After Michael Conti got laid off from his job at Intel in 2002, he found himself with plenty of time on his hands. Inspired by a friend who habitually wrote a haiku every month, Conti decided to return to his roots and dedicate his time to making one short movie a month. "I started showing the films around, and people became really interested in the concept and the process," Conti says. "Digital filmmaking was just starting to take hold, and people were starting to realize you could make them anywhere." It wasn't long before someone told Conti about Group 101, a Los Angeles-based collective dedicated to cranking out one short film per month over a six-month span. After that, another batch of auteurs would begin another half-year cycle. Realizing that their paths were essentially aligned, Group 101 allowed Conti to christen a Colorado chapter dedicated to what he calls "fast films." Thus, Group 101 Films Colorado was born.
The Colorado chapter of Group 101 operates in a close-knit, cinema-school-like environment, where budding Spielbergs are thrown together and forced to generate. The "Support" section of the group's website reads: "We give you no equipment, no time, no money, and no whine allowance. Then we drop you into a pool of fellow filmmakers in the same boat. We give you all the motivation and peer pressure you can stand and a ton of resource information. Then we challenge you to create."
The inventive types drawn to such an idea are as diverse as the works they produce. Members of Group 101 range from students in the Colorado Film School to white-collar professionals -- weekend warriors with nine-to-five jobs who have an insatiable love for the art of moving pictures. Each month, organizers choose a theme for the shorts; past ones have included coffee, hypocrisy and shadow. This month's topic, to be explored when the group convenes on Thursday, May 5, at Forest Room 5, is "happiness." The group screens the movies together, after which members choose a winner and offer constructive criticism to the creators.
"The content of these films is always very fresh and current," Conti comments. "They're often really inspiring, and if not, they're over before you know it. That's part of the beauty."