For months Jade Fang longed to create a short video for the Frozen River Film Festival's (FRFF) 30 Seconds in Winona — the festival's first ever "mini film festival" featuring local 30-second-long films. But how could she? She did not have a fancy video camera or high-tech editing software, nor did she know how to use them. If only she knew someone well versed in the rarified art of filmmaking who could do it for her.
. An actor in one of the 30 Seconds in Winona films is shocked. Frozen River Film Festival will air more than 50 30-second films on Saturday.
Then Fang received a tablet for her birthday. A couple months later, she had produced over 20 short films for the contest.
After nine years of featuring award-winning films, FRFF started a new program this year to encourage Winonans to create short films. This Saturday, FRFF will host its first ever 30 Seconds in Winona. Following festivities, food, and live music, the local shorts will be aired and prizes awarded. Winona area residents submitted over 50 films to festival judges in categories ranging from "what would John Latsch say?" to embarrassing family videos. There are plenty of good laughs, creative shots, and unique concepts in the films, said FRFF Assistant Director Kathy Florin.
Getting more Winonans hooked on amateur filmmaking is part of the goal for FRFF. Festival organizers would like to incorporate more filmmaking workshops into their winter festival and dream of eventually featuring an all-local film set every winter.
"I really wanted to get people to realize that creating content can be fun and easy," said FRFF Director Crystal Hegge of the vision behind the new program. "It's to really excite people about making film and to use what they have to get their message across," she added.
FRFF organizers were inspired by Minneapolis' 10 Second Film Festival, but agreed 30 seconds was just right. "It's short enough where people can say, 'Oh yeah, I can do that,' but also long enough that it does take some time to make a good 30 second film." With tablets, smartphones, and easy-to-use editing software on computers, creating videos is not that difficult, Florin said.
Fang is a case in point for that argument. After her first couple videos, she said it only took 20 minutes to produce a 30-second film from the first shot to the final edit.
Fang started with a 30-second video about her own acupuncture shop, and then went to friends and offered to produce videos of their businesses, their artwork, or their clubs for the festival. She enjoyed the process so much she offered her newfound ability to more and more, even sweet talking some into becoming the subject of her next short film. "I think I just forced myself on some people," Fang joked. She just dropped in on some of her subjects and asked if she could film or help them create a film about themselves. "I ended up having to pitch people the idea because people think it's really complicated. For a 30 second film it takes me about five minutes of filming and taking pictures," she added. "Once you get the hang of it, it's not that hard."
One of Fang's films documents local artist Jamie Harper producing a painting from start to finish. As Fang's shots flit by, Harper dips his brushes into a menagerie of paint cans, lays down layers of smooth and deliberate strokes before christening the piece with wild splatters. In other Fang shorts, local martial arts practitioners act out a fight scene and a motivational speaker peps up viewers.
"She helped a ridiculous amount of people work on films," said Florin of Fang's prolific filmmaking stint.
Fang said that once she started making films, she was increasingly drawn to it. Fang is naturally an introvert, but filmmaking gave her the perfect excuse to introduce herself to all manner of people and learn their stories. The 30-second pieces are perfect for expressing the feel of a place or person, she said. At times, there are serendipitous moments in filmmaking when things would just come together. Filming a local networking group meeting over lunch worked out particularly well. "It's people just enjoying each other's company, a couple shots of people teasing each other," she said, describing the footage. "What you want is for what is already there to just come out in 30 seconds."
FRFF's 30 Seconds in Winona starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 23, at the Bandshell in Lake Park with music by David Echelard and Suzanne Cooley, children's activities, puppet shows by "Doctor" Bob Armstrong, food vendors, and a beer tent. The 30-second films start at 8:15 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.
Entrance to the event is free. Proceeds from food and drinks will benefit FRFF and organizers plan to ask for donations. Hegge likened the event to FRFF's version of Great River Shakespeare's Callithump. "This is our version of a fun, quirky fundraiser," she explained.