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Behind the Scenes: The Making of Super Gr8

Three minutes and twenty seconds long… no editing after the filming, and film-makers don’t see the final product until everyone else does.We present the last part of our series on the arts in Harrisonburg, as WMRA’s Luanne Austin takes a look behind the scenes at the making of the Super Gr8 Film Festival.

[sound of a Super 8 camera running...]

That’s the sound of a Super 8 camera. Every autumn, filmmakers can be seen around Harrisonburg making movies with these old cameras. Their goal is to make a short film for the Super Gr8 Film Festival in November. This year, more than 50 films will be shown over two nights at Court Square Theater.  Jossi Diaz-Castro of Harrisonburg is one of this year’s first-time filmmakers.  With friends who volunteered to help with acting, set design and music, he came up with a plan. But on the day of shooting, he wasn’t prepared for the response of onlookers.

JOSSI DIAZ-CASTRO:  Like, we jumped on a city bus without telling the bus driver and we jumped in and started filming inside the bus, and there was ordinary passengers on the bus who were just like, “What’s going on?” and it was really awkward [laughs].

When a person signs up to make a Super Gr8 film, they borrow the camera from the organizers and get a cartridge of film. They shoot their 3 minute 20 second film in its planned order, since no post-editing is possible. Then they hand in their film to get processed. They also hand in their original audio or arrange for a live session with a local musician, plus design a poster for their film.  Super Gr8 creators Tim Estep and Paul Somers, both from Harrisonburg, pair the video and audio together. Filmmakers get to see their films for the first time, along with everyone else, at the festival, and as Estep says, many of them are rookies.

ESTEP:  There’s still a lot of people that shoot these things every year that have never shot or done any film at all. But we grow up in a, this is sort of a culture of image and from a very young age you’re watching TV or whatever so I kind of feel like people subconsciously know how things kind of work. 

First-time SuperGr8 filmmaker Diaz-Castro is not sure what to expect on the night his film shows.

DIAZ-CASTRO:  When it comes I’m going to be freaking, freaking nervous. Like, I’m probably going to be very pessimistic about it, think it’s going to suck. And then when I see it, I’ll expect to be like, ah, that was okay.  

When Estep and Somers first conceived of the festival five years ago, neither of them envisioned it becoming one of the city’s most popular cultural events.

ESTEP:  We both wanted to do something with Super 8, we both wanted to encourage filmmaking, we wanted – there’s a lot of artists in Harrisonburg – and we thought, oh this would be kind of fun just to try out. Beyond the first year I don’t think we were thinking we’re creating a festival.  

Like the other filmmakers, Diaz-Castro will be surrounded by his cast, crew, friends and family. The 260-seat theater will be full, says Paul Somers. 

SOMERS:  It’s like a local Oscars. Because, just like at the Oscars, all the people that go to the Oscars are, you know, all these talented famous people that are in the films that they’re talking about at the Oscars. And they give out all these awards and everybody’s so happy and excited, and there’s so much like, because you don’t know the outcome it’s just like that with Super Gr8. You don’t know what the films are going to look like and most of the people in the audience played some part in the film.

Luanne Austin was a freelance journalist for WMRA from 2014 - 2015.