everyone knows. Ideally you, as then you will get to reap the benefits of stardom after your successful finish.
b) Make it creative. Thinking outside the box, will definitely get more of your boxes checked on the ballot at the end of the evening. Don’t just make a movie about people buying beer for firsts—sure we always get some enjoyment out of stickin’ it to the dude who just bought a new $2000 parachute making him fill our bellies with delicious booze from his empty wallet—no, instead, make a film about a skydiver being the President of the United States, and how when the first peace accord with North Korea is finally ratified, instead of shaking hands, our man hands over a cold case of Bud Light on ice. You get the idea. No idea is too ridiculous. In fact, the more outlandish, the better. Outlandish = creativity = checked ballot boxes = win = better life.
c) Include you and your friends acting even though you can’t. Briefly mentioned this in a), but films presenting you and other skydivers in situations that are clearly fake, but acted such that they are reality… who knows why, but that sh*t is always funny. Do it.
d) Include some skydiving. Because you are entering this film in a skydiving film festival, it will behoove you to include some skydiving. That said, make it work in the storyline. Disjointed random skydiving footage is only going to cost you votes if you try to force it in there. Nobody wins when you force it, you or viewers alike. If there is just no way you can work skydiving into the primary section of your film, run the credits over some skydiving footage of you and your cast mates. Edit it so you look cool, and you should still be ok.
**Bonus: Sweet outtakes. Adds to the overall hilarity of your entry, and leaves your audience laughing at the very end, which surely will translate into additional votes. Plus, once you’ve wowed the audience with your creative genius, it’s a good idea to bring yourself back to their level, re-humanize you and your cast, letting your audience feel like they know the real you, and what it really took you guys to create this for them. Sweet outtakes helps achieve this. This achieves more votes. We’ve already covered the logic on what more votes get you. … Something to consider.
**Something to keep in mind: Now, as much as we all love skydiving, and as much as I know you want to participate in the festival, a film entry that is just a collection of your skydiving videos from the last year is not the way to go. It’s boring. Trust me, relative to the other creative spoof movies, you’re gonna be that guy who makes the crowd sit through 9 minutes of random footage, and as a result will very likely be less popular for the rest of the evening because no one wants to lie to your face and tell you they liked it, hence they’ll just avoid you. Don’t do it. On the other hand, skydiving-only movies that have good music and cool editing are fine. We enjoy and appreciate those, they will not hurt you socially, but they also will not win.
Step 2: Get your friends on board
Once you have the idea, the next step is casting the parts in your film with the peeps you want to work with. Talk to your friends, tell them what kind of commitment you’ll need in order to include them, and ultimately use your own enthusiasm for the project to inspire the overall team. Snowball starts to roll here, as there are few things more powerful than shared vision. I totally stole that quote from somewhere, but it’s true, and at this point, it’s on.
Step 3: Write out the screenplay
Now this sounds all official and formal, but really, all I mean by this is, you gotta write down all the shots you need to eventually end up with a complete film. The process of writing it all down, inevitably becomes a mastermind/brainstorming sesh with your co-collaborators, and the details that ultimately become the awesomeness and hilarity of your final project start to emerge. Once you have it all written down, in chronological order, your screenplay effectively becomes a to-do list.
Step 4: Shoot the scenes
Ok, so you’ve got your sweet screenplay to-do list, now it’s time to get a video camera, and shoot it. Shoot it all. Every scene. If you can’t shoot it all in one day at one location, make certain that you schedule the next shoot day ASAP, so that your project and better life don’t fall victim to lack of organization. The more complex your screenplay, with locations, lighting, and people, the more organized you will need to be to ensure the film’s successful completion. Stay on top of it because if you’ve already done the work to get this far, it will be a God damn cryin’ shame if you don’t finish. Schedule. Get the shots. Finish.
Step 5: Edit
At this point, all you’ve got left is a lot of time sitting in a comfy chair, you and your computer. If you’re not educated in how to use video-editing software, you’ve got a few options—1) learn how and do it yourself, 2) hope one of your cast mates knows how and have him do it with you looking over his shoulder, or 3) get someone to help you that does know, regardless of their involvement in the project up to this point. Bottom line get it done. Whatever option you go with, know that editing can take a lot of time, so plan ahead for this in your film-creation timeline. As good as it worked in college to pull all-nighters, it’s the less-than-ideal way to complete your film. Choosing the right footage, adding text titles, fading between scenes, editing your sweet outtakes, creating the credits… all of this takes time and energy, so like I said, plan ahead. You can’t win if you don’t finish. Give yourself a week minimum for this step.
Step 6: Revel in how awesome you are that you just made such a sweet-ass film. Self-explanatory.
Hidden benefits to this process: Not only will you forever have that satisfying feeling of pride and accomplishment for your film, there are so many other hidden benefits to fully committing to and completing this kind of project. You will have learned how to use movie editing software; you will be moved by your own creative genius and prowess in future projects you tackle; you will have evidence of your energy and awesomeness to be passed down through your family, posterity, and skydiving history; you will have made more friends and connections from the congratulatory hour after the awards ceremony, not to mention all the other festivals you enter and win at; and inevitably, you will leave the experience with a catalog of ridiculous inside jokes with your fellow movie-makers, making the rest of your life that much more fun. Totally serious on that one, peeps.
For instance, from “How It’s Done,” the film created by the Ladies of Elsinore FLV, educating the skydiving masses how to poop on everybody’s dreams, I will forever—I’m talking for the rest of my entire life—cry the sweet tears of hilarity at the reference, “sweeping hand motion.” My guess is many of you have not seen the film, and I’m not sure any written description can actually do it justice, but it is from the section of the film where Carolyn Chow sweeps her hand across the frame, displaying the ghetto piece of paper on the ground with “Your Dreams” handwritten on it. She subsequently drops her drawers, and squats, at which point, hidden, I toss poop-like candy bars from beside her bare ass out onto the paper, thus achieving the illusion of literally pooping on your dreams. Education of masses complete. Every single time I think of this, talk about it, look at the fridge magnet I had made of it, anything—I laugh. I’m laughing now. … I’m still laughing.
So there you have it, team—a simple, how-to guide to get a better life by getting you to the winner’s circle at any DZ’s film festival. Elsinore’s is coming up on May 12th (2012), Summerfest typically hosts one as well, and of course keep an eye on the mags and blogs for more opportunities to showcase your genius. Good luck. Sweeping hand motion. Melsinore, out.
Since you made it through the article, here’s a few links to film awesomeness for you to end with to hopefully get your creative juices really percolating!
1. A short and sweet number made by Carolyn and myself, educating the skydiving masses on what really happens when someone owes beer: “How It’s Done: Firsts”
2. One of Andy Malchiodi’s masterpieces (he is one of the true masters in skydiving film festival filmmaking, peeps, for reals yo): “Truth Around The Drop Zone”
So that’s all I got. Now it’s your turn to go get after it. You can do it. Write me with any questions! And thank you as always for reading and watching!!
Films presenting you and other skydivers in situations that are clearly fake, but acted such that they are reality… who knows why, but that sh*t is always funny. Do it.