In the days before the annual 50 Hour Slam filmmaking competition was to kick off, Ted Means knew he wanted to make a movie for the contest. He didn’t know, however, who would act in the film... or help shoot it, or provide equipment or editing assistance.
Somehow, though, Means, a 28-year-old who studied film at Eastern Washington University, showed up at the 50 Hour Slam’s kickoff event — where filmmakers are given requirements guaranteeing that films are made specifically for the festival — with an actress friend in tow. Soon they found others to help, including Ray Ward and his high-end camera, and were on their way.
They then learned of another challenge. Means and his crew would need to adapt a short story, one of the finalists of The Inlander’s annual short fiction contest, a new caveat added for this year’s festival. Festival organizer Juan Mas wanted to integrate local writing into the event, and figured The Inlander’s writing contest was a good place to start.
Means was assigned “Red Rocket,” a story by North Idaho writer Skip Frazier about a pair of young daredevil brothers who coerce their cousin into playing their favorite — albeit insanely dangerous — game involving the family’s rickety swing set. The team ended up turning this tale of childhood memories into a crime story.
“The theme that we got out of that story was about how a new guy can screw things up. We turned it into a crime story that’s really about the inner workings of criminals,” says Means.
From swing sets to crime syndicates? Keep in mind that O Brother, Where Art Thou? is an adaptation of The Odyssey. Adaptations don’t have to be word for word, as evidenced by “Busted,” the result of Means and crew’s efforts. The five-minute film is one of 15 finalists that will screen Saturday at the Magic Lantern.
With their story adapted, the crew headed out to shoot, facing challenges like an angry patron at the required (by the festival guidelines) scenes shot at one of the Spokane library branches. Then they had to scramble to edit the film into shape — something that would typically take days of work — in less than 24 hours.
Then it was time to put this thing to bed.
“At some point, you have to say ‘Good enough’ and that can be hard for creatively minded people who are aiming for perfection,” says Means. “But in the end, it’s one of my proudest productions.”
50 Hour Film Festival • Sat, May 11 • Screenings at 5 and 7:30 pm; Q&A with judges at 4 pm • Magic Lantern Theatre • 25 W. Main Ave. • Poetry performances and live music at Saranac Public House following each screening • 50hourslam.com