The OIFF presents the top ten from its 72-Hr Challenge

Thursday, Feb 16th, the Lieutenant’s Pump was rocking with an assorted crowd from Ottawa’s independent film-making community. They gathered together for the screenings of the movies submitted to the Ottawa International Film Festival’s recent 72 Hour Challenge. Twenty teams entered, nineteen crossed the finish line, ten were screened but only one took home the big prize that night.

To recap, the 72 Hour Challenge is a film-making competition where entrants take on the task of producing a five to fifteen minute movie in only, well, seventy-two hours. At the beginning of the competition, they’re given certain criteria that teams need to incorporate into films, usually intended to foster creativity and keep teams on their toes, after which it’s a mad dash to the finish.

Whoring Out the Sponsors

Filmmaker Graeme Hay (It's your Birthday) holds up the program for the evening. This fourth 72 Hour Challenge hosted by the OIFF, kicked off with a fair bit of contention as the mandatory criteria focused completely on the event’s sponsors. The elements that teams were required to make a part of their films included mentions of Parktown Productions, product placement for Canadian Club whiskey, and a mandatory final shot in all movies displaying the exterior of the Lieutenant’s Pump – who, ironically, were missing letters on their main signage that weekend, resulting in there now being a glut of short films out there featuring the exterior of the “Lieuten    S Pump”. This forced inclusion concerned many teams who question how it encourages creative filmmaking or adds anything at all to films aside from, in the words of one actor, “blatantly whoring out the sponsors”. And the truth is that it’s hard to contest those arguments after watching all nineteen films and being subjected to the same bland and pointless product placement repeatedly. Not anywhere did it inspire good filmmaking.

There’s also argument to be made that while usually in this type of challenge, the criteria also serves to keep teams on their toes and prevent them from doing too much work in advance of the competition, the criteria that the OIFF laid out could easily be added into any existing script. If there’s no chance at a curveball, there’s no penalty for pre-writing scripts in advance of the competition.

When asked about these concerns, Lina Seto, a spokesperson for the OIFF confessed that: “As our organization has grown, we have found that one of the most challenging tasks is to balance all interests when trying to make our events worthwhile for the filmmakers, audience and sponsors.” As to how these concerns would be addressed in the future, Seto told us that, “We respect the creative community and will certainly take into account these concerns when planning future events and work to strike a greater balance between creative freedom and sponsorship satisfaction.”

Dealing with Election Fraud

Some of the crowd at the OIFF 72-Hr Challenge. If that controversy wasn’t enough for the Challenge, there was also scandal surrounding audience voting and which movies made it as part of the screening that night. Initially, the movies were put online and opened to audience voting with the intention that the ten highest voted films would be part of the screening. Ignoring the question of whether this made the selection process a popularity contest rather than a meritocracy, the real problem was that apparently voters were required to log in to the OIFF site to vote for certain movies, while others didn’t have any such restriction, thus skewing the results. Then, midway through the voting period, all votes were reset to correct for this which left teams scrambling to hound their friends to vote a second time. The final straw, with teams blatantly voting down other videos to increase their own standing, caused the OIFF to decide at the last minute that they would choose the screening movies based on judge’s scores instead.

While the OIFF informed teams of the change by email on the morning of the 16th, at least one team came to the event thinking they were going to be screened based on voting scores and learning only after seeing the program that they were not on the screening list. When asked for comment, the OIFF told us that they sincerely apologize to teams for any miscommunication and regret any confusion and frustration that the technical difficulties caused. “We will work to improve upon the online system and learn from the errors that occurred this challenge.”

An Eager Film Community

OIFF Executive Director Nina Bains gets ready to announce the winners. Aside from the scandal surrounding the voting process, there’s no denying that the Ottawa film community is eager for these kind of events. Or that the events are good to foster a sense of community. According to OIFF Executive Director, Nina Bains, “the first time we did the challenge, we had to pull teeth to get five teams to enter. This year we had twenty teams.” And almost all of the huge crowd at the Lieutenant’s Pump that night were there for the movie screenings, which were shown on all of the bar’s television screens over the course of roughly two and a half hours.

As one would expect, the quality of movies screened ranged from pretty good to a little awkward, but thankfully by only screening ten of the nineteen entrants, those that were really painful to watch were left out of the set, making for a fairly good mix of films and an entertaining evening. The viewing experience itself, however, left something to be desired. Because the event took place in a bar, and because all the movies were readily available for viewing before hand, the audience, especially as the night went on, was more content to talk and drink rather than to watch and enjoy the movies they’d naturally already seen. It was between difficult and impossible for anybody who just wanted to watch the movies to do so comfortably.

And the Big Prize goes to…

The cast and crew of In the end, the judges – whose names are not being disclosed – chose “Encore”, a movie by Checkmate Productions about a homeless man reliving his life through the creation of art, as winner of the big prize. The team responsible for “Encore” (which I’d link to if not for their movie having been made private since the event) won a prize-pack that included Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection 5.5 provided by Adobe, and a full RED ONE production/post-production rental package provided by Parktown Productions - together valued at approx. $10,000. Based on audience votes, the first and second runners up were “World Peace” from Freezing Rain Films and “Home Coming” by Growl Productions. World Peace had an interesting concept revolving around a girl who could influence the calm in anybody she touched, though the acting left something to be desired, while Home Coming was a stylish and well-acted short about a young girl eagerly awaiting the long awaited home coming of her father.

With the fourth 72-hr Challenge now behind them, the OIFF, as well as I’m sure, Ottawa filmmakers are excitedly looking forward to number five in 2013. In the meantime, the OIFF is gearing up for their main event – the Ottawa International Film Festival itself – set for later this summer, running August 15th to 19th.  They start taking submissions on March 1st and you should be able to find all that information on their website;

Now, tell us what you think? What were the highlights of the competition for you? Which was your favourite film? Let us know in the comments, directly below the photo gallery.

Having watched all nineteen entries, here’s what we thought:
*All links open the video page on YouTube or Vimeo in a new window/tab.

And before we sign off, here’s a gallery of photos from the event.

All photos are courtesy of Production Ottawa photographer David Pasho. If you know anybody in the photos, let us know and we’ll tag them up as best we can. Also, if you have photos of the event you want to share, please send them to info©productionottawa•com. If we get enough entries, we’ll post a fan gallery.

Allan Mackey

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!

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