Time to plug in the popcorn popper, folks. Today we announce the winners of The Seattle Times' annual Three-Minute Masterpiece digital filmmaking contest.
Along with our co-sponsors Seattle Film Institute and Seattle International Film Festival, we asked you, our readers, to send us your homemade DVDs — anything suitable for a family audience that runs three minutes or less. We received more than 100 entries and were wowed, once again, by your creativity and skill.
Comedy, drama, live-action, animation: Our winners run the gamut. Two will be singled out for special prizes at a free, public screening this Saturday at SIFF (for details, see box).
Thank you again to everyone who entered. You're the butter on our popcorn.
"All the Answers"
Director Jon Sim, 19, sent his childhood friend, actor Brad Walker, careening through Seattle's streets, fulfilling fortune-cookie prophesies for this movie. The crew, all University of Washington sophomores, wrote and filmed the entire story in two days, using cinematographer Steve Hudson's parents' minivan as home base. "We're in college, so we're used to procrastinating," says Sim. "We finished at 2 a.m. the day it was due."
"Bon Voyage Jacques Cousteau"
This film is about a little boy who sets his goldfish free. While the story is sweet — "it's about self-sacrifice and friendship," says 21-year-old director Danny Corey — things were a little less sugary behind the scenes. That goldfish you see? It's actually dead. ("Our props kept dying," says Corey). And the little boy's tears at the end? Those are real. "That's my little brother [Johnny McCormick]. It was really cold outside and his eyes started getting all red. I thought, 'This is perfect.' " Watch film
"Circle of Fear"
It's a war picture — or is it? Jeff Thomas, 50, of Woodinville, takes a surreal look at two guys in military-style camouflage jumpsuits who find themselves in strange territory, which happens to be a moody state forest a block from Thomas' home. Thomas' son Justin, 18, played the lead role and son Nick, 22, a Coast Guard petty officer third class, helped with the editing and securing the military gear. Thomas, a partner at Tower Mortgage in Bellevue, graduated from UCLA film school and has produced three-dozen music videos, one of which was shown on MTV.
The long, pensive shots of noodles and boiling water in "Harusame" are meant to be visual poetry, explains director and Peace Corps organizer Wayne Blackwelder. "I wanted the movie to have the same effect of someone reading a beautiful poem, then thinking: 'Wow, isn't that pretty.' " While the film was originally titled "Ramen," Blackwelder's wife, the film's sole actor, suggested he change the name to "Harusame," the name of both an Asian noodle and a Japanese destroyer in World War II. That double entendre went on to inspire the film's thoughtful, and fictional, voiceover.
"Henri" features the angst-ridden musings of Henry, a black-and-white kitty in a black-and-white film that parodies French and Spanish films of the '40s and '50s. Filmmaker Will Braden gives voice to Henri pondering the ennui of his pampered life, in French with English subtitles. Working with Henry was surprisingly easy, Braden said. "He didn't really mind me following him around and bothering him for hours," Braden said. "I think he enjoyed the attention." Braden is a graduate of the Seattle Film Institute and recently moved from Seattle to Los Angeles to pursue his film career.
"How to Bring Democracy to the Fish"
It took between 800 and 1,000 different images, all done with a child's watercolor set, to create this animation partly inspired by the poem, "We Bring Democracy To The Fish" by Donald Hall. "I redrew the entire image each time, because I wanted it to have this little-kid, kind of squiggly quality to it," said Drew Christie, 23, of Sammamish, who did the piece while taking a class in Eastern European animation at The Evergreen State College. We hate to reveal the ending, but let's just say that underwater, democracy is not an easy sell.
What does your computer mouse do while you're out of the house? You'll never look at your ergonomic little friend quite the same way after viewing Carl Billington's film. Our judges admired its ingenious use of stop-motion animation and catchy score. Billington, who sent his entry from Friday Harbor, couldn't be reached for comment. Maybe his mouse abducted him? (Note: This film is not available for viewing on our site due to unanswered copyright questions.)
"We wanted to make a war movie — but have it be a comedy," said Ben Kadie, 11, of Bellevue, a sixth-grader at Seattle Country Day School, explaining the inspiration behind this riveting black-and-white action flick. Dad Carl Kadie mans the camera and Ben's buddy Noah Hirsch plays the lead as pint-sized Lt. Pickering, ace British pilot, who fearlessly maneuvers his biplane behind German lines to destroy the factory producing the dreaded whoopee cushions that have been decimating the Royal Air Force. Boom!
"Under the Noodle"
Filmmaker Anton Bogaty's aspirations were very modest for this project: He just wanted "to animate a head bursting with noodles," he said. "The old phrase 'use your noodle' always bothered me. It just doesn't make sense." Bogaty lives in Maple Leaf. After putting his daughter to bed, he often stays up until 3 a.m. working on his short films. By day, he works for a small Seattle animation company and for the past few years he has animated an alternate reality game called "Perplex City." For "Under the Noodle," he used hand-drawing, Photoshop, Flash and After Effects — and a sound score by Ollie Glatzer.
"What's the Scenario?"
Protective fire suits bought on eBay inspired this film, in which Tacoma dad David Henshaw quizzes his sons Dillan, 9, and Isaac, 6, about what to do in case of fire. Henshaw's fire scenarios grow increasingly outlandish until there's only one choice left: "Run!" The movie was directed and edited by the Henshaws' neighbor, Terese Cuff, with mom Elizabeth Henshaw providing music. The film was a way to poke fun at themselves, Cuff said, describing the group as "geeky, absent-minded science people." Cuff teaches art, and the Henshaws work in the medical field.
"3, 2, 1 Movie"
This is a movie about a tortured moviemaker making a movie. Or rather, the movie is about the tortured moviemaker's equipment — a delightfully haunted typewriter and an eerily lifelike World War I-era camera — making a movie, while the director sleeps fitfully in bed. Director Martin Jarmick and his crew, nearly all of whom have worked together at Seattle's Mioposto restaurant, spent late hours jury-rigging magical effects. The keys of the "typewriter marionette" move with the aid of fishing line, tape and, Jarmick says, "the real live magic" that infiltrates every film.
Three-Minute Masterpieces, 11 a.m. Saturday, SIFF Cinema, McCaw Hall, Seattle Center; free (general seating; first come, first served); 206-324-9996 or www.seattlefilm.org.
The Seattle International Film Festival starts Thursday and runs through June 17. Pick up a copy of The Seattle Times guide to the festival at any SIFF venue or Western Washington Tully's Coffee. Also see daily schedules in Northwest Life (Mondays-Thursdays and Saturdays); MovieTimes (Fridays) and Entertainment & the Arts (Sundays). For more info about SIFF, call 206-324-9996 or go to www.seattlefilm.org.