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Film festival is a challenge

By Sally Jongsma

Four students and a professor spent more than forty-eight intense hours together in late October. Communication Professor Mark Volkers and four student film buffs participated in a forty-eight-hour film challenge, one of 161 teams nationwide—teams whose members ranged from California professionals to high school enthusiasts. All started with the same building blocks: At 7:00 p.m. in their own time zone, each team received an e-mail with a genre, a line of dialogue, a prop, and a character out of which they were to create a four- to eight-minute film. That film had to be mailed two days later.

The Dordt team of Volkers, Tara Warolin, Aaron Huisman, Jon De Weerd, and Matt Berkenpas were given the genre of comedy. Their line of dialogue was “Ah, but can you do this?”; the prop was “gravy”; and the character was “Pat Ogelsby, a door-to-door salesperson.”

“Exhilarating, exhausting, elating,” are the three words Warolin uses to describe the event. Although the team had done a bit of preparation by scouting out possible shooting locations, auditioning possible actors, and getting releases signed, the 7:00 p.m. e-mail marked the start of two feverish days of activity. They headed to a seminar room and, with the exception of Volkers who stole two hours of sleep and Warolin who managed to get one, worked on the script through the night.

Students who teamed up with Professor Mark Volkers got little sleep but  learned a lot during a 48-hour team film challenge. Pictured are Jon De Weerd, Matt Berkenpas, Aaron Huisman, Tara Warolin, and Volkers.

Students who teamed up with Professor Mark Volkers got little sleep but learned a lot during a 48-hour team film challenge. Pictured are Jon De Weerd, Matt Berkenpas, Aaron Huisman, Tara Warolin, and Volkers.

“That’s probably one of the toughest parts,” says Volkers. “You have to force yourself to sit down and write something that’s believable.”

“We started to brainstorm and throw out random ideas,” says Warolin. “Most of us had been suggesting crazy things while Jon was sitting quietly in the back. All of a sudden he blurts out ‘vacuums,’ and we went with it.” “Extracting SUCKcess,” the title of the film, grew from there.

By 8:30 the next morning, energized by adrenalin rather than sleep, the team left for Orange City to begin filming. They returned to campus by afternoon, and finished filming in the B.J. Haan Auditorium by midnight. After a few hours of sleep, the team began a twenty-four-hour editing marathon.

“It was an entire semester of learning in forty-eight hours,” Huisman says. Students wrote the script, shot camera footage, did lighting, and some acting and editing.

“Film projects can stretch out a long time,” says Volkers, who is an award- winning filmmaker. “Here you have to finish something up within two days.”

Judging of the films occurs over the next sixty days. Judges will select one winner and let the public vote for another winner from the top fifteen films. Volkers was recently notified that the film is being shown at a National Film Challenge Showcase in St. Louis in early November. Although separate from the judging process, the film’s selection is nevertheless an honor. Regardless of the results, Volkers says the award is not what’s important. He’s seen what students have learned and the buzz it created on campus for the expanded program in filmmaking that will take off next year. With the addition of new equipment and new courses next year, he expects students to begin learning a great deal about filmmaking as they work on a variety of worthwhile projects.

“Film is a powerful form of communication,” he says. “We need to learn how to use it to tell what God is doing—and tell our story with excellence.”