Festival puts young filmmakers on the clock

By Kayla Pickrell | @KernelPickrell

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Lights, Camera, Faster!

54 Film Fest is putting Lexington filmmakers to the test to create a four- to seven-minute short film in just 54 hours.

The film fest originated in Knoxville, Tenn., last year, sparking an interest among 18- to 34-year-old filmmakers, said James Thayer, founder of the festival.

“The film festival gives a spirit of competitiveness and helps others develop the craft,” Thayer said.

Thayer competed in many 48-hour film festivals throughout his career.

“I felt some of the festivals were missing something, so I wanted to make a better film festival,” Thayer said. “The mission is to serve the film industry.”

David Wells, director of business development for 54 Film Fest, said the company hopes to branch out to five cities in 2013 and nine more in 2014, starting with Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Lexington.

“We are wanting to reach out and make connections in Lexington,” Wells said.

He said dates for Lexington are still up in the air.

The next step is to find a theater partner, like Regal Cinemas in Knoxville, as well as local sponsors and someone to run the festival as city manager, Thayer said.

When the festival started in Knoxville, Wells and Thayer would have been happy with 60 people at the viewing, but instead, 240 people attended.

“We had to end up turning away 32 people because the theater could only hold 208,” Wells said.

Based on the success, Thayer and Wells decided they wanted to expand.

“I suggested Lexington as a potential location because I was born in Lexington, and it seems like such a prime location,” Wells said. “It’s geographically a prime location because it draws from Richmond, Louisville and Georgetown.”

The company is attracting high school students and those who have been in the film industry for years, in additional to college students.

Wells said this is young filmmakers’ chance to learn and experience, especially since they will be judged against people who have been in the business for years.

“This gives the younger filmmakers a chance to network and meet older filmmakers,” Thayer said.

The “curve ball challenge” is thrown 24 hours into the festival, giving groups an option to draw a prop, line of dialogue or action and incorporate it into the film.

The award for the winner of the challenge is determined by a sponsor.

Registration will not open for about a month, Wells said.

“We’re really excited to move up into Kentucky,” Thayer said.

To learn more about 54 Film Fest, visit 54filmfest.com.