Vail Film Festival: A shot in the dark |

Vail Film Festival: A shot in the dark

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO Colorado
HL 48 Hour Reel Quick Film Contest 3 DT 4-3-08

VAIL, Colorado ” Finally, a chance for the little guy to shine. A chance for hidden talent to be discovered.

For anyone who’s ever wanted to give Oliver Stone a run for his money, stand up and let your voice be heard. Or rather, let your film be screened.

Aspiring filmmakers were given the opportunity to put their time, talent and pocketbooks on the line for the possibility of winning the first Vail Film Festival 48 Hour Reel Quick Film Competition, which took place Thursday through Saturday.

“Ultimately it comes down to showing more movies and kind of coming up with creative ways to allow people to be more creative,” said Tony Castle, director of the contest.

The rules were simple: Each team of filmmakers had 48 hours to shoot, edit and submit a five-minute film. A list of things that had to appear in the film was given to the teams at kickoff time so the judges would know that it was shot in the given time frame. The winning team ” chosen by audience vote ” wins $8,000 in prizes and a guaranteed screening of its next short film at the 2009 Vail Film Festival.

To see what a filmmaking crew goes through under such conditions, I opted to shadow one team, which I code-named Alpha, for the entire production time.

Meet the team

Thursday, 11:30 a.m. ” High school students Andrew Machol, Griffin Beste and Clare Sheehan made the journey from Arvada to Vail with nothing but a video camera and a few ideas. Beste was searching the Internet when he stumbled upon the Vail Film Festival Web site and discovered the contest. The trio decided to make a go of it.

“I’m kind of just in it for the ride, like I’m really in for the experience. … I want to do this in college, and I want to do it for the rest of my life,” Beste said.

Thursday, noon ” Under blue-gray skies and scattered snow flurries, the contest officially begins, as does the race to create plots, scripts, scout for locations and film. Alpha team members instantly begin scouring Lionshead for sites to include in their movie. Machol, the team leader, uses a mini-video recording device to capture the images on film. Later, they will examine and choose which places they think will fit into the film best.

Thursday, 12:31 p.m. ” Alpha team moves to Vail Village to continue scouting. Ever-shifting weather conditions don’t help as snow and sunshine keep trading places in the sky. But members of the team are all business at this phase of production, even if they aren’t exactly dressed for winter conditions. Their lack of knowledge of the surrounding area puts them at a severe disadvantage to other teams from the area. After checking out the Covered Bridge, the parking structure and a construction site in Vail Village, they feel confident enough to start brainstorming a plot.

Thursday, 1:06 p.m. ” Machol’s mother and trip financier, Jane Machol, sits on a bed in the Holiday Inn in West Vail. As her son and his two friends walk in the room she showers them with questions about their progress. She is obviously proud and excited for the three kids.

“I think it’s wonderful. I’ve always taught them that when the window’s open, go for it,” Jane said.

The three students sit down in the room after Jane leaves to begin writing down ideas for the film. Plot, dialogue, characters, locations, a script ” all these elements begin to mix like concrete for a foundation. Even with three brains working as one, it’s still not easy coming up with an entire film under such deadlines.

Progress report

Thursday, 5:47 p.m. ” “We got pretty much the whole thing written,” Machol said. They’ve titled the film “Split,” because of the main character’s split-personality due to drug use.

“It’s kind of like an alter-ego kind of thing,” Sheehan said.

The team has assembled in Vail Village and recruited three passersby’s to help them with the second scene of the movie. During the scene, Machol plays a nerd who thinks he’s cool but is actually being mocked by his peers.

Beste works the camera as the actors do multiple takes with different angles for the same scene. Once they have what they need, the crew packs up and prepares to head to the next location.

“I feel really happy right now because we were just being ourselves … just improvising and it turned out to be really cool,” said Darryl Sher, one of the extras in the scene. “I’m really psyched to see it. I’ve never acted before.”

Thursday, 6:07 p.m. ” Their next scene takes place at the Covered Bridge in Vail. It’s a short one that focuses on Machol walking across the bridge, simple yet necessary for the film’s continuity. Beste sets up the camera on the rocks by the river below the bridge and Machol yells at him to be careful with his expensive gear.

“Dude, don’t just let that sit on a rock like that,” Machol screams at Beste, worried that his camera will fall into the shallow depths of the river.

That’s a wrap

Friday, 11:09 a.m. ” Machol confirms that they have shot nearly 70% of the movie already. Machol and Beste edit some of the scenes while Sheehan heads out to the village to advertise their movie and hand out fliers. Eventually an ending is hashed out and the two thirds of Alpha team’s remaining members shoot another scene in the room. As soon as the camera begins rolling, Jane walks into the room interrupting the shoot and they have to start all over again.

Friday, Noon, 24 hours into the contest ” Spirits are high as Alpha team begins to see the fruits of their labor manifested.

“We’re where we want to be right now,” Machol said.

Saturday, 9 a.m. ” Alpha team wrapped up shooting and editing. Their final cut is exactly five minutes long and Machol is very nervous about the contest’s outcome. He said that the finished version of the film matches closely to their original concepts and he is proud of what they’ve accomplished. So is his mom.

“It was so easy for them, I can’t believe they did this in 48 hours,” Jane said.

So what is the message of Alpha team’s movie?

“Drugs are not good for you and it’s not a good choice to make, especially if you want to make something of yourself,” Machol said.

Saturday, Noon ” The contest is over. After two grueling days of intense shooting, editing and screening, the winner of the 2008 Vail Film Festival’s 48 Hour Reel Quick Competition is Team 3, led by Don John Koulish, of Denver, with the film “Unicorn Hunter.” Koulish and his team were not in attendance to be recognized, but during a phone call after the contest, Koulish described his victory as “pretty amazing.”

“It was a lot of fun, but next year I’m going to take some time out for snowboarding,” he said.

High Life Writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User

Trending - News

See more