Old School Film Makes A Comeback At Unique Festival

Nov 13, 2018

Here’s a description of a typical film festival:  over 100 movies are screened in a few days from countries all over the world from lesser known directors and film companies.  By the end of the event, you’re lucky if you had a chance to even see half of the movies presented and the ones you did see, you may not even remember.  The Super GR8 film festival is nothing like that.  

It’s taking place in Harrisonburg on November 14 and 15 at Court Square Theater.  WMRA's Chris Boros spoke with one of the festival's founding members Tim Estep and he asked Tim to describe what makes this festival so different.

Estep:  Super Gr8 Film Festival is a Super 8 film festival where we ask community members to make a film.  Super 8 is sold in a 50 foot cartridge and that’s about three minutes and twenty seconds long and we ask people to shoot their film in order so there’s no editing involved.  And so they have to conceive their idea and they only get one take on each sort of take.  And they go and they film their film and in the meantime they create audio that they think is going to sync up with the film they made so they have to have a lot of these calculations ahead of time.  And so they’ll give us their film and we get it back on a digital format and they don’t get to see their finished film until the night that their film is presented.  So you get a lot of people in the theater that are involved with the film, that made the film, actors in the film, all the different aspects of filmmaking and no one has seen the film except the festival director and Paul and I.  And if Paul and I made a film or the festival’s director made a film, we edit each other’s so literally everyone in the theater has never seen their film. 

WMRA:  So if someone wants to be involved in the festival, do they have to have an idea first or can anyone sign up?

Estep:  Any single person can sign up.  We are primarily a community event but we’ve had people from New York, Michigan, Canada contact us and ask if they can be part of the festival.  So if you’re interested we have a window when we have a call for entry.  You don’t have to have an idea – sometimes people don’t have an idea till the day they’re filming.

WMRA:  I assume it’s a lot of amateur filmmakers but has anyone with major professional experience signed up?

Estep:  Yeah we have – we’ve had a lot of professional people that do it for a living but the playing field is very even.  Because of the format, it’s sort of this … I can’t really explain it … other than it’s dreamlike or magical.  It’s not super crisp and so it has these inconsistencies and these little flaws but they’re not really flaws – it’s sort of the magic of it.  I feel like Spielberg and a thirteen year old girl from Harrisonburg could capture the same image.

Super GR8 Founders: Tim Estep and Paul Somers

WMRA:  So when they sign up, you give them the film but what about the camera, where do they find that?

Estep:  Well they don’t have to find a camera because Paul and I have about fifty cameras. 

WMRA:  So there’s no edits but they don’t have to go three minutes nonstop.  They’re still allowed to stop the camera and set up the next shot, right?

Estep:  Yep.  We’ve had animations that are 3,600 individual pictures that was just complete animation.  And we had a couple of filmmaker brothers that did Claymation and again it’s every single image is one picture. 

WMRA:  But the still only get one chance because you only give them one roll of film.  So if they screw up it’s done.

Estep:  Yes.

WMRA:  Have you ever had anyone screw up and say “Sorry, this didn’t work.”

Estep:  I thin part of the charm of the festival is that some of those mistakes end up being the most beautiful part of the film.  And so we always encourage people to embrace the mistakes that happen.  If you have a shot and someone walks through the back, just embrace it because it’s like life.  It’s just that’s what happens.  And sometimes some of those happy accidents become the best parts of those films. 

WMRA:  So they’ve never seen their film until they see it at the festival.  Have you ever had someone see what they captured and were completely blown away that they captured this or where they’re disappointed that it didn’t work out?

Estep:  More often than not people are completely blown away because it looks different.  You can look through the view finder, you can have all the story boards in the world, but when it hits this thing, this celluloid, you cannot conceive what it’s going to look like.   

WMRA:  What are the normal typical films people make?  I assume it can be anything and that it’s wide ranging.

Estep:  It’s anything and everything.  Music videos, animation, horror films, comedy, there’s been some travelogues, there’s been some political stuff, it’s really the full gamut.  It’s like whatever you would see in a theater, you’re literally going to see every sort of genre.   

WMRA:  What can we expect this year?  Can you give us a preview of a film you’re excited about – are you allowed to do that?

Estep:  I will say this, I haven’t seen the films.  They just arrived today.  They’re literally sitting on a hard drive and as soon as I leave this interview I’m going to go take a look at them.  But I will say this, I do believe someone tried 3D this year.  I’m fascinated by that because no one has ever done that yet.  And he even bought glasses for everybody and so we’ll see what happens.