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One Week in October: Prairie Grass Film Challenge

Phillip Van Maanen knew he wanted to participate in the Prairie Grass Film Challenge as soon as he heard about it.

“Growing up, my family didn’t own a camcorder, but my dad would bring one home from work once in a while. My brothers and I would make short movies and commercials about random stuff,” says Van Maanen. “Our longest movie was ‘Abs of Tinfoil,’ a workout video to promote health, hygiene, and happiness. We made other short movies and commercials along the lines of Saturday Night Live. All of this was when camcorders used VHS tapes, so our editing involved recording and stopping at the right times. If we started laughing, we rewound the tape and recorded over the laughing.”

Van Maanen still loves making movies. For the Prairie Grass Film Challenge, instead of his brothers, he enlisted the help of fellow students Gary and Joelle Riezebos, Dale Vande Griend, and his wife Elizabeth. Vern Eekhoff from Dordt’s maintenance staff and Natalie Ysselstein also joined the group. Their film, “Sweet Surprise” won the first place, $500 Dordty Award at the screening held on October 13.

The Prairie Grass Film Challenge has specific rules that each of the nine teams had to follow. The goal was to write, shoot, edit, and output a short film in forty-eight hours. Organizers tell participants that with a lot of teamwork, a lot of creativity and not a lot of sleep, they can produce a festival-winning film and walk away with a hefty cash prize.

Registered teams received a genre, a prop, a character, and a line of dialogue, on Wednesday, October 4. They had to write the script, do all filming, choose music, and edit it into a finished film by 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning, October 7. Entries were judged on the basis of

• best overall film

• entertainment value

• story and production values

• content worth consuming

• use of prop, character, line of dialogue, and adherence to genre.

Van Maanen and his team were surprised they took home the $500 first prize. “When you see your movie so many times, you see all the flaws and mistakes. I saw every one—which made me think there was no way we could win,” he says, adding, “It was a nice surprise that we won, but I think the best part was making the movie. I don’t know if I have ever laughed so hard in one weekend. We had some frustrations, but we mostly had a lot of fun.”