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Local festival JUMP-starts creativity

Semiannual event draws on local filmmaking talent

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2004

If film festivals are supposed to provoke and inspire would-be moviemakers, then the Juneau Underground Motion Picture Society Film Festival has been successful in a relatively short time.

"It's definitely getting bigger," said Pat Race, co-owner of Juneau's Lucid Reverie Creative Design and co-organizer of the festival. "We're getting more filmmakers every time. I like getting the returning filmmakers, but it's always fun to have new people come in and add fresh, new ideas."

The semiannual event marks its fourth incarnation this week with screenings of more than 20 local movies beginning at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 6, at the Silverbow's Back Room. The entries will be shown again at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7. Admission is free.

The JUMP Festival features short movies shot in a variety of formats ranging from traditional film to video and digital methods. The submissions are an eclectic mix of styles and genres, including action, comedy, animation and documentary.

"There's a lot of them I'm excited about," Race said. "It's always fun to see the crowd's reaction because it's never quite what I expect. Which ones get the laughs, and which ones people sit through and grimace - I can never tell ahead of time ... it's really a grab bag."

Viewers who have gone to past JUMP Festivals can expect to see some recurring characters. Sam, a sad-luck stick figure, returns in a short by Caleb Frankhauser. Mr. Bones, who appeared in Connor and Greg Chaney's "Bone Dry" last year, makes a cameo appearance.

Even with its short history, the festival can take credit for helping inspire a new group of local filmmakers.

Last May, Arlo Midgett, who works in the media service department at the University of Alaska Southeast, came up with the idea for an informal movie group. Made up of mostly friends and co-workers, Midgett's group quickly grew to 15 members.

"Video is something I had been interested in for a long time," Midgett said. "I wanted to take it a step beyond the home video look and take it to the next level with lighting, sound effects and camera movements."

The group's goal was to spend one day a month working on a short movie project. Midgett said any more of a commitment would have been too much, because most of the members are married, have full-time jobs or take classes through the university.

Midgett said the JUMP Festival was never the impetus for forming the group, but it has provided inspiration. Shortly after the group filmed its first movie, a large portion of the group saw the Third Jump Festival, which was held last July.

"It definitely energized everyone," Midgett said.

"We came out thinking, 'Wow, a lot of that's pretty good,' " said Jeff Haskell, who works at the help desk at UAS and is a friend of Midgett. But, he added, the group also thought it could do better.

The group doesn't have an official name. Many members have started calling themselves "Some Sort of Video Club." Michael Maas, who is a club member, said "Hidden Alien Productions" is another name that has been considered because a small toy alien can be seen in all of the group's completed shorts.

The group has three entries in this week's festival: Midgett's commercial spoof, "Boomstick," Haskell's fake infomercial, "Mr. Problem Solver," and Maas' mockumentary, "Doctrine."

Midgett says the group would have liked to enter more films in the festival, but four of their movies have "post-production blues." Editing has proved to be the most involved part of the process for the filmmakers.

"Part of it is that people want to learn skills and tricks that make (their films) more difficult to finish," Midgett said.

Members say the final product is not always the most important thing. What's more important is the overall process.

"It's a great way to get together and work," Maas said. "The best part is the learning process."

Midgett added that the club has come a long way in the eight months since it started. The group's first project, "Boomstick," took 16 to 17 hours to produce a three-minute commercial. In a later shoot, the club filmed five locations in one day.

"There are a lot of talented people in the group," Haskell said. "They all share in the glory in each of these projects. A lot of sweat went into these."



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