Saturday, 07 January 2017 11:13

Grand Rapids Film Festival Presents 36-Hour Test of Skills

Written by  Josh Spanninga
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Behind the scenes at a past GR Film Festival workshop Behind the scenes at a past GR Film Festival workshop Courtesy photo

It’s no secret that making a movie is a huge undertaking. 

Hell, Avatar alone took 10 years to make. And yet the Grand Rapids Film Festival is challenging participants to make a movie in just 36 hours.

OK, so the finished films are expected to be around six minutes, and the budget is admittedly smaller than anything James Cameron would have to work with, but it’s still damn impressive what people can pull off with such time constraints. 

Jen Shaneberger, president and CEO of Grand Rapids Film Festival, is especially excited to see what kind of short films the competition inspires.

“We just want to see what’s the caliber of work that can be created,” Shaneberger said. “Everybody has the same amount of time. Everybody has the same parameters. So who can do something amazing with that?”

The festival was also created to inspire formerly unacquainted filmmakers to work together. 

“We’re looking at this film community that’s really disjointed,” Shaneberger said. “Something that’s really interesting about the greater Grand Rapids region is that we have seven film programs, like higher-education level programs, and that’s just unheard of. … And the thing is, all of these film programs kind of work in their own little silo.”

Shaneberger would like to have teams from each high school and university in the area with a film program compete in the competition. Her hopes are that it will not only showcase each team’s talent, but also facilitate networking and cooperation between film programs at local schools. 

GRFF 36-Hour Challenge
Woodbridge N. Ferris Building
17 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids
8 p.m. Jan 27 to 9 a.m. Jan. 29
Team registration fee: $100

Get more info and register at

“We just want to break down the walls and we think if we all just compete in this one thing together, how cool is that?” Shaneberger said. 

At 8 p.m. on Jan. 27, teams will convene at Woodbridge N. Ferris Building of Kendall College for a short reception, during which time they’ll receive packets highlighting the rules of the challenge. Then, each team will have until 9 a.m. on Jan. 29 to script, film and edit their six-minute films. 

When asked why GRFF chose to team up with Snow Monster Studios, Shaneberger said the decision was an easy one to make. 

“They’re young and ambitious filmmakers, and we really love young and ambitious,” Shaneberger said. “They’re renting a space in Grand Rapids, obviously contributing to the economic development here, and they’re making it as creatives.”

Once the finished films are turned in, they will be viewed by a panel of judges, including Deb Lake, executive director of the Traverse City Film Festival. The films then will be shown Feb. 3 at Celebration! Cinema North, and cash prizes will be given for the best films in a variety of categories. 

For those who are fans of GRFF’s previous festivals, fear not — they still plan to host a full-fledged film festival in April. Shaneberger said GRFF took 2015 off to rebrand and strategize, and has decided to add smaller events such as the 36-hour challenge throughout the year to continually work on building up the local film community. 

Note: The initial launch of the competition was originally planned at Snow Monster Studios on South Division Ave., but relocated to the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building of Kendall College to accommodate more teams.


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